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March 2, 2013

Huskers break losing streak in home opener

After seven lackluster games, the offense that Nebraska displayed all last season and had been desperately trying to find so far this year showed up, and it came in a big way.

After failing to score in the first five innings Saturday, the Huskers exploded for seven runs in the sixth and eventually beat New Mexico 8-5, giving Nebraska its first victory of the season.

"Hitting is going to come and go," Darin Erstad said. "There are going to be times you get hits and don't get hits. Honestly, you really have no control over it. You just have to maintain that confidence and stay positive through the entire season. You're going to struggle sometime. It's magnified when it's early in the season."

For the game's first several innings, it didn't appear this game would be any different from NU's first seven. Brandon Pierce struggled with his control and gave up a three-run home run in the first inning. Nebraska was able to put runners on base against A.J. Carman, but couldn't put any runs on the board.

That all changed in the sixth, when, with NU trailing 5-0, things finally began breaking its way. The Lobos committed three errors and threw two wild pitches, and Nebraska took full advantage. The Huskers had five hits, including RBI knocks by Pat Kelly, Blake Headley and Austin Darby, in the frame and scored seven runs to take a lead they would never surrender.

Kash Kalkowski scored Josh Scheffert with a sacrifice fly in the seventh to conclude the scoring.

"I think some of the hits just started dropping," Kalkowski said. "We had a lot of frustrated kids, even me, through the seven games we played. We were hitting the ball hard at someone but they were catching it. Our offense finally came and we put up seven. That's how we do it."

Josh Roeder got himself into a jam in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with just one out. But the sophomore struck out the next two hitters to escape and pitched a perfect eighth inning.

That set the stage for Dylan Vogt in the ninth. After blowing his first two save opportunities of the season, Vogt breezed through a 1-2-3 inning to send the Haymarket Park faithful home with the season's first win.

"We don't have a crystal ball," Erstad said. "We don't know how the game is going to play out. We were 0-7. We've got to face the music and fight through that. Our guys could have easily quit and they didn't. They fought back."

The Huskers and Lobos will play the series finale Sunday at 12:05.

Around the horn

***Nebraska has now won 31 straight home openers, dating back to 1979.

***Michael Hoppes was credited with the win despite throwing just one pitch. Hoppes relieved Pierce with two outs in the sixth inning. He threw one pitch and Tanner Lubach threw out a base runner stealing to end the inning.

***Nebraska batted around in the sixth inning, the first time it has done so this season.

***Rich Sanguinetti came into the game with a. 138 on-base percentage, but reached four times Saturday, walking three times and reaching on a bunt single in the first.

"He's not swinging it like he wants to, but he found a way to bunt and get on and found a couple of walks," Erstad said. "He's going to get going. That's the message I sent to him - you're going to go 3-for-28 at some point in the season. Unfortunately, the baseball gods are giving it to you at the beginning so it gets magnified. Just stick to your approach and you'll be just fine."

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