Lincoln - The Nebraska baseball team treated 5,298 fans at Hawks Field to quite an offensive show on Saturday afternoon with a 12-5 win over the No. 21 California Bears to move to 9-5 overall on the year and even the four-game series with the Bears at 1-1. In front of the largest crowds at Hawks Field since April 17, 2010, (6,027 vs. Kansas) the Huskers blasted three home runs on the day, including a grand slam by Rich Sanguinetti in the bottom of the eighth inning to help NU plate six runs in the frame. Along with Sanguinetti, Richard Stock hit his first home run of the season in the third inning with a man on to get the Huskers on the board and Chad Christensen crushed his third homer of the season deep into the left field berm to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
Nebraska's offense put the game away in the bottom of the eight with six runs on three hits. Austin Darby led off with a single and came around to score when Josh Scheffert followed with a double. The Bears then got sloppy, as they hit Cory Burleson and committed their third error of the series on a ground ball to the shortstop by Bryan Peters that scored Scheffert, while also putting Burleson at third and Peters at second on the error. Following an intentional walk to Michael Pritchard to load the bases with no outs and the Huskers up 8-5, Sanguinetti crushed his second homer of the year and the first grand slam by a Husker since Kurt Farmer hit one against North Dakota on March 19 last season.
Eight of the Huskers' starters recorded at least one hit on the afternoon, while Stock and Christensen each notched three hits and Pritchard went 2-for-4 from the leadoff spot. Stock set a career high with three RBI's and Sanguinetti doubled his previous career high of two RBI's with four runs batted in on his homer into a stiff wind in right field.
After scoring two runs over the first five innings, the Huskers figured out Cal starter Matt Flemer and plated 10 combined runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Flemer, who entered the game with a 2-0 record and a 1.23 ERA, gave up 10 runs (nine eared) in the game on 12 hits and struck out just one Husker after giving up just 13 hits and striking out 14 in his first 22.0 innings of the season entering today. Michael Lowden also took the bump for the Bears and gave up just one hit, but it was an important one, as it was Sanguinetti's grand slam.
For the Huskers, sophomore Jon Keller improved to 2-0 on the year with a career-high 7.1 innings of work, as the righty gave up five runs, but only three earned, on 11 hits and struck out two. It was Keller's third start of the in the last seven days after he started against New Mexico State last Saturday at the Dairy Queen Classic and was NU's starter against Kansas State on Tuesday in the Huskers' home opener. After Keller left with a 6-5 lead in the eighth, sophomore Tyler King got the last two out of the inning and junior Ryan Hander pitched a scoreless ninth to secure the win.
The Bears struck first for the second straight day with one run in the first off three hits and added two more runs in the second off two hits, a hit-by-pitch and a Husker error. The Huskers had an opportunity to score in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded and two outs, but failed to convert.
Flemer was cruising in the third inning and had retired six straight Huskers when Christensen hit a hard two-out ground ball at the Bears' third baseman, who was unable to make a play on a tough bounce. That opened the door for Stock to go opposite field on the first pitch he saw into the right field berm to cut Cal's lead to one, 3-2. Flemer got back into a grove and retired the next seven Husker hitters before Christensen came calling to open the bottom of the sixth with his solo shot. Stock followed with a single and then scored from first on a double by Kash Kalkowski, who moved to third on a throw to the plate. With one out, Darby followed with a deep fly ball into left center that Kalkowski was able to tag on, giving NU its first lead of the series at 5-4.
NU added another run in the bottom of the seventh on some aggressive base running from Pritchard. The sophomore left fielder led off the inning with a single and move to second on a sacrifice bunt from Sanguinetti. Christensen then popped out to the first baseman near the first base wall and Pritchard was able to tag up and take third base on a close play. Stock followed with his third two-out RBI of the game on a 2-2 pitch to extend the Huskers' lead to 6-4.
The Bears made started a rally right away in the top of the eight with a leadoff homer from Mitch Delfino, but Keller and King retired the next three Cal hitters to keep the Huskers in front, 6-5, going into the bottom of the eighth
Nebraska and Cal return to Hawks Field tomorrow for a 1:05 p.m. meeting in game three of the series. Junior Tom Lemke will take the mound for the Huskers, while the Bears are set to counter with 2011 Freshman All-American Kyle Porter. The sophomore lefty has thrown just 1.0 inning against Lehigh this season.