Huskers, ULL Fit to be Tied
Lafayette, La. – Khiry Cooper had three hits, including his first career homer, while Ben Kline matched his career high with three RBIs, as Nebraska and Louisiana Lafayette wrapped up their four-game series with a 5-5 deadlock in 10 innings Sunday afternoon.
“It was a hard-fought weekend, but I am disappointed in the tie,” Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said as a 2:45 p.m. curfew was set on the game. “Today was a situation where we had to put a time limit on the game so we could get back to Lincoln for classes tomorrow.”
Cooper, a freshman from Shreveport, went 3-for-5 including a solo homer while Kline drove in three runs in a fifth-inning double to help the Huskers (2-1-1) erase an early 2-0 deficit. For Nebraska, eight of the Huskers’ 10 hits on Sunday were by freshmen and sophomores, including two hits from true freshmen Cody Asche and Cory Burleson.
“I was excited by what some of our freshmen did out there today,” Anderson said. “Because of some injuries and having four games this weekend, we were forced to play some freshmen and it ended being a great benefit for us. We had hoped to ease them in slowly, but we went with them today and it was a great advantage for us. They did a lot of good things, and we almost won with them so that is a big plus and this weekend will help in their development.”
In all, the series featured two extra-inning games – including a 15-inning contest on Friday - and all four games were decided by one run or less,
“There are a lot of good things we can take from this weekend, but also a lot of things we need to work on to get better,” Anderson said. “We made some mistakes that cost us a chance to win games. To be the team we want to be, we have things we can improve on from pitching to hitting to defense to baserunning. There are a lot of positives we can take from it, but also things we can learn from.”
The Huskers led 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth when a controversial play opened the door for the Ragin’ Cajuns (1-2-1) to tie the score. Kyle Bostick hit a popup to open the frame, but he collided with NU first baseman Tyler Farst on his way to first, and the ball eventually dropped out of Farst’s glove for an error. After a long dispute between NU Coach Mike Anderson and the umpiring crew that led to the game being played under protest, Chance Harst singled to put two on with no outs before Chad Keefer’s RBI single two batters pulled ULL within a run. The Cajuns eventually loaded the bases for Les Smith, who coaxed a walk from reliever Eric Rose to tie the game at five. Rose eventually worked out of the frame without further damage, getting Greg Fontenot to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Both teams had opportunities to win the game in the final two frames before the game was called a tie after 10 innings because of the Huskers’ travel plans.
ULL had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the ninth, putting two on with one out against Rose, but Matt Freeman came in and struck out Harst and Hawkins, the No. 3-4 hitters in the lineup, to send the game to extra innings. Freeman then worked a perfect 10th to preserve the tie, as he fanned four over 1.2 innings of no-hit relief.
Nebraska had a chance in the top of the 10th, as Farst reached on an error to open the inning and eventually got to third with two outs. ULL intentionally walked Adam Bailey to face Cooper, who hit a hard one-hop smash to third to end the inning.
Louisiana Lafayette got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second, as Hawkins tripled off the wall and center and came home moments later as Keefer lofted a sacrifice fly to center. The Ragin’ Cajuns made it 2-0 in the third, getting a two-out RBI single from Bostick. Greg Fontenot opened the inning with a single past third and moved to second on a sacrifice before Bostick sent a 1-1 offering from NU starter Jordan Roualdes into right to score Fontenot.
Roualdes pitched well in his first start, allowing three runs on five hits over 5.2 innings, as he left with a 4-3 lead, as neither starter was involved in the decision.
Nebraska, which managed three hits in the first four innings, struck for a trio of hits in the top of the fifth against ULL starter Alex Fuselier, highlighted by a three-run double from Kline. Consecutive singles by Cooper and Asche opened the frame before the ULL left-hander retired the next two hitters. DJ Belfonte kept the rally alive as he coaxed a two-out walk before Klne cleared the bases by one-hopping the wall in right center and putting the Huskers on the scoreboard.
The lead would be short-lived, as Smith opened the bottom of the fifth with a solo homer down the line in right to tie the score at three apiece. Smith went 2-for-4 with a homer, triple and a pair of RBIs for ULL, while Keefer had two hits and pair of RBIs for the hosts.
Nebraska used the long ball in the top of the sixth, as Cooper came through with his third hit of the day, a solo homer to left to put the Huskers back ahead by a run.
The Huskers caught a major break in the bottom of the seventh, using an errant pitch from Kalkowski to record a big out at the plate. Smith opened the inning with a triple into the corner in right to put the tying run on third. With a 1-0 count to Fontenot, Kalkowski’s offering went directly to the backstop and Fontenot tried to score, but Burleson was alert on the play, scooping the ball up and firing to Kalkowski at the plate to get the runner at the plate.
Nebraska extended their lead to two runs in the top of the eighth, as Farst, who had two hits, doubled off the wall in left center, moved to third on Bailey’s groundout and scored on a wild pitch from ULL reliever Blake Wascom to make it a 5-3 game.
The Huskers will open the home portion of the schedule on Wednesday, Feb. 25, as they take on North Dakota at 1:35 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Huskers.com or by calling 800-8-BIGRED. The game will be carried on the Huskers.com and selected Husker Sports Network stations, including KLIN 1400 AM in Lincoln.