When Pat Kelly woke up Friday morning, he didn't think there was any way he would play that night against Penn State. The second baseman had been battling flu symptoms all week and felt weak.
Luckily for Nebraska, a nap that afternoon lifted his spirits, and Kelly showed no ill effects this weekend. His masterpiece came Sunday, as he had three hits and knocked in three runs to help NU beat Penn State 8-4 to complete the series sweep.
Nebraska, winner of seven of its past eight games, is now 32-17 on the season and 13-5 in the Big Ten.
Article Continues Below
"If you would have asked me Friday morning if I would have played that night, I would have said no way," Kelly said. "But I slept all afternoon and felt alright."
This win wasn't as dominant as the first two in the series, but it was more than enough. The Huskers struck first with a run in the first inning before Penn State took its first lead of the weekend by scoring once in the third and twice in the fourth off of Kyle Kubat.
But the offense jumped all over the Nittany Lions' pitchers in the fourth. The Huskers scored on a pair of RBI ground outs, then Kelly drove in a two runs with a two-out single. Blake Headley added another RBI single two batters later to give the Huskers a 6-3 lead. Bob Greco, Zach Hirsch and Josh Roeder finished the game out from there.
Kelly's breakout came at an appropriate time, as Nebraska's cleanup hitter had been struggling. But Darin Erstad talked to Kelly about keeping both hands on the bat during his swing as opposed to finishing with one, and the move has paid dividends.
"You could see it coming off his bat a lot better," Erstad said. "Through the season, you're going to have a couple week stretch where you don't feel good and swing like you want to, but there's a pretty good reason he's hit what he has his whole career. He's going to get hot."
The win helped the Huskers officially claim a spot in the Big Ten Tournament. While catching leader Indiana still remains a bit of a long shot, Nebraska's recent run has set it up in great position to secure the No. 2 seed.
For that, the Huskers can thank Kelly, who finished the weekend with six hits in 11 at-bats, eight RBIs and five runs scored.
"It's always tough when you're not helping, but I knew it would come," Kelly said. "I made a couple of adjustments and it finally clicked. It feels good again."
Catcher Quinn McGill: Normally an 0-for-1 day doesn't stand out much, but McGill is a true freshman outfielder forced into catching duty by multiple injuries. McGill did reach base twice on a walk and a hit-by-pitch and was excellent behind the plate.
"The best way I can describe it is that I didn't notice," Erstad said. "I thought he did great. He just looked like a catcher."
Reliever Zach Hirsch: It's easy to overlook a middle reliever, but Hirsch has been one of NU's most consistent (and best) performers this year. He did his job again Sunday, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings of no-hit ball to bridge the gap between Greco to Roeder.
Around the horn
***Michael Pritchard extended his hitting streak to 13 games with his first-inning double.
***Nebraska is now 15-9 when it scores first, as opposed to 15-8 when the opponent scores first. The Huskers struck first in all three games this weekend.
***The attendance was 4,316. The total attendance for the series was 13,944, a season high.