Nebraska defeated Kansas State today in its home opener at Haymarket Park in front of more than 4000 fans and under some absolutely gorgeous weather served up by Mother Nature. The game itself was a back and forth affair with KSU charging out of the gate and dominating the early innings while Nebraska controlled the middle of the game with the 'Cats mounting a late surge that ultimately came up short.
On to the recap:
The first couple of innings did not appear to be a good omen for the Huskers as Nebraska starter Jon Keller hit KSU batter Ross Kivett on the game's very first pitch. Kivett would later score on a two out RBI single by Wade Hinkle, putting the Wildcats up 1-0 early. KSU would find plenty of early success against NU pitchers, getting seven men on base in the first three innings, while forcing Keller from the game after just two innings pitched. Meanwhile, K-State starter Shane Conlon (1-1) made quick work of the early Husker batters, scoring six consecutive outs through two innings. A Blair DeBord RBI single in the third sent KSU to the bottom of the 3rd inning with a 2-0 lead. At this point, Shane Conlon's good day would end, as he walked two Huskers, hit a third, and gave up a two run homer to Kale Kiser, tying the game at 2. KSU reliever Jared Moore would give up an additional single to Chad Christensen, scoring two more Husker runs, putting Nebraska up 4-2 heading into the 4th.
Both teams got men on base in the 4th, but stranded those runners. In the top of the 5th, NU reliever Kyle Kubat hit KSU batter Hinkle who was later driven home by a Mike Kindel double, trimming NU's lead to 4-3 heading into the bottom of the 5th. KSU reliever Moore would see his day come to an end as he surrendered 3 hits and a run before getting yanked. His replacement, Matt Wivinis, fared little better as he gave up hits to Josh Scheffert and Kurt Farmer, scoring 3 more Husker runs, sending Nebraska into the 6th with a 8-3 edge. The game then went into a bit of a lull, as KSU failed to score in the sixth and seventh innings, while Nebraska logged another run off of a Bryan Peters single, but otherwise went down in order for the rest of the day. Nebraska entered the 8th inning with a commanding 9-3 advantage.
For Husker fans who have followed the season thus far, what came next was no surprise. NU had brought in reliever Tyler King in the 7th inning, but he quickly ran into trouble in the 8th. The first two Wildcats up, Matt Giller and Jon Davis, managed to get on base, and were then moved around the bases by back to back sacrifices, scoring Giller and leaving Davis on 3rd with two outs and KSU down 9-4. Jake Brown's ensuing grounder to short was too hot for Christensen to handle, leaving Brown safe at first and sending Davis home, cutting the Husker lead to 9-5. Two singles and a walk later, KSU had narrowed the score to 9-6 with the bases loaded. Fortunately, however, Kindel's laser shot to short was speared by Christensen, ending the inning and leaving 3 Wildcats stranded. After the Huskers went down in order in the bottom of the 8th, Erstad sent closer Travis Huber to the mound who retired the 'Cats in order and preserved the 9-6 win for Nebraska.
W: Tyler Niederklein, NU (2-1)
L: Shane Conlon, KSU (1-1)
S: Travis Huber, NU (3)
5+7=12: The number of pitchers KSU and NU went through, respectively.
12: The number of runners Kansas State stranded on base. Nebraska left two.
4169: The number of fans in attendance, better than any home game last year.
-Cory Burleson, who threw out two stealing Wildcats from behind home plate and snagged a myriad of errant NU pitches.
-NU did a wonderful job getting itself out of jams today, particularly in the 8th inning.
-Husker fans. It's good to see a great turnout in the middle of a weekday. UNL students showed up in force too, covering most of the berms.
-Haymarket Park. It's great to have such a great place to watch baseball and pay for overpriced concessions (say it with me guys: YUUUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMYYYYYYY! WOOOOO!).
Pitching: 7 pitchers, 11 hits, 6 walks and 2 hit batters. NU was extremely fortunate to only give up six runs.
Another late game breakdown: Yeah, they still won, but I wanted to see them finish this one 9-3, not give KSU a last gasp right at the end.
Can Darin Erstad find any consistency from his pitching staff as the season moves along?
Players of the Game:
Kale Kiser: Nebraska looked dead in the water before his 2 run HR in the 3rd inning. Had a nice double in the 6th as well.
Travis Huber: If nothing else, this year's team is making me appreciate good pitching more. Nebraska desperately needed to get out of this game, and Huber delivered, striking out two KSU batters and retiring the side in order.
Nebraska improves to 7-4 on the year and will play the UNK Lopers tomorrow at Haymarket Park at 1:35.
(oh, and yeah, I'm covering baseball now. *Insert boilerplate introduction here* and God help us all).