Lincoln – Nebraska used a momentum-shifting play from right fielder DJ Belfonte and timely two-out hitting to top Kansas State, 6-3, Saturday afternoon at Hawks Field.
After the Huskers (25-17, 10-10 Big 12) jumped to a 3-0 lead, Kansas State used consecutive two-out, run-scoring singles from Byron Wiley and Nate Tenbrink in the sixth to pull within a run. Eli Rumler then sharply singled to Belfonte in right, who fired a strike to catcher Mitch Abeita, getting Wiley at the plate to end the scoring threat.
"That was a pretty good throw," Anderson said. "Somebody asked me if I was surprised at that play, but I’m not. He’s got a lot of accuracy and obviously a lot of athleticism out there."
That play turned the tide of the game for Nebraska, winners of three of its last four Big 12 series, as the Huskers broke the game open with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. The duo of Abeita and Belfonte caused the damage in the frame, as Abeita delivered a two-run double to right before Belfonte’s RBI single to center extended the lead to 6-3.
Belfonte was one of three Huskers to record two-hit days in the win, as Andrew Brown went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs with his eighth homer of the season, while Bryce Nimmo added two hits and scored twice.
All six of the Huskers’ runs on Saturday were scored with two outs, as nine of NU’s 12 runs against K-State this weekend have been with two outs.
"I was extremely pleased with our two-out hitting," Anderson said. "We’re starting to get some guys that understand to get it to the next guy. I absolutely loved Mitch Abeita’s at-bat. It was just a classic version of sticking with it and hitting a hard flare down the line."
The offensive output was more than enough for starter Johnny Dorn, who allowed three runs over six innings to up his record to 7-2 on the season. The right-hander scattered six hits and struck out four. Dorn, who has 28 wins in his career, is now 3-0 in his career against K-State and has clinched 10 Big 12 series wins during his career.
The game was scoreless though the first four innings before the Huskers got to K-State starter Trevor Hurley in the fifth. Nimmo opened the inning with a single before an Abeita sacrifice – one of two on the day for the Husker catcher – moved him into scoring position. With two outs, Ryan Wehrle was hit by a pitch to extend the inning, and the Huskers would capitalize two pitches later after Brown sent a 2-0 pitch into the berm in left for his second homer in as many days.
Hurley (1-2) took the loss in his first Big 12 start of the season, allowing three runs on four hits over 4.2 innings of work.
K-State (26-17, 6-11 Big 12) fought back against Dorn, who had allowed only two hits through the first five innings. With one on and two outs, Drew Biery coaxed a walk before Wiley’s single to right put the Wildcats on the scoreboard. Tenbrink made it a 3-2 game with an RBI single to left before Belftonte’s play at the plate ended the KSU uprising.
The Huskers got the runs back and then some in the sixth against Todd Vogel, who allowed three runs over 1.1 innings of work. With two outs and a runner on second, Nimmo coaxed a walk before Abeita cleared the bases with a flare to right. Belfonte then plated Abeita with an RBI single to center to give NU a three-run lead.
Kansas State got on the runs back in the ninth on Tyler Ruch’s RBI double that scored Wiley, who walked and stole second.
The two teams will wrap up the three-game series Sunday afternoon, as right-hander Luke Wertz makes his first start of the season. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. and the game will be carried across the state on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com