Lincoln – The Nebraska baseball team (21-12, 4-4 Big Ten) got a strong outing from Brandon Pierce in his first career conference start and Richard Stock went 3-for-3 at the plate to help the Huskers post a 9-4 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday afternoon at Hawks Field to even the three-game series at 1-1. Rich Sanguinetti and Chad Christensen also had multi-hit days with a pair of hits each, as the Huskers out-hit the Hawkeyes 10-7 and improved to 14-1 on the season when notching more hits than the opposition.
Primarily a reliever prior to his start today, Pierce gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out a career-high six batters over a career-high 6.0 innings of work. The sophomore righty had 36 career appearances entering Saturday, with just four starts, including one other start this season against Kansas State on March 27. Junior Tyler Niederklein closed to door for NU with 3.0 innings of no-hit ball, as he retired the final seven Hawkeyes he faced. Niederklein entered the game with the Huskers in a jam in the top of the seventh with the Iowa runners on first and second, no outs and the Huskers up 6-4.
Iowa scored the first run of the game in the top of the first when Pierce walked leadoff hitter Mike McQuillan, who later scored on a two-out single by Phil Keppler. NU’s offense responded in the bottom of the frame with three straight hits to start the inning, including a leadoff double from Pritchard. With Sanguinetti on third and Christensen on second, Kash Kalkowski grounded into a double play, but it scored Sanguinetti to put Nebraska up 2-1 through the first.
A leadoff walked haunted Pierce again in the second when Keith Brand drew a fee pass and later scored on a two-out single by McQuillan. The Nebraska batters got the run back in the bottom of the inning to re-take the lead, 3-2. Stock led off with a single and following a walk to Josh Scheffert, Cory Burleson moved both Huskers into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Kale Kiser then drove in his 21st run of the season when Stock scored on a ground out to second base.
Pierce struck out the first two Hawkeyes he faced in the third, but left a 1-1 pitch over the plate to Keppler, who blasted a solo shot over the right-center-field wall to tie the game at 3-3. Pierce bounced right back and struck out Bryan Niedbalski to end the inning.
The Huskers were unable to get much going in the third or fourth and it looked like they would go away scoreless in the fifth, but Christensen gave the Huskers just the spark they needed when he stole second base on a failed pickoff attempt with two out. Kalkowski followed with a single to right center that scored Christensen to put the Huskers back up, 4-3, and Kalkowski then stole second before Pat Kelly drew a two out walk. NU got aggressive with a double steal that really paid off, as Brand threw the ball into left field trying to throw out Kalkowski at third, allowing Kalkowski to score and Kelly to all the way from first to third. Stock kept the runs coming with a single that drove in Kelly to put the Huskers up 6-3.
Freshman Aaron Bummer took the mound to start the seventh and couldn’t find the zone, as he walked McQuillan and hit Jacob Yacinich to start the inning. Niederklein came to the rescue and faced just three batters, but one run did come in to score on a passed ball.
With the Husker lead down to two runs, 6-4, after the top of the seventh, NU hung three runs on the board to give themselves some breathing room. Scheffert produced the only hit of the inning, but the Hawkeyes walked three Huskers, hit another and had a throwing error from Yacinich at shortstop with two down. The error really cost the Hawkeyes, as no runs had crossed the plate yet and after the error, Head Coach Jack Dahm intentionally walked Stock to load the bases to get to Scheffert, who drove in two with his double to left field.
Niederklein cruised through the eighth and ninth innings by retiring the Hawkeyes in order in both frames to secure his first career save.
The Huskers will give the ball to lefty sophomore Zach Hirsch tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. when they try to pick up the series win over the Hawkeyes. Iowa is scheduled to send freshman lefty Sasha Kuebel to the mound in the rubber match.