Nebraska has been living on the edge lately, as its last four wins all came by three runs or less. That narrative changed Friday night and the Huskers left absolutely no doubt about the outcome.
The Huskers (30-17, 11-5) pounded out 21 hits, one shy of their season high, and eight Nebraska starters had at least two hits as NU easily put away Penn State (17-24, 5-10) 13-3.
"When you have somebody in front of you that's locked in, it just passes the bat to the next guy," third baseman Blake Headley said. "That's the biggest thing in baseball - momentum and momentum at-bats. There are so many momentum changes in baseball. It's just unreal. If you can consistently put together good at-bats and know that the next guy is going to go up there and work a good at-bat, work a pitch and square it up, you're golden."
Nebraska jumped out to an early lead by scoring a run in the second and four more in the fourth. But the Nittany Lions finally got to Chance Sinclair, who had been stellar through the first three frames.
After getting a quick out to start the fourth, Sinclair gave up three consecutive hits, the last of which was a home run, to bring PSU back within 5-3. The junior rebounded as he, Bob Greco and Luke Bublitz combined to shut out Penn State over the final 5.2 innings.
The offense made sure the pitching staff would have more than enough run support. After a two-out hit by Austin Darby drove in a run in the sixth, the Huskers gained some true separation in the seventh. Nebraska had six straight hits and plated five runs to blow the game open, then added a pair in the eighth just for good measure.
"I don't know what it is about this game, but you get the leadoff guy on and it seems like he always scores," Headley said. "If you can get a couple hits in the throw… I don't know if the pitcher is worried out there or it's just having a good approach or what. Snowballing is hard to stop. If you want to win games, that's something you have to do."
Nebraska will go for its fifth win in six games tomorrow at 2:05 p.m. before the series finale Sunday at 11 a.m.
"This stuff doesn't get us anything tomorrow," Darin Erstad said. "We've got to come back and have that same approach. I think sometimes you can have a little letdown and assume it's going to happen again, but that's just not how baseball works. We're going to have to come back and get ready to go tomorrow."
Third baseman Jake Placzek: It's hard to be more efficient than the sophomore was Friday. He went 2-for-2, walked twice and had two sacrifice bunts. Placzek drove in a run and scored three times himself.
First baseman Blake Headley: The junior had Nebraska's only two extra-base hits of the night - a double in the fifth and a solo home run in the eighth. Headley added a two-run single in the third just for good measure.
Around the horn
***Erstad said Kyle Kubat will start on Sunday.
***Tanner Lubach, out for a week with a high ankle sprain, has been taking batting practice and is on the active roster, but Erstad would only use him in extreme circumstances.
"He's in an emergency pinch-hit ability," Erstad said. "I really don't want to use him, but I do have him on the roster for the weekend. He's not available to catch. Turning the bases, I don't think that's in the cards yet. I think he can get to first, but hopefully we won't have to use him."
***Taylor Fish set a career high with three hits. Eight of his 16 hits this year have come in the seventh inning or later.
***Michael Pritchard is on an 11-game hitting streak, the longest by any Husker this year.
***Penn State's fourth-inning home run was the first given up by Sinclair this season.
***Placzek had two sacrifice bunts in the game, giving him eight on the season. That's second on the team only to Steven Reveles' 10.
***The attendance was 3,546.