For the first four innings of Sunday's series finale against UNLV, Aaron Bummer looked like the same pitcher he has been for much of this season - a talented player who is struggling and searching for the confidence that allowed him to dominate down the stretch in 2013.
The Rebels already had collected seven hits against him and had Nebraska in a 3-1 hole. As the junior sat in the dugout, he simply got mad. The pitcher that emerged for the fifth inning was not the one who had thrown the first four.
"You get tired of getting your teeth kicked in," Bummer said. "I just kind of got pissed off and decided to make a change. Thankfully, it worked."
Bummer handcuffed the Rebels over the next 3.2 innings, allowing just two hits and retiring 10 straight at one point. While he kept UNLV off the board, the offense awoke and Nebraska came away with a 5-3 victory to avoid the series sweep and improve to 15-12 on the year.
"We're almost to the midway point in the season and we need to win games," Darin Erstad said. "We were in a situation there where we were down 3-1 and had a chance to be swept at home, but we found a way to keep it together. It's a very important win.'
The Husker bats, so quiet for much of the weekend, found some life as Bummer rediscovered his groove. Left fielder Ty Kildow brought in a run with a double-play ground out in the fifth, then Nebraska scored two more in the sixth when catcher Tanner Lubach reached on an error by the second baseman and right fielder Christian Cox sprayed a line drive into left for an RBI single.
An RBI single by Kildow in the eighth gave NU an insurance run, one it almost really needed.
After Bummer surrendered a hit with two outs in the eighth, Erstad brought in closer Josh Roeder, whose last appearance was a blown save against Iowa on March 21. The junior fanned the final batter of the eighth, but ran into trouble after allowing a pair of one-out singles in the ninth.
But Roeder buckled down and struck out the final two hitters to end the game and notch his fourth save of the year.
"I definitely wanted to get back out there as soon as possible," Roeder said of his mentality after blowing the Iowa save. "You never want to sit on what was basically a failed moment. I got my shot today and I wasn't going to let that happen again. I've got one job, and that's to finish the game. That's what I strive to come out and do every single day."
The Huskers had lost five of seven coming into the game and were desperate to finally come away with a victory. Erstad said Saturday that some players were pressing, and a victory against a skilled opponent should take some of the weight off the players' shoulders as they head down to Arkansas for a midweek series with the Razorbacks.
"That's about as complete a game as we can play against a good opponent," Erstad said. "They were the ones that made the mistakes defensively and we didn't, and that wasn't the case the first couple of days. That's obviously something we stress and we've got to continue to play like that if we're going anywhere."
Aaron Bummer: After starting the All-Star game in the Cape Cod League last summer, Bummer has struggled mightily to find his form this year. He seemed to take out that frustration on the Rebels in the middle and late innings. He finished with five strikeouts and just three earned runs in 7.2 innings of work.
Christian Cox: Filling in for the slumping Michael Pritchard, the JUCO transfer came up with the biggest day of his career so far. Cox had three hits, his second three-hit game of the year. The JUCO transfer also stole his first career base in the eighth inning.
Pat Kelly: Kelly was the Huskers' most consistent source of offense over the weekend. After going 0-for-4 in Friday's loss, the second baseman went 5-for-7 with two RBIs and two runs scored in the final two games of the series. He also provided a pair of highlight-reel plays defensively at second.
Around the horn
***Pritchard, who has started all but one game this year and hit in the No. 3 spot for all but two games, got the game off to clear his head. The senior has just six hits in his last 44 at-bats.
"I didn't let him grab a bat today," Erstad said. "He wasn't allowed to. He tried to be tough and act like he wanted to bat, but I don't think he wanted to bat. It was good for him to relax. He works so hard and he's trying to figure it out. Sometimes just taking a step back and taking a deep breath and watching the game from a different perspective can be helpful. He's going to be just fine."
***Nebraska is 3-3 when a player other than Ryan Boldt starts in center field. Boldt has been the designated hitter for the past three games after dinging his shoulder against Kansas State.
***Bummer picked off a runner in the first, the third man he's picked off this year.
***Kyle Kubat has a test Monday night, so he won't join the team in Arkansas until Wednesday, when he will start. Erstad said he'll go "with the younger guys" on Tuesday.
***The attendance was 3,289.