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March 31, 2013
NU sweeps Northwestern with 8-6 win
Nebraska vs. Northwestern game 3 box score
A few weeks ago, even as the Huskers were slogging through a very difficult nonconference schedule, Darin Erstad stuck to his guns, saying he wouldn't schedule any differently if given a chance to do it again. Though NU sat at 6-13 heading into its Big Ten opener against Illinois last weekend, the coach insisted that this nonconference slate would prove to be good for his team in the long run.
It's an admittedly small sample size, but after two Big Ten series, it's hard to argue with Erstad's assertion.
Nebraska beat Northwestern 8-6 on Sunday to give the Huskers their first series sweep of an opponent since the Huskers took three from Minnesota last May. That effort, combined with NU's two wins in Champaign last weekend, give the Huskers a 5-1 conference record, among the best marks in the Big Ten.
Nebraska got a good deal of help from the Wildcats, who committed seven errors that led to five unearned runs.
"Any time you get a chance to sweep in conference, I'll take it no matter what," Erstad said on his postgame radio appearance. "But as a coach, I've got to look at all the other things. There were a lot of mistakes that the other team made that gave us an opportunity to win the game. They make seven errors and we're grinding it out in the last inning to win a game - what's that tell you?
"For the most part, we played pretty decent until we got a little sloppy at the end. That's just finishing. Those are things that we have to continue to work on and as we go play better competition, you do that and you're going to get crushed. You want the wins obviously, but we've got to play at a higher level on a consistent basis."
After using starters Christian DeLeon, Ryan Hander and Brandon Pierce in the first two games of the series, pitching figured to be a major issue for NU on Sunday. But Tyler Niederklein, just five days removed from a 2.1-inning start at Kansas State in which he struggled with injury and ineffectiveness, was excellent against Northwestern.
The senior pitched the game's first four innings, allowing just one run and three hits.
"I asked him after every inning how he felt, but when you're throwing zeroes up there every inning, of course you're going to feel good," Erstad said. "His bullpen and his warm-ups weren't super good and we weren't sure what we were going to get. Then he comes out and pounds the strike zone. That was great to see."
Michael Hoppes came in to start the fifth and struggled mightily, plunking a batter and giving up a hit and a walk while getting only one out. Zach Hirsch relieved him and allowed a few of the inherited runners to score, but settled down after that and held the Wildcats off through seven innings. Some sloppy defense led to two errors and two unearned runs during Dylan Vogt's two innings, but the senior held on to secure the sweep.
And as they did all weekend, the Nebraska bats pounded Northwestern's pitchers. The Huskers had 14 hits, led by Pat Kelly's four, to give them 52 on the weekend, a number Erstad is very pleased with given the strength of the Wildcats' starting pitchers. All three Northwestern starters entered the weekend with an ERA under 3.10.
"They have very good pitchers I mean, they have really good arms," Erstad said. "When you stick to your approach and you hit line drives and put the pressure on the defense and find holes with ground balls fly balls don't find holes. Fly balls get caught for the most part. You saw our guys really hang a lot of line drives to the other side of the field and that stuff gets rewarded."
Nebraska is in action next on Tuesday when they travel down to Manhattan to face off with Kansas State again. The game starts at 6:30 p.m.
***Center fielder Rich Sanguinetti: had three hits, two RBIs and a pair of runs scored to put pressure on the slumping Northwestern defense.
***Relief pitcher Dylan Vogt: after pitching three innings of strong relief in Nebraska's 16-inning win Friday, Vogt came back to hold off Northwestern for the final two innings Sunday.
***Third baseman Blake Headley: had two hits and scored twice, the second coming as an insurance run in the seventh inning.