Lincoln – Ben Kline’s two-run sixth-inning single broke a 2-2 deadlock, while Casey Hauptman tossed four shutout innings of relief for his first career win, as sixth-ranked Nebraska posted a 6-4 victory over Western Illinois Tuesday night at Hawks Field.
Kline, who went 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, came through with the night’s biggest hit, as his bases-loaded single bounded past Drew Laidig into left, scoring Nick Sullivan and Craig Corriston to give the Huskers the lead for good.
Consecutive singles from Sullivan and Corriston off of WIU reliever Ben Percival opened the frame before JD Belfonte’s sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position. Tyler Rank then walked to load the bases before Kline came through with two-run single to cap NU’s 16th come-from-behind win of the year.
Anderson was impressed with the approach Kline, who has four multi-RBI efforts in his last six games, took with the at bat against Percival, who allowed two runs over four innings to drop to 1-6 on the year.
"I though the purpose of Ben’s at-bat was good," Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson said. "On the first pitch, he did a good job of being aggressive and didn’t feel for the pitch and then put a good swing on the ball for the hit."
Kline wasn’t the only freshman who came through with a strong performance, as Hauptman allowed two hits over a career-high four innings to collect his first win. The freshman from Millard South fanned three and retired nine in a row at one point after the Leathernecks (10-25) had nine hits off of starter Dan Jennings in the first four innings.
"I thought Casey Hauptman was great tonight and it was real good to see him do that." Anderson said. "He attacked the zone and was aggressive and was very, very happy for him. It was a good night for him."
Mike Nesseth worked a perfect ninth for his fourth save, as the Husker bullpen combined to allow two hits and fan five over five shutout innings.
Sullivan had two hits and scored twice, while Jake Opitz, DJ Belfonte and Kline drove in two runs apiece, as Nebraska improved to 23-2-1 at home this season.
The Leathernecks got a pair of runs in the top of the first on RBI singles from Kenny Price and Jared Wolf off of Jennings, but the Huskers came right with four runs in the bottom of the frame.
With one out, Jake Mort was hit by a pitch and came home moments later, as Opitz came through with his fifth homer of the year, an opposite field shot down the line in left. Cody Neer and Nick Sullivan delivered consecutive singles before Belfonte cleared the bases with a two-run double to left, giving Nebraska (33-8-1) a 4-2 lead.
Western Illinois continued to peck away at Jennings, stringing together four straight one-out singles to tie the score at 4-all after run-scoring singles by Cole Waddell and Laidig. Jennings then settled down, getting the Huskers out of the inning and then in the third, when the Leathernecks loaded the bases with no outs, but could not push across a run.
After the fast start, the Huskers slowed down against WIU starter Mark DiBernardo, who went the next three frames without allowing a run, as neither team scored until Kline’s two-run hit in the sixth.
The series wraps up Wednesday afternoon, as Erik Bird (2-1, 4.40 ERA) takes the hill for the Big Red at 1:35 p.m. The game will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com.
-- Huskers --