Late in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, it appeared the Huskers were going to let a golden opportunity slip away. After blowing out the Boilermakers in the opener, the Husker bats fell silent for the first seven innings of game two.
But the offense came alive in a big way in the eighth as the Huskers scored four runs on three hits and got some help on a critical error by Purdue to take control of the game. Nebraska then blew the game wide open by scoring five runs in the ninth to win 10-4 in West Lafayette and sweep the doubleheader.
Nebraska improved to 10-4 in Big Ten play and 18-19 overall.
"The young kid on the mound was throwing pretty hard early on and he was just spotting up," Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "(NU starter) Aaron (Bummer) pitched pretty good other than the one inning. He gave us a chance to win the game and that's why we play nine innings. We kept fighting through it and after a long day, we emptied the tank late and found a way to come through."
Bummer was very solid in his outing with the exception of the third inning, when the Boilermakers got to the sophomore. Purdue notched four straight hits to tally three runs. Bummer lasted another two innings after that, but it appeared the lefty would take the loss.
That's because the Huskers couldn't get anything going off of Jordan Minch. The freshman gave up seven earned runs while getting just one out in his start against Illinois last week, but stepped his game up against Nebraska. Minch kept NU off the scoreboard until Rich Sanguinetti whacked a solo home run, his first of the season, in the sixth inning.
But Purdue quickly fell apart after Minch left the game. Nebraska tied the game in the eighth on an RBI single by Kash Kalkowski and a throwing error by the pitcher on a bunt by Austin Darby. Then Josh Scheffert gave the Huskers their first lead of the game with a two-RBI single.
"He's put so much effort and he's got so much passion for the university and baseball," Erstad said of Scheffert, who likely will be confined to solely hitting for the rest of the season thanks to an arm injury. "To come up in a situation like that and contribute has to be a great feeling for him. I'm just really proud of all the stuff he's fought through."
Turns out NU was just getting started. The Huskers batted around in the top of the ninth, scoring five runs on six hits to put Purdue away for good. Nebraska finished with 13 hits, eight of which came in the game's final two innings.
Jeff Chesnut and Dylan Vogt kept the Huskers in the game until the offense came around, allowing just one base runner in three innings. Colton Howell gave up a run in the ninth, but at that point it didn't really matter.
"I'm proud of our guys," Erstad said. "This is a business trip for us and we haven't finished our business yet."
The two teams will play the series' final game tomorrow at 11 a.m.
***Josh Scheffert: the senior might not play in the field the rest of the year, but he made his mark at the plate Saturday. Called upon to pinch hit in the eighth inning, Scheffert came through with a two-RBI single to give NU a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
***Kash Kalkowski: After accumulating four RBIs in the opener, the first baseman picked up right where he left off. Kalkowski drove in a pair of runs and scored one himself to help NU blow the game open late.
***Jeff Chesnut: The numbers on Chesnut aren't flashy - he pitched just two innings and didn't pick up a win or a save. But the freshman kept Purdue off the board in the sixth and seventh innings, keeping NU in the game until the offense heated up. Chesnut allowed just one base runner on a walk while striking out three.
Around the horn
***Pritchard's fourth-inning double extended his hitting streak to 18 games.