The magic may not last, so the early innings might be important Tuesday when the Nebraska baseball team plays Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, then returns to Haymarket Park to face Kansas State on Wednesday.
Nebraska coach Darin Erstad joked after Nebraska’s wild weekend of three late-inning rallies in a sweep of Ohio State: “We’re like the NBA, where nothing happens until the last 30 seconds.”
The Huskers rallied for three runs in the eighth inning in the opener vs. Ohio State, then counted on bottom-of-the-ninth, two-out hits by Michael Pritchard and Tanner Lubach, respectively, to win Saturday and Sunday. Nebraska also posted three consecutive complete-game victories for the first time since 2002, as Christian DeLeon, Chance Sinclair and Aaron Bummer gave the NU bullpen a break. The three Husker starters allowed just two earned runs, walked three and had a combined 0.67 earned-run average for the weekend.
“We’re going to have to do better in the early innings,” Erstad said of his team, which jumped to No. 49 in the latest ESPN RPI after winning four in a row and five of the last six games.
After Saturday’s remarkable rally, Erstad said “This is not how you win games consistently.”
Even after a repeat rally Sunday, he warned, “The last time we did something like this, we didn’t do so well and walked 10 Creighton guys and lost.”
Last year, Nebraska swept Purdue, then lost back-to-back games to Creighton and Kansas State.
The schedule challenge for midweek games gives no break from the pressure of Big Ten games, either.
“We go to Wichita State, Kansas State and Arkansas, then face Creighton and Kansas State this week — they just keep coming,” Erstad said.
Creighton swept North Dakota over the weekend after losing two of three to Kansas State and a game to UNLV.
The Huskers beat the Bluejays 5-4 in 10 innings March 19 when Jake Placzek singled in the winning run to complete a two-run, two-out rally.
“These games, like Creighton and K-State, are big because of the rivalry and because of RPI ratings,” said Lubach, a junior from Lincoln Southwest. “As for Creighton, the rivalry is really big for a Lincoln kid like me. It’s an in-state game and you know the guys on the other team. They probably were recruited by both teams and grew up playing against each other.”
* Tuesday's starter, Jake Hohensee, a freshman from Lincoln East, gave up four runs on four hits, all in the second inning, in a loss at Arkansas last week. Creighton Prep graduate Kyle Kubat, who beat Wichita State and Arkansas, has shown vast improvement over his first three starts and is set to start against KSU on Wednesday. Erstad said relievers Zach Hirsch and Josh Roeder will pitch in one of the two games this midweek. NU pitched three complete games over the weekend. The Huskers had just one complete-game win in Erstad’s first 146 games as head coach.
* Lubach has thrown out seven baserunners and allowed six steals over his last 10 games.
* Nebraska continues to lead the Big Ten in hitting (.300), hits (329), runs (190), RBIs (172), triples (15) and sacrifice bunts (31).