NCAA BASEBALL: MAR 19 Creighton at Nebraska
Photo by John S. Peterson

Huskers Avoid UNLV Sweep

After getting beat by UNLV on Friday, Saturday and the first four innings Sunday, Husker starting pitcher Aaron Bummer had had enough. The junior lefty gave up three runs in the first four innings as Nebraska trailed by two runs, looking poised to finish on the wrong end of a home sweep by UNLV.

“It was just one of those things,” Bummer said. “I don’t know the right terms, but you get tired of getting your teeth kicked in, and I just kind of got [ticked] off and decided to make a change.”

Bummer gave up a pair of singles to start the fifth, but then struck out Rebels catcher Erik Vanmeetren. He proceeded to retire nine more UNLV batters in a row, and the Huskers went on to win 5-3 after breaking through in the sixth inning.

“I think it was definitely just all mental,” Bummer said. “It was just one of those things, saying ‘give me the ball’ and go.”

Christian Cox led the charge for Nebraska, going 3-for-3 on the afternoon with two runs as he subbed in for a resting Michael Pritchard. Combined with a rejuvenated outing from Bummer after the fourth inning and a confidence-building close from Josh Roeder, Nebraska improved to 15-12 with the win over UNLV.

“We’re almost to the midway point in the season, and we need to win games. We were in a situation there where we were down 3-1 with a chance to be swept at home, and we found a way to keep it together,” Darin Erstad said. “It’s a very important win.”

Pat Kelly broke through initially for Nebraska in the second inning after a single and a sacrifice fly from Cox. Then Cox scored Nebraska’s second run of the game in the fifth after a leadoff double, reaching home thanks to one of UNLV’s season-high three errors of the game and a sacrifice from Ty Kildow.

The Huskers took over the lead in the sixth however, with Cox providing more heroics.

“You talk about being ready coming off the bench and being a role player,” Erstad said. “We sit Pritchard to give him a little break, and Cox comes in and gets three hits.”

A pair of UNLV errors allowed the Huskers to take their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs from Pat Kelly and Blake Headley. UNLV pitcher Bryan Bonnell plunked Pat Kelly in the leadoff spot and Headley followed up with a single and made it to second on a one of the Rebels’ two errors of the inning. Lubach took advantage of the the next error, scoring Kelly and getting to first base when the second baseman botched fielding his bunt.

Cox singled, bringing home Headley, giving Nebraska a 4-3 lead with six down, then the Rebels went three up and three down in the top of the sixth and seventh.

“We actually had a rip run on, so I was swinging no matter where the pitch was,” Cox said. “And I just kind of stuck my bat out there and drove it to left field.”

The junior reserve said the Huskers had a meeting before the game about energy in the dugout, which went skyward after he gave Nebraska the lead in the sixth inning.

“The dugout was great.” he said. “The dugout just kept grinding with us, being loud no matter the situation, and it paid off.”

Bummer pitched back-to-back perfect frames in the sixth and seventh innings, part of his streak of ten straight retired Rebel batters. Sunday marked Bummer’s longest outing of the year, pitching 7.2 innings with 113 pitches, fanning five and giving up three runs, all earned.

Erstad said he couldn’t pinpoint what flipped the switch for Bummer on the mound.

“I wish I could tell you,” he said. “His ball was up a little bit early on, and whatever happened there, his ball just started sinking again…All of a sudden he got a feel for the sinker and it was game on.”

The Rebels reached base in the eighth and got into scoring position after stealing second with two down, but closer Josh Roeder came in to relieve Bummer and struck out pinch hitter Morgan Stotts, stranding the Rebels on second base heading into the bottom of the eighth.

For the second time this year, Cox tallied his third hit of a game in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out single then stole second. Kildow scored Cox – his third run of the afternoon, giving the Huskers a 5-3 lead.

UNLV threatened in the top of the ninth with back-to-back one-out singles. Roeder struck out Justin Jones for the second out, but both runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch.

Down to their last out on an 3-2 pitch, Roeder struck out T.J. White, sealing the win for Nebraska.

“If we don’t pitch, we’re not going to go anywhere,” Erstad said, pointing out Nebraska’s pitching and defensive struggles in losses to the Rebels on Friday and Saturday. “This is college baseball. Whoever screws up less usually wins, that’s basically what it boils down to. And we’ve been screwing up a lot, and losing.”

On Friday, Christian DeLeon gave up four runs despite 7.2 solid innings as the Huskers found themselves on the other end of a 5-2 final score to start the series. The Rebels scored three runs in the fifth, including a two-run homer to right field with two down.

The Huskers drew closer Saturday, falling 5-4 to UNLV despite a late push in the ninth when the tying run and winning run were stranded on the corners after the game’s final out. Chance Sinclair recorded the loss for Nebraska Saturday, who fell to 4-1 on the season giving up all five UNLV runs (four earned) on nine hits, with four Husker errors.

Bummer recorded the only Nebraska win of the series Sunday giving up just three runs, all earned. Bummer said after the fourth innings Sunday, he felt as good as he had all year leading up to the win.

“For one of the first times this season I was just getting into that groove,” he said. “I had the mindset of saying I was better than they were.”