Kansas State has been a major thorn in Nebraska's side over the past two seasons. Coming into Tuesday night's matchup at Haymarket Park, the Wildcats had won five straight against NU by a combined score of 54-31.
It looked like KSU would continue that trend early on, as the Wildcats plated four runs off of Austin Christensen in the top of the first. But Nebraska (24-14) held Kansas State (20-17) to just one run the rest of the game and pounded out a season-high 22 hits to win 14-5. Nebraska has now won nine its past 10.
"It doesn't matter who it's against -we've got to win baseball games," Darin Erstad said. "They had our number the last five games, we had their number the three games before that and now we found a way to win a game. We pretty much need to win everything from here on in, so it was a good start."
The Huskers' pitching has carried them for most of the streak, but the bats did much of the heavy lifting Tuesday. Five Huskers had three hits or more, including Michael Pritchard (five), Ben Miller (three), Jake Placzek (three) and Ryan Boldt (four), all of whom set or tied career highs.
Pritchard in particular was explosive at the plate. After suffering through a 9-for-60 slump, the senior went 5-for-5 Tuesday, making him 13-for-25 over his past six games.
"It's a weird game - tomorrow I could go 0-for-5," Pritchard said. "There used to be a time where I never thought that could happen, but this has been a weird season. I just have to keep grinding every day, and hopefully I'm out of (the slump.)"
After falling behind early, the Husker scored two in the first, third and fourth innings before exploding for four runs apiece in the fifth and eighth innings. The Huskers had seven extra-base hits, including a home run by catcher Tanner Lubach, and tied a season high with 14 runs.
"You pick your spots to drive balls, you use the other gap, you use the middle of the field," Erstad said. "When you have a lineup top to bottom that has that type of approach, that's that relentless attitude we want to have."
It was the sixth time this year that Nebraska has notched 15 or more hits in a game.
Though the offense came through, the bullpen deserves a good deal of credit as well. After Christensen gave up four in the opening frame, four NU relievers combined to allow just one run the rest of the game. Colton Howell picked up his first career win by giving up just one run over three innings, and Bob Greco matched a career high by tossing three shutout frames.
"Howell has really been a nice shot in the arm for us against K-State a couple of times now," Erstad said. "He's been a lot more consistent in his delivery and pounding the zone. I think he's starting to hone it in a little bit."
The Huskers play Nebraska-Omaha tomorrow at Haymarket Park at 6:35 p.m.
Center fielder Ryan Boldt: The freshman was the ideal leadoff hitter Tuesday. Boldt matched a career high with four hits, setting the table for the guys behind him and scoring three times. He also knocked in a run of his own and recorded his first career outfield assist.
Catcher Tanner Lubach: Lubach wasn't perfect behind the plate (see below), but he was excellent with a bat in his hands. The junior belted his third home run of the year and had an RBI double, driving in a team-high three runs.
Third baseman Jake Placzek: It was tough to see the sophomore having this large of a role at the beginning of the season, but Placzek has made himself a fixture at the top of the lineup. He went 3-for-4 with a walk, three runs and an RBI. The Huskers are now 13-5 when he hits second in the order.
Around the horn
***The Wildcats stole four bases. Catcher Lubach had thrown out seven of the last 11 would-be base stealers coming into the game.
***Nebraska is now 5-0 when Boldt hits leadoff this year. Erstad said that was the role Nebraska eventually wanted him to hit in this season.
"I think that was probably the plan eventually, to get him in the leadoff spot," Erstad said. "You can see where his speed can be kind of dynamic up there. He handles both right and left-handed pitchers very well. I think in the long run, he's a three-hole hitter. But this year, it was time to move him up there."
***The attendance was 2,158.