Lincoln – After being held scoreless on four hits over the first five innings of Saturday’s home opener at Hawks Field, the Nebraska baseball team (1-7, 0-0 Big Ten) exploded for seven runs on five hits in the sixth inning to win its 35th straight home opener with a 8-5 victory over the New Mexico Lobos (2-5, 0-0 Mountain West).
Down 5-0 going into the bottom of the sixth in front of 1,592 fans on a chilly day at Hawks Field, Nebraska rallied from a five-run deficit for the first time since Feb. 25, 2011, when NU won 12-8 over Northern Colorado after falling behind 7-2 in the fourth inning.
Senior Chad Christensen delivered his third three-hit performance of the season, as he was 3-for-4 with a double, while Austin Darby and Kash Kalkowski each drove in a pair of runs on the afternoon. Every hitter in the Husker lineup either produced a hit or scored a run on the afternoon. Nebraska sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth inning, the first time the NU offense has batted around this season.
With a 7-5 lead heading into the seventh inning, Josh Roeder and Dylan Vogt combined to throw three shutout innings down the stretch, with the pair striking out four Lobos. Vogt pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his first save of the season.
New Mexico threw the first punch of the game when preseason All-American DJ Peterson blasted a three-run homer in the top of the first to give the Lobos a 3-0 lead. The Lobos added a run in both the fifth and sixth inning, chasing NU starter Brandon Pierce from the game. Pierce pitched 5.2 innings, giving up five runs, four earned, on seven hits and three walks, but didn’t factor into the decision.
Sophomore Michael Hoppes entered the game in the top of the sixth with runners on the corners and two outs. Hoppes threw one pitch and Tanner Lubach threw out Chase Harris stealing to end the Lobo sixth. The Scottsbluff, Neb., native secured the win on the day, moving to 1-1 on the season.
With the top of its order up, Rich Sanguinetti led off with a four-pitch walk and moved into scoring position at second when a throwing error by second baseman Sam Haggerty pulled shortstop Alex Allbritton off the bag on a potential double-play ball off the bat of Darby. Christensen stepped up and dropped down a perfect bunt single that got Nebraska’s rally going. Not only did Christensen reach, but pitcher Kevin Baumgartner, who was tagged with the loss, threw the ball into foul territory, allowing two runs to score and Christensen to reach third. Following a pop out from Scheffert, Pat Kelly drove in Christensen with a single and then scored on a double by Kash Kalkowski to get Nebraska within one run, 5-4.
New Mexico Head Coach Ray Birmingham stuck with his junior lefty to face Nebraska sophomore lefty Blake Headley. The Millard South product came through with Nebraska’s third straight hit off of Baumgartner to drive in Kalkowski and tie the game, 5-5. Headley moved into scoring position himself on the play when Ryan Padilla failed to control the ball in left field, the Lobos’ third error of the inning. Birmingham then went to Anthony Consiglio, who promptly threw a wild pitch, allowing Headley to move to third, and walked Lubach to give Nebraska runners at the corners and one out. With Bryan Peters up, Nebraska went with a safety squeeze and the Lobos came out on top, as Headley was out at home for the second out of the inning.
With a shot to get out of the inning tied, 5-5, Consigilio walked Sanguinetti to load the bases, it was Sanguinetti’s second four-pitch walk of the inning. Birmingham brought in Tyler Spencer to face Darby, who rocketed a 1-1 pitch back through the box to plate two runs and put Nebraska up 7-5. Heading into the game, Nebraska had scored five runs in the sixth inning of its first seven games combined.
The Huskers added an insurance run in the seventh when Scheffert led off the inning with a single and after moving to third on a pair of wild pitches, he scored on a sacrifice fly from Kalkowski to give NU an 8-5 lead.
Nebraska will look to sweep the two-game series with the Lobos when the two teams meet at 12:05 p.m. tomorrow at Hawks Field. Junior Christian DeLeon is scheduled to take the mound for the Huskers against New Mexico righty Sam Wolff.