After Tuesday's 12-3 victory over South Dakota State, Aaron Bummer was reveling in the joy of his first career win as the group of reporters that surrounded him eventually began to dissipate.
Bummer began heading to the locker room, but turned around when Nebraska coach Darin Erstad called out to him.
"Hey Aaron," Erstad said with a playful smile. "Stay humble. Go sweep the dugout."
He may be the hero, but he's still a freshman.
After senior Dexter Spitsnogle got off to a rough start against South Dakota State, Erstad called on a Bummer to put out the fire. The left-hander hadn't given up a hit in his first two appearances this season and kept the streak going Tuesday, hurling 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.
The Huskers, down 2-0 when he entered, woke up on offense and battered the Jackrabbit pitchers for 15 hits. NU scored all 12 runs between the fourth and eighth innings to help the Huskers improve to 11-6.
But before the offense got rolling, it was Bummer's job to keep SDSU from increasing their lead, a goal he achieved like a veteran. He turned down a chance to become a Yankee last summer after being selected by New York in the 31st round.
"The New York Yankees thought he was pretty decent out of high school, so there's probably something there to work with," Erstad said. "He's raw. He's a young, young freshman. He's made great strides."
The Jackrabbits struck first with a two-run home run in the first inning by Zach Briggs. After breezing through the second inning, Spitsnogle exited with a runner on in the third. Bummer got out of the inning without any harm and took care of SDSU for the next two innings as well.
By that time the Husker offense had figured the Jackrabbits' pitching out. Junior first baseman Richard Stock and freshman third baseman Blake Headley had RBIs in the fourth to tie the game.
The Huskers scored two more times in the fifth, both on SDSU errors, before the floodgates opened in the sixth and seventh innings. The Huskers scored seven times combined in the two frames and got home runs from junior Josh Scheffert and freshman Pat Kelly, the first of his career.
"We just had to stay with our approach," junior shortstop Chad Christensen said. "We had some guys who really stuck to it and got us going. It's always great to get a lead and see guys loosen up like that."
A battalion of relievers held the Jackrabbits to just three hits and one run in the game's final five innings.
But it was Bummer who held the Huskers together early on before the runs began pouring in. He said he's been working with pitching coach Ted Silva in the bullpen and feels he's starting to figure things out.
His 4.1 innings of hitless baseball this year attest to that.
"Things finally started to click as soon as the season began," Bummer said. "I just started to throw a lot more strikes and stay down in the zone. Once you get in that rhythm, things just start to click and you just go from there."
Around the horn
***Both designated hitter Kash Kalkowski and catcher Cory Burleson exited the game with injuries, but Erstad expects both to be fine.
Kalkowski aggravated his groin injury running the bases in the fifth inning and was replaced by Ty Kildow. Erstad said the junior will be day-to-day.
Burleson was hit in the chin with a pitch in the sixth inning. He went down and was checked on by the trainers, but stayed in the game for the rest of the inning. Sam Stucky replace him to start the seventh.
"Burly got smoked right on the chin," Erstad said. "That thing started swelling up pretty good. I would expect he'll be fine by the weekend, but we'll evaluate tomorrow and see where he's at."
***Nebraska now has a 6-4 record when the opponent scores first and a 4-2 record when its opponent scores in the first inning.
***Scheffert's pinch-hit home run was the first by a Husker since Kyle Bubak hit one against Southeast Missouri State on May 8, 2010.