Nebraska’s offense failed to notch a hit in the first inning, but then went on to get at least one hit in every inning the rest of the game on its way to a 17-hit performance in a 7-3 win over the Wichita State Shockers on Tuesday night at Eck Stadium. The Huskers improved to 14-9 on the year with the win, while junior Kyle Kubat picked up his first win of the year in 6.2 strong innings and Zach Hirsch earned his second save with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Seven Huskers produced multiple hits on the night, including three-hit performances from Jake Placzek, Michael Pritchard and Pat Kelly. Nebraska’s 2-through-7 hitters each had at least two hits and went a combined 15-for-26 with all six of NU’s RBIs.
Kubat put together his best outing of the season, as he worked past the fifth inning for the first time in in 2014. All three runs (two earned) that Kubat gave up came in the first two innings and the junior didn’t issue a walk after the first. The key to Kubat’s performance came in the late innings when he needed a combined 24 pitches to retire the Shockers in the fourth (10 pitches), fifth (six pitches) and sixth innings (eight pitches).
Hirsch continued to be a go-to arm out of the pen for the Huskers, as he allowed just one hit and struck out three in his 2.1 innings of relief.
The Shockers struck first on the night with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first, all with two outs. Kubat retired the first two WSU batters he faced, but then gave up a single and a walk. Tanner Lubach then allowed both runners to move up a base with a passed ball, and the Shockers took advantage of the miscue with a two-RBI single by Chase Simpson, but Simpson was the last batter to come to the plate as he was retired 9-3-6 on the play trying to reach second base.
Lubach quickly made up for his mistake with a leadoff double in the second, his fifth two-bagger of the year. The next two Husker hitters produced groundouts to the right side, including Bryce Only, who drove in Lubach for his fifth RBI of the season.
WSU pushed its lead back to a pair of runs, 3-1, in the bottom of the second with a leadoff homer from Tyler Baker. The Shocker catcher hit a line drive shot down the right-field line and just snuck it inside the foul pole above the 330-foot sign. Kubat responded by retiring the next three batters in order.
Nebraska continued to grind on WSU starter Kris Gardner and knocked him out of the game in the top of the third with three runs on five hits. NU got a leadoff double for the second straight inning, this time off the bat of Steven Reveles, who then moved to third on a groundout by Austin Darby. The Huskers kept up the pressure with three straight singles from Placzek, Pritchard and Kelly, with Kelly’s base hit tying the game, 3-3. Gardner broke the Husker hitting streak with a fly-ball out off the bat of Lubach, but couldn’t get Ryan Boldt, who delivered an RBI single that put the Huskers in front for good, 4-3.
After neither team scored in the fourth, the first scoreless inning of the game, Nebraska strung together consecutive two-out hits in the top of the fifth, pushing its lead to 5-3. Pritchard picked up his second hit of the game and seventh double of the year with a shot into the right-field gap, and soon scored when Kelly followed with his second RBI-single of the game. Beicher’s day came to an end when he issued a four-pitch walk to Lubach, but Drew Palmer came in and put an end to NU’s rally with a strikeout of Boldt.
Kubat’s day came to an end in the bottom of the seventh when he hit Dayne Parker with two outs to put a pair of WSU runners on base. Hirsch came out of the pen to face Casey Gillaspie and Shockers’ No. 3 hitter nearly tied the game with the first pitch he saw from Hirsch, but Pritchard was able to camp under the fly ball on the left-center field warning track to end the inning.
Trailing 5-3 heading into the ninth, the Shockers tried to give themselves a shot in the bottom of the frame by bringing in closer Foster Vielock to face the Huskers. Instead of keeping the Husker lead at two runs, Vielock gave up a pair of runs on three hits, including back-to-back singles by Pritchard and Kelly to start the inning. After Vielock gave up a RBI single to Lubach, WSU went to Mitch McIntyre and he was welcomed with a base hit from Boldt. The Huskers were unable to keep the hits coming though and had to settle for a 7-3 lead after adding a pair of runs on four hits.
Hirsch came out and retired the Shockers in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure his second save of the year.
The Huskers wrap up their five-game road trip tomorrow evening with a trip to Manhattan, Kan., for a 6:30 p.m. showdown with the Kansas State Wildcats (14-9, 1-2 Big 12) live on Fox Sports Net Kansas City. Greg Sharpe and Ben McLaughlin will also have the call on the Husker Sports Network, including for free on Huskers.com.