Lincoln – Behind a complete-game gem from senior Erik Bird, Nebraska posted a 4-2 victory over New Mexico Tuesday evening at Hawks Field.
Bird (2-1) scattered seven hits and fanned two over a 143-pitch performance, as limited a Lobo offense which led the nation in batting average (.371) and ranked sixth in runs per game (9.7) to their second-lowest offensive output of the year. Only San Diego State All-American Stephen Strasburg, who is projected to No held the Lobos (31-13) to fewer runs, as he shut out New Mexico, 1-0, on April 17.
Bird, who went a career-long 9.1 innings in his last outing at Creighton last Tuesday, allowed a pair of first inning runs before settling down and effectively worked out of several jams on the night
"I’m just as happy as can be for him,” Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said. “He’s had a rough go this year and some tough times, but to see him do that and to just keep going. Two quality starts and doing something like that, we’ll see if we can find a spot for him within the weekend. He wanted to keep going, and I wanted him to keep going and there wasn’t even hesitation for him.”
Bird was at his best in the later innings, setting the Lobos down in order in the eighth before Max Willett’s two-out infield single and Bird’s throwing error brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth. The right-hander got Ryan Honeycutt, who is seventh nationally in hitting with a .451 average, to ground out to Tyler Farst, capping Bird’s first-ever complete game.
The Huskers (20-23-1) trailed 2-0 in the top of the first after an RBI double by Honeycutt and a Dane Hamilton RBI single, but regrouped against Lobo ace John Hesketh, scoring a pair of runs in the second and one in the third to take the lead for good.
In the second, a one-out single by Ben Kline, who went 2-for-4 on the night, and a double to left off the bat of DJ Belfonte put runners at second and third. Boomer Collins lofted a sacrifice fly to right to score Kline before Cody Neer’s RBI single plated Belfonte to tie the game.
Jeff Tezak opened the third with a double and moved to third on a passed ball before Jake Mort perfectly executed a squeeze to plate Tezak and give NU a 3-2 lead.
Anderson said all five Husker seniors played major roles in the win, as Tezak, Mort, Neer and Sullivan combined for four hits and a pair of walks in the victory.
“It’s not just him (Erik) that’s playing well,” Anderson said. “If you think about it, Cody Neer had a good night. Jake Mort had a nice squeeze and Jeff Tezak doubled. Nick Sullivan came in late, but he is the student-athlete of the year. Every senior tonight got recognized for something. We left the huddle with every senior getting recognized as doing something real positive. There’s a group of guys that may or may not have the chance to move on in this game and all five of them are doing things for us. They’re plugging away and they’re doing things.”
Hesketh (5-3) took the loss, allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings of work.
The Huskers got an insurance run in the seventh against reliever Clinton Cox in the seventh, as Neer singled, stole second and came home on Tyler Farst’s two-out RBI single to center to make it a 4-2 lead. Neer also had two hits and an RBI, as the Huskers out-hit the Lobos, 9-7.
The Huskers and Lobos will wrap up the two-game series Wednesday afternoon at 1:35 p.m. The game will be carried on selected Husker Sports Network stations and on Huskers.com.