SURPRISE, Ariz. — Nebraska picked up perhaps the biggest win in Darin Erstad's tenure Friday, beating the same College World Series contender that had walloped the Huskers a weekend ago.
Senior starter Christian DeLeon kept Oregon State from building a lead, and NU's hitters eventually broke through against one of the nation's best pitching staffs in a 9-2 victory.
The Huskers (3-2) turned a 1-0 deficit into a commanding 9-1 advantage in three innings, scoring four times in the sixth and once in the seventh before putting up another four-spot in the eighth.
The victory is Nebraska's first since 2005 against a team ranked No. 1 in any of the four major ratings services. Oregon State (4-1) is No. 1 according to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. The Beavers are ranked second by Baseball America.
Assessing the significance of one win isn't typically part of the postgame routine for Erstad, who spent his first two seasons trying to create a culture in which the opponent had little impact on Nebraska's approach. But the third-year coach said during a postgame radio interview that Nebraska's response to a 15-7 loss to Oregon State last weekend proves the program is progressing the right way.
“That was the type of relentless attitude that we want,” Erstad said. “Facing a great team, a fantastic pitcher, you just have to grind.”
There weren't many chances for Nebraska early against Oregon State starter Andrew Moore, an All-America right-hander who went 14-2 with a 1.79 ERA last season.
The Huskers stranded two runners in the second, but their only other base runner until the sixth inning was thrown out trying to steal second.
Then junior third baseman Blake Headley singled with the bases loaded and two outs to tie the game at 1 in the top of the sixth. And first baseman Austin Christensen drove in two more with a single. Freshman center fielder Ryan Boldt's RBI single made it 4-1.
The Huskers added another two-out run when second baseman Pat Kelly doubled in shortstop Steven Reveles in the seventh inning. All but one of the four runs in the eighth came with two outs, as well.
DeLeon, a senior from Richmond, Texas, gave up one unearned run and four hits in seven innings. The run came on a passed ball in the third, an inning that ended when DeLeon struck out 2013 Pac-12 player of the year Michael Conforto with runners on first and second.
“Christian just rises to the occasion,” Erstad said. “He always keeps us in the game.”
The Huskers went 2-3 against CWS participant Indiana last season. They also swept then-No. 12 Arkansas in a doubleheader at Haymarket Park.
Beating Oregon State this early in the year will certainly resonate in national baseball circles, though — especially the way Nebraska won.
The Beavers reached the CWS last year. They gave up nine runs or more in three games last season. Their team ERA of 2.28 was second nationally.
Erstad said he was pleased with the way Nebraska pulled away after taking a sixth-inning lead, never giving OSU a chance to get back in it.
“I would love that to be our mentality,” Erstad said. “I think we're still trying to find our identity. We want that to be our identity. But you need to be able to do that on a consistent basis to be your identity. That was a good first step. Now we've got to build on that.”
Nebraska will continue the Pac-12/Big Ten challenge by playing Washington at 8 p.m. CST Saturday in Surprise, Ariz.