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February 14, 2014

Huskers win season opener 5-3 over Pacific

Nebraska vs. Pacific box score

Nebraska was outhit by Pacific, didn't lead until the seventh inning and suffered arguably the worst outing of Christian DeLeon's career.

But a shot from a freshman phenom, a brilliant start by the lineup's senior leader and a strong showing from the bullpen gave the Huskers a 5-3 win in Tempe, Ariz., their first victory in a season opener under coach Darin Erstad.

"You really don't know what to expect when you come out of the snow bank (in Lincoln) and its 80 degrees down here," Erstad said on his postgame radio appearance. "Pacific has been outside and you know that you're going to have to grind it out. There are little things that you can't prepare for in practice settings."

DeLeon labored through 4.1 innings, his shortest outing since a win over Northwestern last March 30, giving up seven hits and three runs. The Tigers didn't waste much time offensively, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first and adding a pair in the fourth.

Though the senior, who was Nebraska's Friday night starter for much of last year, didn't have his best stuff, Erstad was proud of the way DeLeon battled.

"That's his MO," Erstad said. "He can go out there and have a great eight innings and shut them down, but he's going to have to grind out some innings. He's done that time and time again for us, and like I always say, when he leaves the game we have a chance to win almost every single time. That's all you can ask from your pitchers."

The Huskers loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth for Ryan Boldt, one of the top incoming recruits in the country. Boldt blasted a long fly ball to center - a shot that would have likely left most college parks, but Boldt was forced to settle for a triple in the cavernous Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Things were quiet on both sides until the seventh inning, when senior Michael Pritchard drove in shortstop Steven Reveles with his second triple of the day. Pat Kelly, who had stranded four base runners in his earlier at-bats, hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Pritchard.

That left the game in the hands of the NU bullpen, which proved more than capable of stepping up. Four Nebraska relievers combined to give up just three hits in 4.2 shutout innings, striking out six.

Jeff Chesnut escaped a jam set up by DeLeon in the fifth. Bellevue transfer Bob Greco gave up just two hits in two innings, senior Zach Hirsch handled the eighth and Josh Roeder picked up the save with a scoreless ninth.

Nebraska will play a pair of games tomorrow. The day will begin with a noon game against No. 2 Oregon State before the Huskers take on Gonzaga at 4 p.m. Junior Aaron Bummer will take the mound in the opener and junior Chance Sinclair will make his Husker debut in the nightcap.

Around the horn

***Six players made their Nebraska debuts Friday.

***Pritchard has now reached base in 43 straight games.

***Pritchard became the first Husker to have two triples in a game since Jeff Leise did it against Western Michigan in 2002.

***Pacific put the leadoff batter on in four of the first five innings, two of whom came around to score.

***Nebraska stranded eight runners, including five in the first four innings.


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