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50 Wins Down, but Huskers Needed Two More in 2000

April 13, 2020

Take Me Out to the Ballgame is a multi-part series looking back at Nebraska baseball’s rise to College World Series contenders. | Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

Shane Komine was Nebraska’s starter in the opening game against Butler at the NCAA Minneapolis Regional. The date was May 26, 2000. Five days before, the Huskers had defeated top-seed and No. 5-ranked Baylor to win their second-consecutive Big 12 Tournament title.

The Baylor victory was their fourth in a row after an opening-game loss to Missouri.

That Komine would start against Butler was a no-brainer. The sophomore right-hander was Nebraska’s ace, earning recognition as the Big 12 Player of the Year.

His record was 10-3, with six complete games.

He might have had a seventh if not suffering a fractured jaw because of a line drive with one out in the eighth. He had struck out 12. The Huskers won 2-1, still . . . 

Komine underwent surgery and appeared to be lost for the season.

After a day off, forced by rain, senior left-hander Trevor Bullock, a walk-on, did pitch a complete game, allowing just three hits in a 4-1 victory against host Minnesota. It would have been a shutout if not for an eighth-inning home run that snapped a Bullock streak of 21.1 scoreless innings.

Bullock, who improved to 6-1, had spent four years at Nebraska-Kearney. The NCAA granted him a fifth season of eligibility because he had missed most of his freshman season because of injury.

He was from Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast High School. But the Huskers hadn’t offered scholarship aid. “At that time, they didn’t give scholarships to in-state players,” Bullock said.

They were reserved, “from what I’ve heard, for California and out-of-state players,” he said.

More about that in a later installment. The focus here is the Minneapolis Regional.

Had Coach Dave Van Horn gone with his regular pitching rotation, Jamie Rodrigue would have started the second game. But Van Horn considered Bullock a better match-up.

So Rodrigue started the third—and as it turned out final—game, against Wichita State.

Rodrigue, also a left-hander, was a freshman from St. Clair, Missouri. He was 8-3 with four shutouts, tying a Nebraska career record held by Ryan Kurosaki (1971-73).

Again, a career record.

Nebraska staked Rodrigue to a 4-run lead in the top of the first, three of the runs on a home run by redshirt freshman Matt Hopper. 

Rodrigue nearly pitched a school career-record fifth shutout, allowing eight hits and five walks but no runs before giving way to Thom Ott with one out in the eighth. The final score was 8-1. Wichita State’s run came in the ninth when an errant throw by Ott prevented a double play.

Sophomore second baseman Will Bolt batted .545 and was named the regional’s most outstanding player. He was joined on the all-regional team by Komine, Bullock, Hopper, catcher Justin Cowan and outfielder Jamal Strong.

Nebraska’s 50 victories were a school record, a “pretty good accomplishment,” Bolt said. But, he added, the immediate goal was 52, which would mean a trip to the College World Series.

It also would mean winning two-of-three from Stanford at Palo Alto.

Bullock had relatives in California but had only been there once. Still, he knew Stanford’s Sunken Diamond was “a real beautiful ballpark. It’s going to be a good baseball atmosphere,” he said.

With Komine recovering from a fractured jaw, Bullock would start the first game. The Sunken Diamond was a long way from Nebraska-Kearney, figuratively as well as literally.

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