The Nebraska baseball team made noise with its bats against Kansas State in its first two meetings of the season but not as flamboyantly as Tuesday night.
The Huskers scored 6 runs in two matchups with the Wildcats earlier this season but allowed their counterparts to outscore them with double digits and clinch the season series.
On Wednesday, however, the Huskers (24-14, 7-2 Big Ten) ended up on the opposite end of both previous trends to win 14-5 and extend its winning streak to four games.
Five Nebraska hitters recorded three or more hits, including senior Michael Pritchard and freshman Ryan Boldt, who tallied 5 and 4 hits, respectively.
Although coach Darin Erstad is thrilled his team snapped its five-game losing streak against the Wildcats, the Nebraska coach said his team continuing its success into postseason play is what he was most satisfied with after the game.
“It doesn’t matter who it’s against, we got to win baseball games,” Erstad said. “We found a way to win the game, and we pretty much need to win everything from here on in. It was a good start.”
The Huskers’ 22 hits marks the most in a nine-inning affair since its 2012 matchup against Louisiana Tech, when they belted 24. Their 14 runs also matched their previous season-high set against St. Johns on March 9.
Although they were successful at the plate all game long, the game for the Huskers’ starting pitcher didn’t go as well.
Austin Christensen stepped onto Haymarket Park’s mound untouchable in his first four appearances this season.
In 6.1 innings, the sophomore left-hander had given up 3 hits and a walk, and he entered his first career start with a 0.00 ERA.
But Christensen was hittable by Kansas State batters Wednesday as the Wildcats tagged him for 4 runs before the Huskers could even step to the plate.
The rocky start was aided by Kansas State’s bats more than Christensen’s lack of command, Ernstad said.
“They’re just a good hitting team,” he said. “They’ve kind of had their way with our left-handers this season. Austin’s pitched really well. But they were aggressive and attacked some pitches.”
In his only inning pitched, Christensen earned two of his outs via the strikeout but allowed 4 hits and a walk on 38 pitches.
But his teammates picked him up at their turn at bat by scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the first two cut the deficit to two.
Nebraska let Christensen off the hook of a potential first loss in the fourth when sophomore third baseman Jake Placzek scored on an Austin Darby groundout to tie the game at 4 apiece.
Pritchard said he trusted his teammates to pick Christensen up with the offense.
“AC’s never started a game,” the left fielder said. “You feel bad for a guy like that because he just grinds so hard. He’s such a hard worker, and he’s a big part of this team but we had his back the whole time.”
After a wild pitch assisted the Wildcats in taking a 5-4 lead, the Huskers responded once again in the fifth when Pritchard’s bunt single scored Placzek and gave Nebraska a 6-5 lead.
The Huskers went on to score 2 more runs in the fourth inning thanks to a two-run home run by Tanner Lubach, and Nebraska put up four-spots in the fifth and eighth innings to seize control.
Erstad said he was pleased with his hitters’ fight all game long.
“When you have a lineup from top to bottom that has the type of approach, that’s that relentless attitude we want to have,” he said. “We had an opportunity to pick up some pitchers, and we did just that.”
Sophomore Colton Howell earned his first win on the season, pitching 3.0 innings of relief work.
Nebraska will look to extend its winning streak Wednesday night when it hosts Nebraska-Omaha (16-12) at 6:35 p.m.