After a rough weekend in which they lost two of three games to Northwestern, the Huskers got back on track Tuesday night with a 5-0 win over Kansas State in Manhattan.
Tyler King was dominant in his first career start and a host of relievers finished off the Wildcats to give the Huskers their first shutout since Feb. 25 against Utah and move to 20-11 on the season.
"This was our best team effort all the way around," coach Darin Erstad said on his postgame radio show. "I can't say enough about the pitching. Everybody pitched great. To take three from Kansas State in a series and to win the last one down here… it's not an easy place to win. I'm very happy with our guys and hopefully we'll carry that momentum into this weekend."
The game began in similar fashion to the final two games of the Northwestern series, both losses, as the first six Husker batters went down in order.
But the offense got going in the third inning when senior catcher Cory Burleson and sophomore outfielder Michael Pritchard singled. Junior centerfielder Rich Sanguinetti brought them both in with a double.
It would be all the offense the Husker pitching staff needed. King gave up just one hit over four innings. The sophomore, who had made 14 appearances out of the bullpen this year, allowed only three base runners and struck out three.
"You put guys out there and find out who's going to take advantage of an opportunity," Erstad said. "Tyler did a fantastic job. He's a swing guy that can be very good out of the bullpen and also start. We just want to keep our options open."
Junior Tyler Niederklein followed that up with three shutout innings and Ryan Hander, Aaron Bummer and Travis Huber took care of the last two.
The pitching was spectacular, but the offense managed to tack on more runs in case the arms faltered. Sanguinetti knocked in another run with a bloop single to left in the seventh, and junior Kash Kalkowski singled two batters later to bring in two more runs.
Kale Kiser hit a sacrifice fly after Kurt Farmer tripled to lead off the ninth inning to provide the final margin.
Erstad was sure to praise Niederklein in his postgame comments. The junior had really struggled to start the year. He was demoted from his role as closer after one blown save and struggled after being reinserted in the starting rotation.
Niederklein carried a 7.64 ERA into the game, but allowed just one hit and one walk in his three innings of work.
"He's a grinder. Coach Silva and him have been working on some of his mechanics, trying to iron some stuff out. That's as good as he's been down in the zone all year. I couldn't be any happier for him."
Around the horn
***Kansas State pitchers will be having nightmares about Sanguinetti. The junior was productive in all three games against the Wildcats this year, finishing the series with a .500 batting average (6 for 12), three RBIs and three runs scored.
***Freshman outfielder Austin Darby played for the first time since March 20 against Northern Colorado. Darby suffered a toe injury in the game and missed the past eight games. He was hitless in four at-bats with a strikeout.