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May 11, 2012

Freshman help give NU a much-needed victory

Nebraska vs. Minnesota game 1 box score

With their backs against the wall, it was a pair of freshman that came through for the win-desperate Huskers.

Kyle Kubat turned in his third straight solid start and second baseman Pat Kelly clubbed a two-run shot to help the Huskers stop their recent slide and beat Minnesota 4-3.

The Huskers improved to 10-9 in Big Ten play and improved their chances at securing a spot in the Big Ten tournament at the end of the month.

"We had a feel about us tonight that we were going to go out there and we were going to win," Kelly said. "It might have been a close game, but we were going to win tonight. We went out there with an attitude, and that's what we did."

Coming into the game, Kubat knew he would need to be near perfect to beat Minnesota starter TJ Oakes, who entered with a 1.70 ERA and was the conference leader in strikeouts.

But the freshman was unfazed, allowing just three unearned runs over six innings, his third straight start of allowing two earned runs or fewer. NU has won all three games.

"Nothing changed," Kubat said. "I just went out there and did what I do best, which is throwing strikes and having fun. Obviously, we're getting down to crunch time. That's what I live for - the pressure. I love it, I can handle it and I'll take the ball every time."

After Kubat walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh inning, coach Darin Erstad called on Dylan Vogt to get the Huskers out of the inning. Vogt accepted the challenge and then some. The junior pitched the final three innings, allowing just one hit, to pick up his first save of the season.

He got some help in the eighth inning. With a runner on first, Minnesota catcher Matt Halloran hit a rocket to third that looked like it might scoot down the line for a double. But Josh Scheffert made a diving snag, then fired to first to end the frame with a double play.

"As a pitcher, that's a confidence booster," Vogt said. "You fill up the strike zone and you've got trust in (your fielders)."

Kubat and Vogt combined to outduel Oakes, who failed to strike out a single Nebraska batter. The Huskers scraped together ten hits, including a two-RBI single by Rich Sanguinetti in the third inning that kicked off the scoring.

The next inning, Kelly took a 2-0 fastball and deposited it in the rightfield seats for his sixth home run of the season and give NU a 4-1 lead. Minnesota scored a pair of unearned runs in the sixth, but Vogt shut the door from there.

"That guy is a stud and he's going to be pitching in the big leagues in the near future," Erstad said of Oakes. "To go out there and get ten hits off of him, I tip my hat to our hitters. You just cannot get behind that guy. We got a couple big hits and against a guy like that, you have to take advantage of every opportunity you get."

The Huskers and Golden Gophers will play again tomorrow at 2:05.

Around the horn

***Erstad announced that Ryan Hander would start Saturday's game.

***Michael Pritchard went 0 for 4, ending his hitting streak at 25 games.

***Kubat is known for being a fast worker, but the top of the fifth was speedy even by his standards. The freshman threw just three pitches, allowing a single before inducing a fly out and a double-play ground ball. It was the first three-pitch inning by a Husker pitcher since Michael Marriot had one at Oklahoma State in 2010.

***It was the first time this season that a Nebraska hitter didn't strike out.

***The game was completed in 1:56, tied for the Nebraska's second fastest game this year.

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