Lincoln – Luke Wertz fired five strong innings of relief, while Craig Corriston’s fifth-inning homer broke a 3-3 deadlock, as Nebraska overcame a slow start and a lengthy rain delay to top Northern Colorado, 5-3, Tuesday evening.
Wertz (1-0) struck out a career-high seven Bears over five innings – matching the longest outing of his career – to earn his first victory. The right-hander from Parker, Colo., scattered three hits while he got the Huskers out of a crucial third-inning jam when UNC could have broken the game open.
Wertz, who has a 12-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio in his last three appearances, earned his first win in over a year and has not allowed an earned run in his last 7.1 innings of work.
“His last outing was exceptional and this one, except for one base hit, was fantastic,” Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said. “I thought he was great tonight, and we found somebody who could throw strikes.”
Corriston’s third homer of the season off of UNC reliever Dan Kazell, a solo shot in fifth, gave the Huskers the lead for good, as they tacked on another run in the seventh and rode the relief work of Wertz and Thad Weber, who combined to allow one unearned run over the final seven innings.
UNC jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second, taking advantage of four walks and a hit batter from starter Matt Foust and Mike Harmelink, who walked in a pair of runners with the bases loaded. The duo allowed just one hit, but combined for six walks and a hit batter over two-plus innings.
Trailing 2-0 with runners on first and second in the third, Wertz came in and quickly got the Huskers out of trouble, getting Adam Symons to fly into a 9-6-3 triple play, as both runners were going on a hit-and-run. The triple play was the first turned by the Huskers since 1998 and gave the Huskers a boost of momentum.
Nebraska (14-9) quickly turned the tide in the bottom of the frame, getting a three-run triple from Jake Optiz to take a 3-2 lead. The Huskers took advantage of a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice to load the bases with one out before Opitz, who went 2-for-3 on the night, cleared the bases, ripping an 0-1 pitch into the gap in right center.
After an 80 minute rain delay, UNC (7-14) eventually tied the game on Anthony Garcia’s RBI single, but that would be the only run they would score off Wertz, as he faced one over the minimum in his final 2.2 innings of work.
Kazell (0-1) went three innings following the rain delay and allowed only Corriston’s homer to take the loss.
Corriston’s homer gave the Huskers the lead for good, while the Huskers tacked on an insurance run in the eighth, as Jake Mort drove in Corriston with a ground out to short. After consecutive walks and a sacrifice, Mort’s slow roller to short plated NU’s fifth run of the night.
Weber then closed the book on UNC, retiring all six hitters he faced for his first career save.
The two teams will meet again Wednesday afternoon beginning at 1:35 p.m. Sophomore left-hander Drew Bowman (3-1, 3.38 ERA) will take the hill for Nebraska and will face UNC’s Eric Maydew (3-2, 5.86 ERA). The game will be carried on the Internet at Huskers.com.