Lincoln – Andy Gerch had three hits, including a fifth-inning RBI single to break a 3-3 tie, as Nebraska took the rubber match of this weekend’s series with a 6-4 victory over Baylor Sunday afternoon at Hawks Field.
Gerch, who went 6-for-11 on the weekend, drove in Andrew Brown with the go-ahead run, as the Huskers (27-21, 12-12 Big 12) scored twice in the frame to take the lead for good against Baylor starter and loser Kendal Volz, who allowed five runs over four-plus innings.
Jeff Tezak also had three hits in a 13-hit attack, while Jake Mort added two hits and scored twice, lifting the Huskers to their fourth Big 12 series win in the last five conference weekends.
"I felt like our offense created a lot of good situations," Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson said. "We got our leadoff hitter on, and that helps when those types of things happen. It was a hard-fought game. I’m really pleased with our intensity and effort we showed this weekend."
Volz hit Brown to open the fifth before Tezak’s single put runners on the corners with no outs. Gerch gave the Huskers a 4-3 lead with his second hit of the day – an RBI single to right – before Jake Opitz’s suicide squeeze plated Tezak and staked the Huskers a two-run cushion.
The lead was enough for the Husker pitching staff, as junior right-hander Luke Wertz upped his record to 3-0 with 6.1 innings of five-hit ball. Wertz, making just his second career conference start, allowed three runs over 6.1 innings before relievers Steve Edlefsen and Thad Weber combined to stifle Baylor rallies in both the seventh and eight innings. Edlefsen worked a scoreless inning while Weber went the final 1.1 innings for his second save of the year and 16th by the Husker pitching staff this season.
Anderson said a lot of the credit went to the performances of Edlefsen and Weber to bail the Huskers out of late-inning trouble.
"They were very good today and very composed on the mound. It was tough throwing strikes today and for them to do what they did showed a lot of composure."
In the seventh, Baylor (28-23, 9-15 Big 12) got a one-out walk and a single by Ben Booker to put runners on the corner against Wertz. Edlefsen got the Huskers out of the inning unscathed, striking out Raynor Campbell and getting Chase Gerdes to fly out to end the threat. The Bears rallied again in the eighth off Edlefsen, as a one-out walk and a double from Matt Czimskey put runners on second and third. Weber, who has not allowed any of his 11 inherited runners to score all season, came in and got Tim Jackson to ground out to third before striking out Shaver Hansen.
The Huskers raced out to an early 3-1 lead, scoring once in the first and adding two more against Volz (5-2). Belfonte, who has hit safely in his last 13 league games, ripped a double into the corner to open the bottom of the first and scored three batters later on Tezak’s RBI single.
After Baylor’s Dustin Dickerson tied the score with a solo homer – the first earned run Wertz allowed in his last 23.1 innings of work, the Huskers regained the lead in the bottom half of the frame on Mitch Abeita’s two-run double. Mort and Bryce Nimmo opened the inning with consecutive singles before Abeita cleared the bases with a shot into the corner.
Baylor fought back, scoring single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings against the Husker starter. Czimskey, who went 2-for-4, pulled the visitors within 3-2 with a solo homer to left. One inning later, the visitors put runners on second and third with one out before Gerdes lofted a sacrifice fly to center to tie the score.
The Huskers tacked on an insurance run in the seventh on Nimmo’s RBI single, as Mort singled with one out before advancing two bases on an errant pickoff attempt from BU closer Nick Cassavechia before Nimmo lined a 1-1 pitch to right to make it a 6-3 game.
Baylor pulled to within 6-4 on Gerdes’ two-out RBI double in the ninth before Weber got Beamer Weems to ground out to first to end the game.
The Huskers will now travel to Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium on Tuesday night, as they take on the Creighton Bluejays. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. and over 14,000 tickets have been sold for the rubber match of the season series.