Six days ago, the Huskers were thumped 15-7 by Oregon State as they struggled mightily with the Beavers' patient lineup.
Christian DeLeon made sure the rematch would go differently. The senior pitched seven strong innings, allowing just one unearned run, and the offense found its stroke late as Nebraska blasted No. 1 Oregon State 9-2 in Surprise, Ariz. It is NU's first win over a top-ranked team since the Huskers beat No. 1 Texas on April 6, 2005.
The win improves NU to 3-2 on the season.
"That was that type of relentless attitude that we want," Darin Erstad said in his postgame radio appearance. "We were facing a great team and a fantastic pitcher, and you just have to grind. You're not going to get many chances, and when you have a couple of chances and nothing happens, you have to get back up and do it again. We did that a couple times and finally broke through."
DeLeon got off to a great start, sending the Beavers down in order in each of the first two innings. But he ran into some trouble in the third, giving up a pair of singles as OSU scored on a passed ball. But DeLeon got out of a jam with a strikeout, one of his five on the day, and never really struggled from there.
"Christian just rises to the occasion," Erstad said. "I've said this from day one - he always keeps us in the game and he always gives us a chance to win when he leaves the game, and today is no different."
Oregon State hurler Andrew Moore, an All-American candidate, was in complete control early on. The Huskers had just two base runners and one hit through five innings, but something clicked for the Nebraska bats in the sixth. NU had three straight two-out singles by third baseman Blake Headley, Austin Christensen and Ryan Boldt to score four runs.
But the Huskers weren't done. A double by second baseman Pat Kelly added another run in the seventh before NU established some serious breathing room in the eighth. A Tanner Lubach sacrifice fly, an Austin Darby triple and a Steven Reveles double plated another four runs to give the Huskers a 9-1 lead.
Reliever Jeff Chesnut, who had pitched very well in last weekend's series, struggled mightily the top of the eighth, allowing two hits and walking a pair in just 0.1 innings. Bob Greco entered with the bases loaded and ended any hopes of an OSU comeback with a pop out and a strikeout. Freshman Jake Hohensee finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning.
"I'm excited for them because they took one on the chin to this team last week," Erstad said. "They had a chance to rebound and get back a positive vibe, and we did that. Now the challenge is, how do we respond? Is it one game? Do you build on that? To me, that's the level of consistency across the board that we need to play with and we're capable of playing with, and that will be our big challenge tomorrow."
The Huskers will play Washington at 8 p.m. Saturday before finishing up the weekend with a contest against Utah at 1 p.m. Sunday.
***Christian DeLeon: The senior was masterful against one of the nation's best lineups. DeLeon allowed just four hits and surrendered only one walk in seven innings while striking out five. Had the game been closer, he likely could have gone deeper into the game.
***Steven Reveles: The shortstop's work at the plate (two hits, one RBI, one run) was impressive, but Reveles was great in the field as well. The junior backed up DeLeon with a number of tough defensive plays on ground balls.
***Austin Christensen: Nebraska's first baseman missed his first two years on campus with arm injuries, but finally got to show off his potential Friday. The sophomore had two hits, two RBIs and scored a run while supplying solid defense at first.
"You've got to get that first one in those big situations," Erstad said. "He's basically been taking batting practice for two years and that's it. It's tough to get your bat up to game speed."
Around the horn
***Senior Michael Pritchard extended his on-base streak to 47 games.
***Darby's eight-inning triple was Nebraska's eighth of the season already. The Huskers had 13 in all of 2013.
***Each of the first seven batters in NU's lineup had at least one hit.