Lincoln - Nebraska?s offense pounded out a season-high 21 hits en route to a 16-2 victory over Western Illinois in front of a season-high crowd of 4,782 at Hawks Field Tuesday evening. The Huskers, who improved to 20-6 on the season with their ninth straight win, scored at least one run in every innings but the seventh, as every starter had at least one base hit in the win over the Leathernecks.
Matt Hopper (Golden, Colo.) went 3-for-6 with a season-high four RBIs, while Curtis Ledbetter (Lawrence, Kan.) had two hits and drove in five runs, including his second grand slam in three games, as the Huskers, who are ranked as high as 11th in this week's polls, improved to 9-0 at home this spring.
There were plenty of offensive fireworks around, as Nebraska established season high in both hits and runs while equaling its best start in since 1999. Jeff Leise (Omaha, Neb.) had three hits and scored twice, while Joe Simokaitis (St. Louis, Mo.), Brandon Fusilier (Coppell, Texas), Chase Odenreider (Omaha, Neb.) and Jake Mullinax (Hesperia, Calif.) each added two hits in the win.
Sophomore Phil Shirek (Minot, N.D.) was the beneficiary off the Huskers? outburst, as the right-hander struck out a season-high six in five scoreless innings to improve to 2-0 on the season. Shirek allowed just three hits and did not allow a runner in scoring position. John Brownell (Omaha, Neb.) and Jeremy Becker (Scottsbluff, Neb.) each tossed two innings of relief in their first extensive action in nearly a month.
The Huskers put the contest away early, scoring twice in the 9-0 lead after five innings off Leatherneck starter Nathan Miller (3-3), who allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 14 hits in 4.2 innings.
Western Illinois, which dropped to 10-15 on the year, was led by Joe Rooney, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Troy Shelby, who was 1-for-3 with an RBI.
The series concludes Wednesday afternoon at 2:05 p.m., as the game will be carried exclusively on HuskersNside, as the game will not be on the Pinnacle Sports Network. Left-hander Justin Pekarek (0-1, 2.45) will start for NU, while Ricky McCool (3-1, 4.71 ERA) will take the hill for the Leathernecks.