Lincoln -- Behind a two-hit shutout from All-American Tony Watson and a career-high four hits from All-American Ryan Wehrle, the Nebraska baseball team posted a 7-0 shutout over fourth-ranked Texas in front of a near-capacity crowd of 8,419 at Hawks Field Friday night.
Watson (4-2) was nearly flawless against the league-leading Longhorns, allowing just four runners to reach all night, including just two in scoring position, en route to his second complete game in three starts. The left-hander struck out six without a walk and allowed only one hit over the first 8.1 innings of work in handing UT its first shutout since last April – a 6-0 loss to the Huskers.
While Watson, who is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in three home starts this spring, was dominant in upping his string of consecutive shutout innings against the Longhorns to 14.1 dating back to last season, Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson said that the confidence Watson gave the team was contagious.
"The results that got on the mound were outstanding," Anderson said. "What happened in (the dugout) and the confidence that he displayed to our team is more important than anything else."
While Watson kept the Texas (31-12, 12-4 Big 12) lineup off the scoreboard, Wehrle enjoyed a breakthrough night at the plate with four hits, including his first homer in nearly two months, and drove in four of the Huskers’ seven runs. The junior shortstop’s three-run homer in the sixth off UT starter James Russell was the backbreaker, giving Watson and the Huskers a 5-0 lead.
"This was the first night I’ve really seen him attack," Anderson said. "He stepped back, he got some hits here and there, and he really attacked tonight. It was a good start for him, and hopefully he’s found the little piece that’s been missing for him."
The Huskers (23-15, 8-8 Big 12) matched a season-high with three homers, including solo shots from Mitch Abeita, his first of the season, and Andy Gerch, who had two hits and scored twice in victory.
Nebraska wasted little time against Russell, using a two-out rally in the bottom of the first before Abieta’s solo homer in the second pushed the lead to 2-0. In the first, a one-out single by Wehrle and consecutive two-out singles from Jake Opitz and Craig Corriston plated the Huskers’ first run. One inning later, Abeita doubled the Husker lead by launching a 1-0 pitch into the berm in left for his first career homer.
"These kids are still trying to build confidence," Anderson said. They are trying to figure out where they are, how they are. We went out in the first inning and tried to get a lead against Texas and with Tony Watson on the mound for us – that was important."
The Huskers used more two-out magic in the fourth on Wehrle’s first homer since Feb. 25, a three-run shot to left off the Longhorn starter. Gerch began the rally with a leadoff single before DJ Belftonte’s two-out single put runners on the corners. That set the stage for Wehrle, who electrified the crowd by sending a 2-0 offering over the fence for his third homer of the year.
The Huskers chase Russell in the sixth, as Wehrle’s fourth hit of the night, an RBI single, pushed the lead to 6-0. Nimmo opened the frame with a double past third before a Texas error put runners on the corners. Two batters later, Wehrle lined a single to left off of reliever Austin Wood to give NU a 6-0 lead.
Russell dropped to 8-3 with the loss, allowing season-highs in hits (11) and runs (six) in suffering his first loss in the last six starts.
Nebraska tacked on its final run in the seventh on Gerch’s third homer of the year, a solo shot to left.
The Huskers will go for the series win on Saturday afternoon, as Johnny Dorn looks for his seventh straight decision. First pitch for the nationally televised contest is set for 3:05 p.m. The game will also be on the Husker Sports Radio Network and on Huskers.com.