Hopper, Bruce Power Huskers Past
Lincoln, Neb. -
Matt Hopper hit a pair of home runs, and Daniel Bruce added a three-run
blast to lead a 20-hit Husker attack, as No. 1 seed Nebraska baseball
team outslugged No. 4 Eastern Michigan for a 16-11 win at the NCAA
Lincoln Regional at Hawks Field on Friday afternoon.
Hopperís solo homer in the first inning and two-run homer in the fifth helped the Huskers jump to an 8-2 lead over the Eagles in front of 6,057 fans at the opening game of the four-team regional tournament. But EMUís Ryan Goleskiís solo home run to lead off the sixth and three-run shot to right field in the seventh helped the Eagles close to within 8-7 after their half of the inning.
Daniel Bruce answered the Eagle rally with a three-run homer of his own to spark a five-run Husker seventh to help No. 9 Nebraska improve to 45-16 on the season. With the win, NU advanced to Saturdayís 3:35 p.m. semifinal game of the Lincoln Regional to take on the winner of Fridayís 7:05 p.m. game between No. 2 seed Coastal Carolina and No. 3 Southwest Missouri State.
Eastern Michigan fell to 32-27 on the season and dropped into Saturdayís first elimination game with the loser of the Coastal Carolina and SMS contest.
NU starter Quinton Robertson improved to 10-2 on the season, despite surrendering six earned runs on 10 hits with a pair of walks and five strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. EMU starter Dave Pieron suffered the loss to fall to 7-5, lasting just 2.1 innings while giving up five earned runs on six hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts.
Hopper started Fridayís hit parade with a two-out solo homer in the bottom of the first to give NU a 1-0 lead. Curtis Ledbetter got Nebraska rolling again in the second with a leadoff single, followed by a Bruce single. John Grose drew a one-out walk to set up a bases loaded sacrifice fly for Jake Mullinax to give the Huskers a 2-0 lead after two innings.
After setting down the first six EMU hitters in order through two innings, Robertson surrendered two runs on four third-inning singles, as the Eagles tied the score heading into the bottom of the third. The Huskers answered with three runs in the bottom of the third after a leadoff single by Jeff Leise and an RBI single by Joe Simokaitis set up a walk to Hopper and a two-run double by Ledbetter, who had four hits in his first action since May 18.
Robertson recovered from his rocky third inning to quiet the EMU bats in the fourth and fifth innings, before Hopper struck again with a two-run homer in the fifth that followed a leadoff walk to Simokaitis. Alex Gordon kept NUís three-run fifth inning going with a single, before Bruce was hit by a pitch for the second straight at bat, setting up Joe Gullionís RBI single to give NU an 8-2 lead.
Then both sets of bats really heated up. Goleski led off the sixth with a solo home run, before back-to-back singles by Ryan Ford and Ryan Arnett put runners at first and second with nobody out for EMU. Robertson managed to escape the inning without further damage, but the Huskers went silently in their half of the inning to set up a four-run Eagle rally in the seventh.
Robertson walked the first two batters to start the seventh before Goleskiís one-out three run homer ended Robertsonís day on the mound. Jeremy Becker came on in relief, but surrendered a two-out solo homer to Ryan Arnett to pull the Eagles within 8-7.
Mike Sillman relieved Becker to get the final out of the seventh, and went the rest of the way to pick up his third save of the season.
The Huskers sent 11 men to the plate in their half of the seventh, as Hopper led off the inning with a walk and Ledbetter followed with a one-out single. Bruce then gave the Huskers some breathing room with a three-run homer, his fourth of the season, to give NU an 11-7 lead. The Huskers continued to rally with consecutive singles from Gullion, Grose and Mullinax to send NU to the eighth with a 12-7 lead.
Sillman retired the first two EMU hitters in the eighth on groundouts to shortstop, but back-to-back singles from Brian Bixler and Tony Palazzolo and a walk to Derrick Peterson, set up a two-out, two-run single by Goleski to trim the NU lead to 12-9.
Nebraska answered again in the bottom of the eighth, as Ledbetter led off with his fourth hit of the game, before Gullion followed with a one-out RBI single, for his season-high third hit of the game. Grose then followed with a two-run homer to left, his first home run since April 4 at Kansas, to cap NUís largest scoring outburst since producing 16 runs on that same night against the Jayhawks.
The Eagles continued to battle, loading the bases with no outs in the ninth to set up Bixlerís one-out, RBI single, before EMU scored its final run on a ground out to shortstop. Sillman finally closed the book on the Eagles with a groundout to third base to end the game.
*Matt Hopperís two home run
performance marked his seventh career multi-homer game and fourth
of the season. Hopper pushed his Big 12-leading home run total to
20 on the season and 62 in his career.
who returned to the NU lineup after sitting out the past four games
with a shoulder injury, tied a career high with four hits. Ledbetter
also had four hits against South Dakota on April 23.
