BSB: Huskers bounce-back starts on the mound, ends with Saturday blowout

Photo by Pat Radigan

Husker Jesse Wilkening helped spark an offensive explosion that guided NU to a series win over Cal Poly.

Story by Becca Mann

Friday shutout sets the stage for 35 runs on Saturday

After dropping their first opening day game in nearly 40 years, the Husker baseball team (9-6) bounced back in the later half of a series against Cal Poly (6-10) to take the remaining three games, including a double-header sweep on Saturday.

Nebraska faced defensive trouble in its first game on Thursday, giving up 10 runs in the final three innings for a total of 14 on the day. The Huskers cycled through six pitchers in an attempt to put a stop to the Mustang roll. It didn’t happen, and junior Mike Waldron took the loss to open his season with a 0-1 record.

Waldron had a 5.06 ERA entering Thursday’s match up, and allowed two runs on the four batters he faced.

The Huskers were able to fight back for a win on Friday and shut out the Mustangs 4-0, led by a pair of runs in the fourth inning and a Jesse Wilkening homer in the eighth. The day also marked the longest senior Luis Alvarado spent on the mound after serving as a co-closer last season. Alvarado tallied 115 pitches and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, he didn’t go past 90 in his junior campaign.

“That was a big turning point in the series, especially after having what I would consider not a good baseball game the first game,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said about Alvarado. “To bounce back and play really clean the next day, it starts on the mound, it keeps the defenders in rhythm.”

This Is How They Did It

A late comeback by Cal Poly provided a gut punch for the Huskers in the opener. Nebraska didn’t like that.

  • Luis Alvarado held Cal Poly scoreless over 7.0 IP and scattered five hits in Friday’s 4-0 win
  • Husker Ben Klenke went 2-for-4, but still managed 5 RBI in Saturday’s 22-3 win in game one of a double header
  • In game two, NU’s 3-6 hitters went 8-for-16 and added 9 RBI in the 13-2 win

Saturday’s story was unlike anything Nebraska has produced this season, and ended in a day-three double-header sweep as the Huskers outran the Mustangs 35-5 and nearly set a single-game record in the history of Haymarket Park.

“We’ve been waiting to burst out this year and it showed in that first game today and the second game just carried over,” said junior Angelo Altavilla. “It’s been there all year it just hasn’t really come out in huge bunches like we had today. It will be there and I’m excited for this next week.”

Nebraska wasted no time out of the gates, putting runners in scoring position in the bottom of the first and taking a 4-1 lead to end the inning. While Cal Poly attempted to battle back in the top of the sixth with a grounder past second to score, the Huskers put a stop to all hopes of a comeback with a five hit, 13 run inning to all but mark it in ink.

The Mustangs fell into what seemed like a never-ending slump on the mound in the sixth, putting four relievers on the mound to face 16 NU batters. The bout included more walks (7) than hits (5) and a hit batsman. Nebraska’s 22 runs were just one short of a 23 run single-game scoring record for the park set against Nebraska-Kearney in 2002.

On the mound, NU looked to left-handed pitcher Nate Fisher and senior right-hander Matt Warren who allowed a combined 15 hits in the game, all of those singles. Fisher picked up his first win of the year and second of his career to sit at 1-2 on the season.

“I definitely didn’t have my best stuff today but I tried to trust the defense to find a way to get out,” he said.

Fisher stranded a total of eight runners through five innings, ending three of those on strikeouts and the other two with double plays. The junior from Yutan is playing a vital role this season for a NU bullpen fighting multiple injuries.

With momentum still pumping from game one, the Huskers ended the day with a 13-2 win to take the home opening series 3-1 and advance to 9-6 on the season.

“It’s tough to keep the energy for a full day like that,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “From the bench to the players on the field you’re just going to have lapses and I thought we did a great job of continuing to keep pressure on them and have great at bats.”

Husker Scott Schreiber beats out a double play in Thursday’s series opener.

Senior Scott Schreiber led the second game scoring effort with a three-run homer in the second after a two-run double from Luke Roskam and a pair of sacrifice flies gave the Huskers a 4-0 lead in the first. Roskam continued to pad the lead in the eighth with a two-run hit and RBI singles from Altavilla and Hallmark capped off a four-run inning and ended the night at 13.

“That might be the understatement of the year,” Erstad said about strong offensive action taking pressure off his pitching staff. “From an offensive standpoint, just to continue to pressure and I think our guys understand that yeah, we’re going to have to put some runs on the board this year, not just be winning 4-3 like we’ve been good at over the past few years.

“I really like the overall intensity at the plate and I also like the fact we got a lot of guys in there and it looked like a lot of guys were hungry to get at bats.”

Warren earned his second victory of the season on 91 pitches, stranding two runners in the first and retiring 11 of the next 13 batters he faced.

The Huskers continue home play with a two-game against Northern Colorado starting at 1:35 p.m. Tuesday. A four-game series against Northwestern State will follow before the teams hits the road in two weeks to take on Oral Roberts in Tulsa, Okla.

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