A combination of weather and travel complications created some truly bizarre circumstances for Nebraska's contest at Michigan State Monday, but even those obstacles couldn't slow down the red-hot Huskers, who won 4-1 in seven innings to complete the series sweep.
The game was initially delayed because of a shooter near the Michigan State campus, which put basically the entire school on lockdown. Even after that situation was resolved, rain and lightning delayed the game further, pushing the start time 90 minutes after originally scheduled.
The Huskers had a curfew for the game because they had to catch a flight back to Omaha for a contest at Creighton Tuesday night. That time was reached in the eighth inning, when the game was delayed again because of lightning. After about a 20 minute hiatus, both teams emerged from the dugouts and shook hands, officially ending the game.
Nebraska has won a season-high seven straight games to improve to 35-17 overall and 16-5 in the Big Ten.
"Just a crazy, crazy day," Darin Erstad said during his appearance on the Husker Sports Network. "We came out and we were ready to play after a long delay and did a very nice job of getting ahead. In these type of games, you need to have a lead."
The game also marked the resurgence of Kyle Kubat, who has struggled all season to find the consistency that made him Nebraska's ace in each of the past two years. The junior handcuffed the Spartans all afternoon, allowing just six hits in 6.1 innings of work. Kubat shut out MSU until Ryan Krill hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh.
Maybe most importantly, Kubat didn't issue a single walk for the first time this year. In fact, he has just two walks in his last thee appearances combined, a stretch of 15.1 innings.
"It was just a fantastic job by Kyle," Erstad said. "He gave up the one home run… whatever. Solo homers don't hurt you. He did a great job and hopefully he can build on that."
The Huskers struck quickly with a pair of runs in the first inning. After Ryan Boldt and Jake Placzek led off with singles, Blake Headley singled back up the middle. The center fielder tried to throw Placzek out at third, but the ball got away and allowed Placzek to score. Tanner Lubach then brought in Headley with an RBI single.
Nebraska added another run in the third on an RBI single by Headley that scored Michael Pritchard, but the offense ran out from there. The Huskers had just two base runners in the final four innings, but Kubat's performance ensured they wouldn't need anything more.
Erstad was proud of the way his team handled the odd scenario and came out ready to play after the extended delay to start the game. The Huskers will try and carry that momentum into Tuesday's showdown with Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park at 7:05 p.m.
"They know what's at stake," Erstad said. "This means something to them. They're fully invested in this. They know how important every single game is. When you're playing well and you're having fun with your teammates, it's fun to come to the park. Our guys have a good vibe about them and they're playing hard and working hard and having fun doing it."
First baseman Blake Headley: The junior knocked in two runs and another came in to score on an error after his first-inning single. Headley also scored a run himself, single-handedly supplying most of the Huskers' offensive production.
Starter Kyle Kubat: The lefty submitted his best start of the year, keeping MSU off the board for the opening six frames. He was back to his quick, efficient self, needing only 78 pitches to get into the seventh inning. He probably would have gone longer if NU didn't have several games later this week in which he could be needed for.
Around the horn
***Along with Kubat, starters Chance Sinclair (Saturday) and Aaron Bummer (Sunday) combined to allow just four earned runs on 17 hits in 20.2 innings this weekend. The trio combined for a 1.78 ERA.
***Pritchard extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a double in the fifth. The double was his 18th of the season.
***Ben Miller struck out a career-high three times.