Los Angeles, Calif. – The Nebraska baseball team (0-4, 0-0 Big Ten) took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon at Dedeaux Field, but a two-out single off the bat Adam Landecker was enough to score Kevin Swick from second base to complete a ninth-inning USC comeback.
Three Huskers had a pair of hits on the afternoon and NU starter Christian DeLeon gave Nebraska a solid outing in his first appearance as a Husker. The junior-college transfer went 4.2 innings, giving up just one run on four hits and no walks, while posting one strikeout.
Nebraska inability to cash in on early opportunities proved costly, as NU had its leadoff runner on in three of the first five innings, but was unable to score.
Nebraska’s pitching staff took care of the top of the USC line-up, as the Trojans’ first six hitters went a combined 4-for-23. However, USC’s 7-8-9 hitters delivered with a 6-for-9 performance at the plate.
Trojan freshman lefty Kyle Twomey, a third-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2012, battled the Huskers for 6.1 innings in his collegiate debut. He gave up three runs, all earned, on six hits and one walk, while striking out four.
The Trojans struck first in the game with a run in the bottom of the second off a sacrifice fly. Jake Hernandez reached on a one-out single and after moving to third on a double by Vahn Bozoian, USC’s designated hitter scored on a deep fly out off the bat of Kevin Swick.
Following Bozoian’s double in the second, DeLeon found his rhythm and retired eight straight Trojans. Bozoain snapped the streak in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single. Swick moved Bozoain to second with a sacrifice bunt and DeLeon got Timmy Robinson to fly out for the second out of the inning. With the top of the USC lineup in lefty Garrett Stubbs up, Head Coach Darin Erstad went to lefty reliever Aaron Bummer. The NU sophomore couldn’t find the zone and issued a four-pitch walk to Stubbs, but bounced right back and struck out Landecker to end the fifth inning.
Nebraska’s bats finally broke through against Twomey in the sixth with three runs on four hits. Pat Kelly laced a base hit to lead off the inning and Rich Sanguinetti followed with a base-hit bunt. USC caught a break when Chad Christensen popped out on a sacrifice attempt for the first out of the inning. Unlike the previous five innings, Twomey was unable to keep the Huskers off the board, as Kash Kalkowski placed a single through the left side that scored Kelly to tie the game, 1-1. With Sanguinetti at third and Kalkowski at second, Josh Scheffert gave NU its first lead of the afternoon, 2-1, with a sacrifice fly to center. Tanner Lubach stepped to the plate with two outs and dropped a base hit into the outfield to score Kalkowski from second, increasing NU’s lead to two runs, 3-1. Twomey caught one more break to end the inning, as the lefty picked off Lubach at first base.
USC cut the Husker lead to one, 3-2, in the bottom of the seventh following a triple to deep center field off the bat off Robinson that scored Swick. A fine defensive play by Scheffert at third turned the momentum back in NU’s direction, as he made a diving stop and got Robinson in a pickle down the third-base line, erasing him 5-2-6. Dylan Vogt, who had come on in the sixth, got Landecker to groundout to end the seventh.
Nebraska’s defense stepped up behind Vogt in the bottom of the eight with USC’s 3-4-5 hitters up. Ty Kildow made a sliding catch on a line drive to left field to start the inning before true freshman Jake Placzek made a nice backhanded play in the hole and fired across the diamond for the second out. Vogt then retired James Roberts on a groundout to Scheffert to third.
The Huskers were then in position to add insurance runs in the top of the ninth following base hits from Kalkowski and Scheffert to start the inning. Lubach moved both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, but righty reliever Kyle Davis fired back-to-back strikeouts to end the Husker threat.
Vogt started the ninth with an athletic play for the first out, as Hernandez roped a liner off of Vogt’s shoe, but the NU senior raced off the mound, gathered the ball and threw to first for the out. Bozoian then struck again with a single and Swick followed with a double to put the tying and winning runs in scoring position. The Huskers loaded the bases with and intentional walk, setting the stage for Garrett Stubbs to lift a sacrifice fly into left to score the tying run. Landecker stepped to the plate with two down and dropped a single into the leftfield gap that scored Swick for the game winner.
The Huskers head back on the road next weekend then they head to Austin, Texas, for a three-game series with the Texas Longhorns. The series kicks off with a 7 p.m. game on Friday night at Disch-Falk Field, continues on Saturday at 1 p.m. and the finale is scheduled for Noon on Sunday. All three games will be carried on the Longhorn Network, while fans can listen to Lane Grindle and Jeff Culhane call all the action on the Husker Sports Network.