Huskers look for season sweep of Creighton Tuesday night

Posted By: Sports

sports@klkntv.com

Nebraska (29-18, 9-9 Big Ten) at Creighton (18-23, 5-12 MVC)

Tuesday – Tom Lemke, Jr., RHP (3-3) vs. Ty Blach, Jr., LHP (3-5)

 

This Week: With a pair of wins over the Creighton Bluejays this season, the Nebraska baseball team (29-18, 9-9 Big Ten) looks to sweep the season series with the Jays on Tuesday night at TD Ameritrade Park when the two teams meet at 7 p.m. The last time the Huskers swept the Jays was during the 2008 season.

 

The Huskers are coming off a double-header loss to the Indiana Hoosiers, after beating IU, 13-2, in the series opener in Bloomington. Creighton was also on the road this past weekend and lost its opening game at Bradley, but then bounced back to take the series with wins in games two and three.

 

Nebraska is scheduled to start junior right-hander Tom Lemke on Tuesday night, while Creighton will through junior lefty Ty Blach, who also started the first two games of the season series this year.

 

Tickets: Tickets to Tuesday's game against Creighton at TD Ameritrade Park can be purchased by calling 402-280-JAYS (5837) through Ticketmaster online or by visiting the box office. For the weekend series against Minnesota, single-game tickets can be purchased at Huskers.com, by calling 1-800-8BIGRED or by visiting the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office across the street from Memorial Stadium. Tickets can also be purchased on game day at the Hawks Field box office, which is located on the third-base side. Fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets prior to game day.

 

Television: Tuesday's game at Creighton and Friday's game with Minnesota will both be shown across the state of Nebraska on NET and streamed live on BTN.com (subscription required).

 

On the Radio: Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen Greg Sharpe, Jeff Culhane and Lane Grindle call all of the action on the Husker Sports Network – including KLIN 1400 AM and 94.5 FM in Lincoln – and on the Internet at Huskers.com or the Official Husker App. A complete list of HSN affiliates can be found on page 9.

 

Stock Up

Transfer Richard Stock has been a welcome addition to the Husker offense in 2012. The junior from Westlake Village, Calif., is third on the team with a .359 average, while leading the team in both doubles (15) and triples (3).

 

His 90 total bases rank second on the team to Chad Christensen's 96, while Stock is also slugging .539 and has  an on-base percentage of .393.

 

Stock came to the Huskers as a catcher, but has developed into the Huskers' primary first baseman, while also serving as Cory Burleson's backup at the plate.

 

During Big Ten play Stock has been even better at the plate, as he leads the Big Ten in batting average (.419), hits (31) and is tied for second in the league in doubles (7) .

 

Stock has produced three hits in a game eight times this year, including two games with four hits. The junior also has eight multi-RBI games on the season and is riding an 11-game hitting streak into Tuesday's game at Creighton.

 

A 45th-round pick out of high school by the Brewers, Stock has found new life at Nebraska after playing his freshman season at USC and last season at Pierce College in Los Angeles.

 

I Wanna Be Like Mike

Sophomore Michael Pritchard enters Tuesday's game with an 24-game hitting streak, which is the forth longest streak by a Husker since 1958.

 

Pritchard need a hit on Tuesday against Creighton to tie Derek Dukart for the third-longest hitting streak at NU since 1958 at 25 games.

 

The streak started in the Huskers' Big Ten opener against Illinois on March 23, when the Pritchard produced two hits. He has notched at least a pair of hits nine times during the streak, including three hits against Indiana on Sunday in game one of a double header. The sophomore has scored at least one run in 16 games during the streak.

 

Francis Collins holds the NU school record with a 38-game hitting streak in 1996, while Ken Ramos is second with a 28-game streak and Dukart is third with a hit in 25 straight games.

 

No statistics on hitting streaks prior to the Huskers joining the Big Eight Conference in 1958 are available.

 

Searching for Hits

Nebraska's pitching staff has been tough on the Creighton bats this year in two games, as the Jays are hitting just .150 off the NU pitching staff with nine total hits in 60 at bats and an on-base percentage of .261.

 

The Jays have struck out 16 times and have only two extra-base hits, both doubles, in the first two meeting this year.

 

The Huskers are hitting .297 through two games (22-for-74) with a team on-base percentage of .333.

 

Put it in Play

Nebraska's Richard Stock and Kash Kalkowski has been two of the Huskers' most aggressive hitters at the plate this year with 11 combined walks in 314 combined at bats.

 

Kalkowski's four walks are tied for the lowest on the team in his 147 at bats, while Stock has just seven walks in 167 at bats.

 

Even more impressive, Kalkowski has just 12 strikeouts on the year and Stock has just 14.

 

Of the Husker regulars, Michael Pritchard leads the team with only nine strikeouts in 169 at bats, or one strikeout every 18.8 at bats.

