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March 9, 2013

Nebraska splits doubleheader at Louisiana Tech

Nebraska vs. Louisiana Tech game 2 box score

Nebraska vs. Louisiana Tech game 3 box score

After losing the series opener and game one of Saturday's doubleheader against Louisiana Tech, Nebraska was desperate for a victory. Brandon Pierce pitched one of the better outings of his career and, while the offense still looks nothing like the 2011 version, the bats did just enough to give Nebraska a 3-2 victory.

Pierce was excellent, giving up just four hits without walking a hitter in six innings. After totaling just six strikeouts in his first three starts, Pierce fanned six Bulldogs and gave up just one earned run.

Though they failed to score in the game's first five innings, the offense gave Pierce a boost in the sixth. Wes Edrington led off the inning with a walk and stole second. Michael Pritchard followed that up with a bunt single and Austin Darby put NU on the board with an RBI single. Two batters later, Josh Scheffert blasted a double to center field to score two more runs.

"The sixth inning - man, who knows?" Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "It's just so random why we keep scoring that inning. But we're going to have to go back to the drawing board and find a way to score some more runs. Our pitchers are giving us a chance to win. When you're not swinging it, you have to grind it out and find ways to win close games."

Nebraska wouldn't score again, but that was all the help the pitchers needed. Though things got a little shaky when Louisiana Tech scored twice against Pierce and Caleb Hawkins in the seventh inning, Josh Roeder and Dylan Vogt slammed the door shut in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the victory and improve Nebraska's record to 5-9.

The Huskers could have used some of the clutch hitting they displayed in game two in the first game of the doubleheader. Nebraska stranded runners on second and third in the ninth inning as they lost 2-1.

The NU offense was stagnant yet again as the Huskers trailed 2-0 heading into the eighth inning. After being held scoreless Friday, it appeared Nebraska could be shut out two days in a row. But Chad Christensen used a two-out RBI single to score Jake Placzek in the top of the eighth, giving the Huskers life.

Things looked even more promising in the ninth, when Pat Kelly led off the inning with a single and Kash Kalkowski was hit by a pitch. Rich Sanguinetti used a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position with just one out.

With Nebraska needing a run to stay alive, pinch hitter Corey Stringer struck out swinging and Tanner Lubach grounded out to second base to strand both runners.

"Our bats are going to come alive," Erstad said. "It's only a matter of time. But right now, it's very difficult for them to understand that the approach is important and the details of the game are very important as well."

The punchless offense spoiled yet another great outing by Christian DeLeon. After NU left the bases loaded in the first inning, the Bulldogs took advantage of a slow start by the Nebraska hurler, giving up two runs on four hits before a double play finally got him out of the inning.

But DeLeon was rock solid after that. Over the next seven innings, the junior allowed just two hits and didn't walk a single batter, keeping NU in the game. After retiring the final batter in the third, DeLeon didn't allow a base runner for the next three innings.

Nebraska won't play again until Friday, when NU plays at UC Irvine in their second California road trip of the season. The Huskers will play three games against the Anteaters before two midweek games against Cal State Fullerton, who has already beaten Nebraska twice this year. But Erstad believes his team is set up for success because his players' mindsets are right where he wants them.

"Their effort and attitude, I'm not going to question that," Erstad said. "They knew what's expected out of them and they've answered in that regard. Not it's coming through and executing when we need to."

Around the horn

***Christensen's double in the fourth inning of game two was the first extra-base hit of the series for Nebraska.

***Nebraska outscored Louisiana Tech 42-13 in last year's three games series. This time around, they were outscored 9-4.

***Pritchard played for the first time since straining his oblique on the opening weekend of the season. He hit leadoff in both games and though he had just one hit in his seven at-bats, Pritchard singled and scored a run in the sixth inning of game two.

***Sanguinetti, who came into the first game hitting .125 after making the All-Big Ten team last year, had a pair of hits in game one (though he went hitless in the second game) and Erstad believes the senior might be starting to come around.

"It's just a matter of time," Erstad said. "We're at the mercy of this game sometimes and it decides when we're going to get hot and when we're going to get cold. He's been ice cold and it's good to see him start swinging the bat well."

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