It was another case of the cardiac kids coming through, as Adam Bailey’s two-run triple in the bottom of the eighth inning broke a 12-all tie and capped a six-run inning, as Nebraska stunned Missouri State, 14-12, Friday afternoon in the first day of the Sam Houston Baseball Classic.
Bailey , who went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, provided the Huskers with the go-ahead margin, ripping a 3-2 pitch from Missouri State closer J.C. Casey into the gap in right center to score Jeff Tezak and Ben Kline to cap a six-run outburst for Nebraska, which improved to 4-1-1 on the season.
The Huskers, who overcame deficits of 5-0, 8-4 and 12-8 in posting their fourth come-from-behind victory, struck for six runs against the Missouri State bullpen in the bottom of the eighth.
Nick Sullivan opened the frame, as he was hit by a pitch from Adam Maddox before Cody Asche’s second hit of the game and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Cade Thompson pulled NU within 12-9 with an RBI single before Cory Burleson made it a two-run game with a run-scoring single to right. Kale Kiser laid down a perfect sacrifice to get the tying run into scoring position before DJ Belfonte’s ground out scored Thompson to pull the Huskers within a run and setting the stage for the game’s dramatic moment.
Missouri State went to Casey, the right-hander to face the right-handed hitting Kline, who was 0-for-4 on the day. The Husker shortstop quickly fell behind 0-2 before battling back to a full count. Kline then came through with an opposite-field single to right, scoring pinch-runner Boomer Collins to knot the score at 12.
Anderson said that Kline’s at-bat signified the fight the Huskers showed throughout the day in recording their third last at-bat win of the year.
“We had a lot of good at-bats, but I thought that Ben’s at-bat in the eighth was the best one of the day,” Anderson said. He was struggling a little bit and he was facing a right-hander. He fouled off a couple pitches to stay alive and then did exactly what we wanted him to do, which was hit a hard ball through the hole. For him to make that adjustment to help us win a ballgame is huge”
“I was just trying to find a way to get on base and keep the rally going,” Kline said. “I was able to work the count and when you get to a full count, you try to put the ball in play and see what happens. He went with a fastball away and I was able to put it through the right side.”
The Huskers rapped out 12 hits, including two each from Bailey, Asche, Burleson and Kiser, who combined for eight RBIs on the day. Nick Sullivan drove in two runs on the afternoon, while everyone in the lineup scored at least once to help the Huskers to their third win in the last four contests.
“We had a lot of guys get on base and had guys coming through with big hits all afternoon,” Kline said.
Anderson echoed Kline’s thoughts, as the Huskers used a team effort to fight back.
“I couldn’t be any happier with how we fought today,” Anderson said. “We have a lot of guys getting opportunities and making the most of them. It was really nice to see some of our freshmen do some good things out there today.
The strong performances by the freshmen were not limited to the plate, as Sean Yost and Kash Kalkowski turned in solid efforts in relief of starter Michael Mariot.
Yost went three innings to keep the Huskers in the game after falling behind 8-4, while Kalkowski got the Huskers out of a dicey jam in the eighth, allowing only one run after entering with the bases loaded and no outs. The right-hander from Grand Island allowed one hit over two innings and fanned three en route to his first career win.
Bailey (0-1) took the loss, allowing two runs in a third of an inning.
Mariot, who went the first 3.1 innings, ran into trouble in the top of the first, as Missouri State struck for five runs against the right-hander. After two straight singles, Ben Carlson gave the Bears a 3-0 lead, belting a homer to right center. Mariot then walked the next two hitters before Travis McComack cleared the bases with a double to right to put the Huskers in a 5-0 deficit.
The Huskers began to quickly climb back against Missouri State All-American Tim Clubb, scoring three in the first and one more in the second.
In the first, a lead-off double by Belfonte and a one-out walk to Jeff Tezak put runners on the corners before Sullivan roped a shot in the gap in right center for a two-run double. Acshe, who has three straight multi-hit games, plated Sullivan moments later with a sharp single to center. The Huskers manufactured a run in the second, as Burleson coaxed a leadoff walk and eventually came around to score on a passed ball to make it 5-4.
Missouri State pushed back the lead to four runs, scoring once in the third on Dallas Hord’s solo homer and added two more in the fourth to take an 8-4 lead.
After a slow start, Clubb had settled down before the Huskers struck in the sixth to knot the score. Bailey opened the inning with his third homer of the season, a solo shot to left center, before the next two Huskers were retired. Thompson kept the rally alive with a walk before Burleson’s RBI double to right to make it 8-6 and knocked out the Bears’ starter. Kiser then greeted reliever Adam Maddox with a two-run homer to right center, as his first career homer evened the game at eight.
The Bears would not go quietly, pushing across a run in the seventh and three more in the eighth, taking advantage of consecutive bases-loaded walks by Husker pitching. Kalkowski then entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs. After uncorking a wild pitch to put Missouri State up 12-8, he worked out of the jam by retiring the next three hitters to keep Nebraska within striking distance.
The Huskers will continue tournament play on Saturday, as they take on St. Mary’s (Calif.) at 1:30 p.m. and Sam Houston State at 5 p.m.