Senior right-hander Derek Burkamper set it up and the Nebraska bullpen locked it down as the Huskers clinched their Big Ten-opening series in a 3-1 win over Indiana Saturday.
Nebraska (15-10) led wire-to-wire to pick up its fifth straight win and guarantee a win in its fifth consecutive Big Ten series. Burkamper’s final stat line in the win included four hits, one run, and three strikeouts over 5.0 innings to lower his season ERA to 2.84, meaning all three weekend starters now have a sub-3.00 earned run average.
The Huskers wasted no time getting the offense going. The first three hitters in the lineup all reached base on no hits in the top of the first inning, and a Scott Schreiber groundout into a double play brought in Mojo Hagge to give the Huskers the early 1-0 lead.
“Coming out of the gate, (Indiana) didn’t take care of the baseball,” said Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad in his post-game interview on the Husker Sports Network. “We had a chance to get more than one, but we got one, and that was alright.”
Even though Nebraska hitters left 11 runners stranded, the hits were there when the Huskers needed them most in a game where runs were at a premium.
After a stretch of three straight hitless innings for both teams, senior Ben Miller stepped up again in the top of the sixth, driving in Jake Meyers for his third RBI of the series. Miller came into the series with a .176 batting average, but has put up two multi-hit efforts in a row to pace the Huskers’ lineup.
Indiana (14-11-1) scored its lone run of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Craig Dedelow RBI double to right field that scored Matt Gorski. The Hoosiers had runners at the corners with no outs in a 2-1 ball game, but sophomore right-hander Matt Waldron took the mound and forced Matt Lloyd to line into an unassisted double play by Miller at first.
With the Hoosiers still threatening, Waldron struck out the side to retain the lead. The all-conference pitcher went 3.0 innings in yet another sterling relief outing after seeing a tight pitch count limit in Tuesday’s 11-1 win over Kansas State.
“It doesn’t seem like the situation’s ever too big for him,” Erstad said of Waldron, who hasn’t given up a hit in his last two outings. “You bring him in that situation, you need strikes, you need mix, you need to be super aggressive on fastballs, you’ve got to be able to throw your off-speed for strikes - and he did exactly that. It’s just a luxury to have a guy that can do a bunch of different things.”
With the result still hanging in the balance, senior Jake Schleppenbach added some insurance in the seventh inning with a leadoff solo home run, his first bomb in 437 career at-bats. The Huskers kept the pressure on the Hoosiers with three more hits in the final two innings but were unable to get any more runs on the board.
In a 3-1 game in the ninth inning, Erstad turned to closer Luis Alvarado, who picked up his fourth save of the season with a double play and a strikeout to end the game.
Nebraska will try for the sweep over Indiana tomorrow when junior lefty Jake Meyers takes the mound. If the Huskers can close out the series, it will extend a current seven-game win streak in Big Ten regular season play and give the team just its third conference series sweep in the last two seasons.
First pitch of Game 3 from Kaufman Field in Bloomington, Ind., is set for 11:05 a.m. CT.