*Designated hitter Joe Gullion set a career high with three hits
*Daniel Bruce was hit-by-pitch twice on Friday, pushing his school record total to 40 and his season total to 12 HBP. It was Bruceís ninth multiple-HBP game of his career. Nebraska hitters have been hit 98 times this season, tying the school record last season.
*Ryan Goleskiís two home run effort pushed his career total to 50, which established the Mid American Conference record. Goleski, who has 16 home runs this season, produced his third multi-homer game of the season and sixth of his career.
*Nebraska (20) and Eastern Michigan (15) combined for the most hits (35) in any Nebraska game this season, surpassing the 31 hits by Nebraska (17) and Missouri (14) in the Huskersí 11-9 win in 10 innings at Hawks Field on April 12.
*Nebraskaís 20 hits were one shy of its season-high 21 against Western Illinois in a 16-2 win at Hawks Field on April 1. NUís hit total also matched its production from its past three games, all coming against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament.
*- Nebraska has won 10 straight NCAA regional games dating back to the 2000 season.
*- Nebraskaís 45 wins marks the ninth time in school history - and fourth consecutive season - that Nebraska won 45 or more games in a season.
*First baseman Matt Hopper and left-hander pitcher Aaron Marsden were both named to the Louisville Slugger/TPX Collegiate Baseball All-America team announced on Friday.
Eastern Michigan Head Coach Roger
"I think we all found out just how
good Nebraska really is. Good hitting, their base-running surprised
us a little bit. Fundamentally, they are extremely good-I didnít
see any glaring weaknesses whatsoever. They are certainly the best
team weíve played this year, and weíve played some good teams. Itís
a tribute to Nebraska and how well they played today."
On Nebraskaís base-running
"Their times to run were exceptional.
We did have some pickoffs on that our pitcher missed. Their (Nebraskaís)
timing was excellent, they had us on the ropes, and it was a great
coaching effort by Coach (Mike) Anderson to do what he did today,
and I was a little bit surprised. They executed extremely well."
On EMUís pitching
"I think we are better than what
we showed today on the mound. The glaring part of our team today
was emotions-too much excitement exhibited on the pitching on the
mound today. That is part of college athletics and being a student-athlete.
They are not professional guys. We certainly havenít been in this
atmosphere. It is a tremendous advantage for Nebraska to play at
home. Their fans were outstanding, and Nebraska is a great club."
Outfielder Ryan Goleski
On two home runs
"I was just trying to get a pitch
I could drive the first at-bat. He left a fastball away, and I was
looking for that pitch and I definitely hit that first one very
well. The second one I spun off a little bit, but I believe I still
hit that ball pretty well and it carried. I think the biggest thing
I was worried about was whether or not the ball was going to stay
On slow start
"I think the biggest thing was the
crowd and that many people. I think guys probably got caught up
in the game a little bit too much early on and made a little more
out of it than it really is. It is just a baseball game, and we
were just out there playing another game. Thereís a lot on the line,
but you canít take that approach."
Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson
"The positive thing we can look at today is we won. It was kind of a long day. It was kind of an odd day to be honest with you. There were a lot of different things that we hadnít seen throughout the year. Iíd like to give a lot of credit to Eastern Michigan. They did a great job offensively. They are a quality program and a quality team and did a great job. On our end, Iím real happy with the offense. We did a good job and kept battling back. We left saying, it is a result-oriented day. We won, letís move on and weíve got Aaron Marsden on the mound tomorrow."
On answering EMUís offense
"We scored some runs after they scored
some runs, which was very important to answer that way. We made
a very strong attempt to try to be aggressive with a lot of things.
I think the first four or five innings we tried to push a lot of
buttons that didnít work and then later we pushed some buttons that
On Curtis Ledbetterís four-hit
"He added a lot to our offense today.
I think you have an opportunity some times to pitch around Matt
(Hopper) and Alex Gordon if heís not in there. I thought he did
a great job and did a great job with two strikes. You add Ledbetter
in there and put Daniel (Bruce) behind him and youíve got a pretty
good 3-4-5-6 combo."
Nebraska First Baseman Matt Hopper
On two home runs
"The first inning, he brought a curveball
in there and I got a good swing on it. It was one of those times
in the game where we got the momentum going, we got a run on the
board and offensively we got in the game. The second one was a pitch
inside, they were trying to come after that, and I hit it down the
"I was very proud of our offense today. From the first inning on we were scoring and every time we answered what they put on the board, so that was the biggest thing today."
Nebraska Outfielder Daniel Bruce
On Seventh Inning Home Run
"At first I thought it might go foul,
but the wind kind of pushed it back fair. It was a 2-0 count and
I was looking for a fastball and I got a good swing on it. It was
an important inning for us. They just had a big inning, and we knew
we had to answer with our offense."