Kansas State halts Huskers' winning streak

2014-04-09T21:30:00Z 2014-04-14T17:57:11Z Kansas State halts Huskers' winning streakBy KEN HAMBLETON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

The Nebraska baseball team's magic, mojo, whatever you call it, finally ran out.

Kansas State scored six runs in the second inning and held on for a 10-6 victory Wednesday at Haymarket Park.

The Huskers (20-14) had won five consecutive games, including a dizzying four in a row with late-inning rallies. Even Tuesday, Nebraska rallied in the eighth inning for three runs and a 4-2 win against Creighton in Omaha.

But K-State's 13 hits, combined with nine walks and two hit batters, a wild pitch, a passed ball and NU coach Darin Erstad's ejection in the sixth inning were too much for the Huskers to overcome.

Still, there was a twinkle of hope. Jake Placzek singled and scored with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Austin Darby reached on an infield hit and Steven Reveles and Michael Pritchard walked to load the bases before Wildcat reliever Jake Whaley struck out Pat Kelly to end the game.

"I know about Nebraska's last four games," said KSU coach Brad Hill, whose team is 20-13. "We had a two-run lead and that was OK. Then we got three in the ninth and a five-run lead felt pretty good. But who knows with what they've done lately."

Nebraska, which plays a three-game Big Ten series at Minnesota this weekend, saw its pitching suddenly struggle after five brilliant starts, including  three complete games.

NU starter Kyle Kubat was lifted in the second Wednesday after three walks and a hit, and relievers Luke Bublitz and Jeff Chesnut never found the strike zone, walking two more and giving up three more hits in the second. Colton Howell, NU's fourth pitcher of the inning, finally ended the two-out rally and kept KSU scoreless the next three innings. Coincidentally, K-State scored six runs in the second inning in a 12-6 victory against Nebraska on March 26 in Manhattan, Kan.

"We got a lot of help because they were not throwing in the zone," Hill said. "We got a bunch of walks and two two-out RBIs until Howell came in and started to get us chasing (pitches) down in the zone."

Pritchard led the Huskers with three hits, including a two-run triple in the third, a double in the first, an RBI single in the fifth and a walk in the ninth.

"We had five games of pitchers pounding the zone," said NU assistant head coach Will Bolt. "But we walked nine and that's after we had been so good the last five games."

Bolt said Erstad was ejected when he argued a runner's interference call against NU's Taylor Fish to end the sixth. Fish bunted and KSU pitcher Jake Fromson fielded the ball and hit Fish in the back on a throw to first base. Home plate ump Andrew Fulton said Fish ran out of the base line, Erstad objected and was ejected for the first time in his coaching career, and what appears the first time through 14 major-league seasons and his minor-league and college playing days at Nebraska.

"That was a couple of tough plays because we get doubled off on a fly ball to center when Placzek didn't see the ball was caught, when Blake Headley scalded the ball," Bolt said. "We got the team together and told them to take a deep breath, because emotions were so high."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.

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