Freshmen Carry Huskers to Series-Opening Win
Lincoln, Neb. - A two-run home run from freshman Pat Kelly and a six innings of solid work on the mound from freshman Kyle Kubat led the Nebraska baseball team (30-19, 10-9 Big Ten) to its 30th win of the season with a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday night at Hawks Field. The Huskers and Gophers are now tied for fifth in the Big Ten standing with a 10-9 league record, while Indiana, Michigan State and Penn State are all one-game ahead of the Huskers and Gophers with an 11-8 record.
Kelly's sixth home run of the year, the most by a freshman since Chad Christensen also hit six in 2010, put the Huskers up 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth and proved to be the difference in the one-run game. Kubat improved to 4-0 on the year, as the freshman allowed three runs, all unearned, on six hits and just one walk, while striking out three. Now 3-0 in Big Ten play, Kubat has a 1.19 ERA over 22.2 innings and has allowed just three earned runs.
Junior Dylan Vogt closed the door for the Huskers with 3.0 innings on one-hit ball to pick up his first save of the season. The righty took the mound in the top of the seventh after Kubat walked the leadoff batter and retired the next three Gophers he faced to end the inning. Troy Larsen led off the eighth with the only hit Vogt allowed, but was cleared off the bases later in the inning when Josh Scheffert made a diving stop on a line drive down the third base line and then doubled up Larson at first to end the inning.
The Husker offense strung together 10 hits off starter and losing pitcher TJ Oakes, who entered the game with a 7-2 record and a 1.70 ERA. For the first time all season the Huskers didn't record a strikeout at the plate, which was even more impressive considering Oakes was averaging over six strikeouts a game coming into the contest. Kelly, Kale Kiser and Rich Sanguinetti each had two hits in the game, with Kelly and Sanguinetti each adding a pair of RBI's.
With Kubat allowing just one hit through the first three innings, which was a leadoff single by Andy Henkemeyer to start the game, the Huskers got on the board in the bottom of the third with two runs on four singles. Kelly led off the inning with a base knock, Kiser followed with a bunt single and then both moved into scoring position when Kyle Geason committed a throwing error trying to get Kiser at first. Sanguinetti then drove in both his teammates with a one-out single.
Minnesota struck back with a run in the top of the fourth, as Larson scored after reaching on an error by Chad Christensen to start the inning. Kubat then gave up back-to-back single, before getting a 6-4-3 double play and a ground out to Christensen to end the inning.
With one down in the bottom of the fourth, Austin Darby drew a walk with Kelly on deck. A .361 hitter with a runner on base coming into the game, Kelly blasted the third pitch he saw over the right-center-field wall for a two-run shot, which was just the third home run all year off Oakes.
Kubat then cruised through the top of the fifth with a three-pitch inning, the first by a Husker since Michael Mariot achieved the feat at Oklahoma State on April 2, 2010. Matt Puhl led off the inning with a base hit, David Betternburg lined out to Kiser in left field and Ryan Abrahamson grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Minnesota was able to cut NU's lead to one run in the top of the sixth with two runs on two hits and the Huskers' second error of the game. But the Minnesota got no closer, as Vogt shut the Gophers down over the final three innings, including a looking strike out by Puhl to end the game.
Nebraska will look to win the series tomorrow with junior Ryan Hander on the mound. Hander will start just his second game of the season and is 2-0 on the year with a 1.50 ERA over 18.0 innings of work. The Gophers are scheduled to counter with lefty DJ Snelton, who is 4-3 on the season and 2-2 during Big Ten play. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. and will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and streamed live on Huskers.com.