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Burkamper bounces back to help Huskers tie series

Senior pitcher Derek Burkamper found redemption from a tough April with a scoreless start in Saturday's 3-1 win.
Senior pitcher Derek Burkamper found redemption from a tough April with a scoreless start in Saturday's 3-1 win.

FINAL STATS

After a tough April, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before senior pitcher Derek Burkamper had a slump-busting performance.

That performance arrived in a big way Saturday.

Burkamper’s scoreless outing, along with some timely hitting and bullpen dominance, helped Nebraska (25-16-1, 8-5-1) hold on to defeat Ohio State 3-1 and tie the series at a game apiece.

The senior scattered six hits over 5.2 innings, walking just one batter and striking out four. After a three-run top of the sixth, Burkamper was notched the first two outs of the bottom frame before the bullpen took over.

“We needed that,” Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said in his postgame radio show on the Husker Sports Network. “I think (Ohio State pitcher Jake) Post is one of the best pitchers in the conference. We needed Derek to match him.

“Derek, that was about as sharp as I’ve seen him in a long time. We needed a huge start, he delivered, now we need him to repeat that again next week.”

The three-year starter from Muscatine, Iowa, saw his ERA grow by nearly 1.50 in three rough outings by allowing three runs each to Maryland and Iowa and lasting just two innings last weekend at Minnesota.

Saturday, he was sharp from the early going.

After giving up leadoff singles in the first two innings, Burkamper got himself out of jams by forcing a groundout in the first inning and striking out Buckeye leadoff hitter Tre’ Gantt in the second. Nebraska’s ace then went on retire 10 of 11 batters to keep the game scoreless into the sixth inning.

With two outs in the frame, Nebraska designated hitter Scott Schreiber shot a single up the middle to extend the inning. Senior Ben Miller followed that a single of his own and freshman Luke Roskam drew a full count walk to load the bases with two down.

A rare mistake by Post on a wild pitch brought in Schreiber for the first run of the game. With a 1-0 lead under his belt, Luis Alvarado - who had not recorded a hit on the weekend - blasted a bases-clearing double to left center field.

“It’s been fun to watch him mature,” Erstad said of Alvarado. “Instead of letting one at-bat affect the next, he’s over talking about making adjustments and what he’s feeling and just really in control.

“It showed right there. Just keep doing it and find a way to put a ball in the gap.”

Facing a three-run deficit, Ohio State (17-25, 5-9) didn’t waste any time mounting a rally. While the efforts were squandered by Burkamper and Jake McSteen in the sixth inning, the Buckeyes got runners to second and third with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Robbie Palkert replaced McSteen and gave up an RBI single, but then settled in to strike out Big Ten batting average leader Dominic Canzone and force a one-pitch groundout by Brady Cherry.

Palkert mowed through the eighth and closer Chad Luensmann forced a 4-6-3 double play to end the game, working a scoreless bottom of the ninth.

With the series tied, the Huskers will turn to Sunday starter Jake Meyers to try and clinch the series. Meyers is 6-1 with a 2.91 ERA, with his only loss coming back in February against No. 1 Oregon State.

Sunday's first pitch from Ohio State’s Bill Davis Stadium is set for 11:05 a.m. (CT).