Cody Neer went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, but his throwing arm made the biggest play in Nebraska’s 9-8 victory over Louisiana Lafayette Saturday night.
With runners on first and second and no outs and the Huskers clinging to an 8-7 lead after three straight Ragin’ Cajun singles to open the frame, Neer picked off Scott Hawkins at second base for the first out of the inning. The play would prove to be bigger moments later, as Eric Rose got Les Smith to line out to Tyler Farst at first for an inning-ending double play.
“That was a huge play,” Nebraska Coach Mike Anderson said. “Cody did a great job on the pick. It was a bump though and he came up with a great throw to second. Both teams had some base-running errors that cost them runs, but it was a big one in a big moment.”
The Huskers (2-1) would extend the lead to 9-7, as Adam Bailey helped his own cause with a solo homer to lead off the frame. Bailey, who entered the game in relief before moving to right field, allowed one run on two hits over 2.2 of relief and fanned three to pick up the victory.
UL Lafayette made things interesting against Rose in the ninth, getting a solo homer from Chance Harst to pull within a run and putting the tying run on first. Rose, who earned the win in NU’s 15-inning win on Friday, induced Thad Griffen to ground out to Jake Mort at third to start a game-ending double play and pick up his first save.
DJ Belfonte, Ben Kline and Jeff Tezak had two hits apiece in the win, as overcame an early 4-1 deficit by scoring eight runs over the final six frame to collect its second one-run win of the weekend.
“Any game we play against these guys will be a one-run game,” Anderson said. “They fight, we fight and neither team gives up and that is what you are seeing on the field. I think both offenses are a little shaky now and trying to find their way, but what you have is two highly competitive teams going at each other.”
Anderson said the turning point in the nightcap was the 61-minute rain delay that helped the Huskers rebound after a slow start.
“I’m really proud of the kids for fighting back,” Anderson said. “The rain delay helped us. It gave us a chance to basically get in the classroom and talk about what was happening. From a momentum standpoint, they had a lead and that delay really helped us, as we outscored them 6-4 after the rain. Our goal was to beat them during the last part of the game.”
ULL struck in the top of the first against NU starter Erik Bird, getting a two-out RBI single by Smith to plate Kyle Bostick, who opened the frame with a single and moved to third before Smith lined a single to put the hosts up 1-0. The lead would not last long, as the Huskers came back in the top of the second, getting back-to-back doubles from Neer and Kline to pull even.
The Ragin’ Cajuns wasted little time regaining the lead, adding a pair of runs in the second on an RBI double by Griffen and a run-scoring single off the bat of Alex Fuselier and extending the margin one inning later on Travis Whipple’s RBI double to make it a 4-1 game. Matt Freeman worked out of jam to keep the game within striking distance, retiring the two hitters he faced in relief of Bird.
The Huskers chipped away at the deficit in the top of the fourth, loading the bases on a pair of hit batters by ULL starter Greg Wilbron before Kale Kiser laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt that loaded the bases after Louisiana failed to get out Neer at third to load the bases. Khiry Cooper then lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Neer to make it a 4-2 game before the rain delay. The Huskers continued to fight back after the break, as Belfonte came through with a single to left center, scoring Kline to pull the Big Red within 4-3.
Louisiana pushed the lead back to two runs in the bottom of the frame, as Griffen doubled to left center off of Freeman to open the game before coming home on Hawkins RBI single to left two batters later against reliever Adam Bailey.
Nebraska got the run back in its half of the fifth, getting an RBI single from Neer to pull the Huskers within 5-4. Farst was hit by a pitch to open the inning before a wild pitch moved him into scoring position. Two batters later, Neer lined a single to left center to score Farst and chase Wilborn after 4.1 innings of work.
After UL-Lafayette extended the lead to 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth, the Huskers came right back, scoring three times against reliever Luke Wagley (0-1) to take their first lead of the night Belfonte opened the frame with an infield single before Jake Mort executed a perfect hit-and-run, as his single to right center scored Belfonte to pull NU within a run. Tezak then tied the game, two-hopping the wall in left with an RBI triple to chase Wagley, who went the final 2.1 innings of Saturday’s opener. Matt Broussard came in an uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Tezak to score from third to make it 7-6.
Nebraska tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth to extend the lead to 8-6. The Huskers loaded the bases with one out after a walk, fielder’s choice and a Nick Sullivan single before Greg Harmon uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Tezak from third to give NU a seemingly safe two-run cushion and setting the stage for the bottom of the eighth.
The two teams will wrap up the four-game series Sunday morning with a first pitch at 11:30 a.m.
Courtesy: Nebraska Media Relations