Lincoln – Mitch Abeita drove in a career-high four runs, leading ninth-ranked Nebraska to an 8-6 victory over Kansas Saturday afternoon at Hawks Field.
Abeita energized the sold-out crowd of 8,697 with his first career grand slam in the fourth inning, as Nebraska (28-6-1, 13-3-1 Big 12) overcame a 2-0 deficit en route to picking up its fifth Big 12 series win in six tries. Abeita, who leads NU with seven homers and 31 RBIs, finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs on the afternoon.
"In that situation I am just trying to hit a ball to the outfield to sacrifice somebody in," Abeita said after Nebraska’s first grand slam since March of 2007. "I have to give credit to the guys in front of me, they had great at bats, I think they wore the pitcher down a little bit."
"That was nice," Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson said. "The key to our offense is clutch hitting, and that was a big right there. He (Andres Esquibel) is a good pitcher. He doesn’t give up a lot of hits, so I thought it was a good at bat. It got us back in it and gave us some momentum."
Jake Opitz drove in a pair of runs, including the go-ahead RBI in the fifth after Kansas tied the score at four apiece, while Ben Kline had two hits and scored twice for Nebraska, which has lost only once in 23 home games. Bryce Nimmo also had three hits for the Huskers, who have won their last four games and are off to their best-ever conference start.
The Huskers, who have now won their last nine regular-season series against Kansas (24-18, 4-10 Big 120, did most of their damage in the middle innings, scoring seven of their eight runs in the fourth through sixth innings.
Trailing 2-0 in the fourth, Nimmo opened the inning with a single before Jake Mort’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed, putting runners on first and second. Jake Opitz then walked to load the bases before Abeita sent Esquibel’s offering over the fence in left center to give the hosts a 4-2 lead.
Kansas would tie the game in the top of the fifth on a two-run homer from Buck Afenir, but Nebraska regained the lead in the bottom of the frame. Kline opened the fifth with a single and got to third on Nimmo’s hit before Opitz made it a 5-4 game with a ground out to first.
The Huskers got some breathing room with a pair of runs in the sixth to make it a 7-4 advantage. DJ Belfonte’s double scored Craig Corriston, who was hit by a pitch to open the inning before Belfonte scored on Bryce Nimmo’s infield single.
KU continued to fight back, scoring once in the seventh on Preston Land’s RBI single before Larson’s first homer of the year in the eighth made it a one-run game. That would be as close as the Jayhawks got, as Zach Herr came out of the bullpen to fire 1.2 innings of no-hit relief for his third save.
Thad Weber (7-2) was the beneficiary of Herr’s stellar relief, as he picked up his sixth win in the last seven outings after scattering eight hits and striking out seven over five innings. Esquibel (3-3) took the loss for Kansas, allowing seven runs on six hits over 5.2 innings.
Nebraska tacked on an insurance run in the eight, as Kline doubled and eventually scored on Opitz’s infield single to give the Huskers a two-run cushion.
The Huskers will look for the series sweep Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m., as Aaron Pribanic looks for his fourth win of the year. The game will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and televised live on Nebraska Educational Television (Chs. 12 and 112).