LINCOLN — Midway through Saturday's game against New Mexico, it looked like the Nebraska baseball team would have to wait at least one more day to earn its first victory of the season.
But the patience Husker coach Darin Erstad continued to preach during his team's seven-game, season-opening skid paid off in the sixth inning.
Nebraska scored seven runs in the sixth to erase a 5-0 deficit in its 8-5 win at Haymarket Park.
Going into the sixth, the Huskers had gone scoreless in 15 straight innings. But NU got five hits and sent 12 batters to the plate, helped by three Lobo errors and two wild pitches.
“We could tell our guys were getting a little frustrated early in the game,” Erstad said. “They weren't doing so bad, but we had a runner on third and less than two outs, and we didn't get it done. You can feel the frustration rising. But we tell them, 'just keep fighting,' and this group of guys keeps fighting. Sure enough, they broke through.”
It started when Rich Sanguinetti walked to lead off the frame and moved to second when second baseman Sam Haggerty threw wild to second after fielding Austin Darby's ground ball. Chad Christensen followed with a sacrifice bunt that New Mexico pitcher Kevin Baumgartner threw wide of first base, which allowed Sanguinetti and Darby to score, making it 5-2.
“It was jump-started by Chad's bunt,” said Sanguinetti, who reached base four times in his first game this year hitting leadoff. “He lays it down, a selfless play, the guy throws it away, and we score two. Next thing you know, we get big hits all over the place.”
Two batters later, Pat Kelly singled in Christensen to make it 5-3. That was followed by an RBI double by Kash Kalkowski and a single by Blake Headley to tie it 5-5.
But the Huskers weren't done.
After Tanner Lubach walked and Sanguinetti drew his second walk of the frame, both scored on Darby's single up the middle off Tyler Spencer, the Lobos' third pitcher of the inning.
Christensen finished 3 for 4, and eight Huskers scored a run.
“I think this is just the start of what our offense can bring,” Kalkowski said.
Michael Hoppes (1-1) was the fortunate winning pitcher, throwing one pitch in relief before Lubach, NU's catcher, caught Chase Harris stealing to end the sixth. But it was sophomore right-hander Josh Roeder who made the lead stand.
Roeder allowed one hit in two innings of scoreless relief. He escaped trouble in the seventh with two strikeouts after loading the bases with one out.
“That's what it's all about. You've got to make pitches in big situations,” Erstad said. “He did it down in Texas and he did it here again. He's just a tremendously confident kid who will throw any pitch at any time and just relish those opportunities.”
Kalkowski added an RBI sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Roeder combined with Dylan Vogt to retire the final eight New Mexico batters.
The Lobos got off to a fast start in the first thanks to DJ Peterson's three-run home run off starter Brandon Pierce.
New Mexico added single runs in the fifth and sixth to take a 5-0 lead before the Huskers' sixth-inning explosion.
The teams meet again at Hawks Field on Sunday at 12:05 p.m.
Saturday, the Huskers didn't take the most direct route to their first win of the season, but after the struggles during the first two weeks, Erstad said it's a start.
“It would be awesome to just come out and hammer away and win games and guys are confident. That's the easy way to do it,” Erstad said. “Like I said, we don't have a crystal ball. We don't know how the games are going to turn out.
“We (were) 0-7. We had to face the music and fight through that. Down 5-0, they could have just quit, but our guys fought through that for the first victory. That's credit to the guys.”
Contact the writer:
402-444-1201, email@example.com; twitter.com/OWHJeffSheldon