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May 19, 2012

Huskers rally late to secure series win

Nebraska vs. Michigan game 3 box score

Just like in Friday's loss, the Huskers gave up three runs to Michigan in the seventh inning to surrender the lead for the first time in the game.

But after failing to respond Friday, Nebraska wouldn't go away Saturday. The Huskers fought back with three runs in the top of the eighth inning and tagged on two more in the ninth to win 7-3 and secure the No. 4 seed in next week's Big Ten tournament.

"What a difference one night's sleep makes," coach Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "The offensive execution yesterday was awful. Today, I don't know if we've been that hooked up in it. That's what happens when you're committed. It was all over the place - great hit-and-running, great bunts, great situational hitting. That's a combination for success."

The Huskers struck first with a solo home run by Richard Stock in the second, then again on an RBI single by Michael Pritchard in the third. But the offense sputtered after that, leaving four runners in scoring position through the first seven innings.

The two runs were enough for Dexter Spitsnogle. The senior, who was making his first road trip this season, pitched six scoreless innings and quickly got two outs in the seventh.

"He was pitching down in the zone," Erstad said. "He did a great job of keeping them off balance. When you can command with three pitches and pitch with the tempo he did - he was actually getting stronger in the fifth inning. You could see he was gaining confidence."

The inning appeared to be over when Spitsnogle struck out Dylan Delaney, but Stock couldn't hold on to the ball and Delaney reached first. Nearing 100 pitches, the weary Spitsnogle gave up two straight hits, including a triple by John Lorenz that tied the game.

Erstad brought in Tom Lemke, but the junior promptly gave up a single that scored Lorenz and gave the Wolverines their first lead of the day.

But the Huskers wouldn't wilt as they did just a day before. Michael Pritchard led off the eighth inning with a double and Richard Stock scored him with a sacrifice fly two batters later. Then Josh Scheffert walked, Rich Sanguinetti singled and Kash Kalkowski singled to regain the lead for NU.

"It's about attitude," Erstad said. "It's about wanting to commit to it and believe in it. It's not punishment when you have to bunt. It's not punishment when you have to hit and run. Those are the things you have to do to beat good pitching."

After Lemke shut down Michigan in the bottom of the frame, Nebraska scored two more runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Stock and an error by Wolverine John DiLaura. With a four-run lead, Lemke sent Michigan down in order in the ninth to improve NU to 34-21 on the year and 14-10 in the Big Ten.

The Huskers will play Michigan State in the first round of the league tournament Wednesday at 11:05 central time.

Around the horn

***The Huskers won't be returning to Lincoln before heading to Columbus for the Big Ten tournament. The team will take in a game between the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow before riding a bus to Columbus on Monday. Nebraska will work out on a high school field Monday before practicing on the game field Tuesday. The tournament begins Wednesday.

***The win gave the Huskers' their fifth conference series win of the year against just three series losses.

***Stock extended his hitting streak to 18 games with his second-inning home run.

***The start was the longest of Spitnogle's Nebraska career. His previous high was 3.1 innings against Minnesota last week. His six strikeouts were also a career-high.



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