Abeita Powers Huskers to Sweep of Creighton
Omaha – Mitch Abeita tied a career high with four RBIs, as fifth-ranked Nebraska completed a season sweep over Creighton with a 8-1 victory over the Bluejays in front of a crowd of 14,680 at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium Tuesday night.
Abeita, who went 2-for-4 on the night, extended his hit streak to 17 games in dramatic fashion, sending Greg Hellhake’s offering over the fence in right for three-run homer just four batters into the game, providing the Huskers (39-9-1) with all the runs they would need on the night.
Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson said that Abeita’s blast provided a major spark for the Huskers, who won a grueling series over No. 9 Texas A&M over the weekend.
“That set the tone for the whole game,” Anderson said. “We got some early base knocks after what may have been our worst BP session of the season. To come out and score three runs early was important because I didn’t think our energy. We were fortunate to get on top.”
Anderson was most pleased by the pitching of Erik Bird and Casey Hauptman, who combined for nine strikeouts and allowed just four hits on the night to the Bluejays (33-18), who saw their three-game win streak snapped.
Bird upped his record to 5-1 on the season, allowing one run on three hits over five innings en route to his fifth straight decision. Bird, who allowed four runs in his first start against the Bluejays on April 23, fanned three and made the key pitches when he had to, snuffing a couple of early Creighton rallies.
Hauptman was dominant to collect his first save, firing four shutout innings and fanning a career-best six hitters, as he faced the minimum and retired the last eight hitters he faced.
For Erik (Bird) and Casey (Hauptman) it is wonderful to see two Omaha kids pitch like that this environment,” Anderson. “I knew they were both very motivated tonight.”
Tyler Farst and Jake Opitz added three hits apiece as the Huskers completed the season sweep of the Bluejays for the fourth time in the last nine seasons and first time since 2006. Farst collected his first career three-hit night, going 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, while Opitz went 3-for-4 and scored three times as Nebraska pounded out 14 hits against five Bluejay pitchers.
Nebraska struck first with the long ball, as Abeita’s three-run homer gave the Huskers an early lead. Mort singled with one out before Optiz’s double off the wall in right put runners on first and second. Abeita then turned on a 0-2 pitch, delivering an opposite field homer for his eighth homer of the season.
The Bluejays scored their only run in the bottom of the fourth, getting an RBI single off the bat of Vincente Cafaro, who went 2-for-4 in a losing effort. Consecutive one-out walks to Darin Ruf and Steve Winkleman started the rally before Cafaro’s fly ball to left got caught in the wind and fell just past the outstretched arm of Dan Johnston to put the ‘Jays on the board. Shortstop Andy Cotton then made a heads-up play to end the rally as he scooped up the ball and fired a strike to Abeita at the plate, easily getting Winkelman at the plate to end the inning.
The Huskers chased Hellhake in the fifth, scoring three times to extend the lead to 6-1. The Bluejay left-hander walked the first two hitters before Opitz greeted CU reliever Bob Lackovic with an RBI single to center. Abeita drove in his fourth run of the night with a sacrifice fly to center before Farst slapped a two-out single to right center, scoring Opitz and staking NU to a five-run lead.
Hellhake, who tossed five shutout innings in the first meeting last month, was tagged for five runs on six hits in 4.1 innings of work to fall to 3-1 on the year.
The Huskers tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the ninth as Farst came through with his third hit of the night, an RBI double to right, before DJ Belfonte added an RBI single two batters later to give the Huskers a seven-run cushion.
Nebraska returns to action on Friday night, as the Huskers begin a three-game series at No. 12 Missouri. First pitch from Simmons Field is set for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and on Huskers.com