 

What a Difference a Year Makes

After struggling through a sophomore season that saw him hit .220 with four doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI's in 43 games, Josh Scheffert went back to the drawing board this summer and worked on his swing.

 

The Lincoln native's hard work has paid off so far in 2012, as he has been named Big Ten Player of the Week twice.

 

The junior is second on the team with a .363 average, while tying for the team high in home runs with eight. He is second on the team in both doubles (10) and RBI's (37).

 

His biggest improvement has come in his strikeout total. Last season Scheffert struck out 41 times in 150 at bats over 43 games, while this year he has just 18 strikeouts in 135 at bats over 39 games.

 

Scheffert has also been solid in the field at both corners of the diamond. He has just four errors on the season in 185 chances.

 

Stat  2012 (39 Gms.) 2011 (43 Gms.)

Average             .363                .220

Hits                      49                  33

Doubles               10                    4

Home Runs            8                    2

RBI                      37                  18

Strikeouts             18                  41

 

K For Kubat

After starting three games at the beginning of the season, freshman Kyle Kubat had become a tough arm out of the bullpen for the Huskers during conference play, before starting his first conference game against Indiana on May 5.

 

Kubat shut down the Hoosiers with a career-high seven strikeouts, the most by a Husker in 2012, over a career-high 6.2 innings of work to improve to 3-0 on the year.

 

After giving up two runs on three hits in the first inning against IU, Kubat found his rhythm and gave up just one hit and didn't allow a runner past second base over the next 5.2 innings.

 

In four appearances during Big Ten play, Kubat has a 1.62 ERA over 16.2 innings of work and is holing opposing batters to a .207 batting average. The 6-1 lefty has allowed 17 hits and has given up five walks, while striking out 13. Only Brandon Pierce has move strikeouts during Big Ten play with 18, but he thrown 10.2 more innings.

 

Christensen Comeback

Entering the Big Ten slate, Chad Christensen was one of the hottest hitters in the country with a .389 average, six home runs and 27 RBI's through 23 games.

 

Prior to the Huskers' series with Indiana, Christensen's average had fallen to .316 and he hadn't hit a home run since March 17 when he hit a home run in his third straight game against Louisiana Tech.

 

The shortstop found his swing against the Hoosiers with five hits and six RBI's in the three game series, including one home run each in the first two games of the series.

 

On the year he is hitting .321 with a team-high 44 RBI's and he is tied with Josh Scheffert for the team lead in home runs with eight.

 

Kashing In

After battling through an early season groin injury, Kash Kalkowski has steadily returned to form for the Huskers.

 

Following his 13th game of the year against South Dakota State on March 13, Kalkowski was hitting .256 on the year with one home run, which came in the season opener against Gonzaga, and eight RBI's.

 

Since the game against the Jackrabbits, Kalkowski has played in 26 games and has raised his average to .320, while also hitting three home runs and driving in 24 runs.

 

Get on Top

Scoring the game's first runs has been important for the Huskers during Big Ten play.

 

In the first 15 games of the Big Ten schedule, the Huskers are 6-2 when taking the first lead of a game. When the opposition scores first, the Huskers are 3-7.

 

Give it to the Bullpen

The depth  and talent of Nebraska's bullpen has been one of its biggest strengths this season.

 

During Big Ten play, the Huskers are 8-0 when leading after the sixth inning and 7-0 when leading after the seventh.

 

Overall, NU is 25-4 when leading through six innings and 24-3 when leading through seven.

 

It's Not Nice to Steal

Catcher Cory Burleson has been one of the most important cogs of the Husker defense this season with 18 runners caught stealing, which tops his season total of 14 from 2011.

 

The senior backstop has slowed down the opposition's running game, as team's have stolen just 14 bases in 32 attempts (.438) this season, with two of the 12 steals coming from Illinois on a double steal.

 

During Big Ten play, Burleson has thrown out eight runners in 15 attempts.

 

Through May 7, Northwestern's Geoff Rowan (27) and Indiana's Kyle Schwarber (24) are the only catchers in the Big Ten with more runners thrown out than Burleson, but Schwarber has the second most steals allowed in the league with 37 and Rowan is third with 35.

 

Nine catchers in the Big Ten have allowed 20 or more steals on the year, including six who have allowed 25 or more. Illinois' Kelly Norris-Jones has allowed a league-high 45 stolen bases.

 

Burleson has worked hard in the offseason to improve his game after allowing 26 steals in 40 attempts a year ago.

 

Kiser Warming Up

April ended up being a great month for senior Kale Kiser, as the senior raised his batting average 65 points.

 

With a .200 average on April 1, Kiser took off in 14 games during the month to post the second-highest average on the team during April at .378 (14-for-37).

 

Entering Tuesday's game with Creighton, Kiser is hitting .246, but is second on the team with a .432 on-base percentage

 

Vogt of Confidence

Dylan Vogt has been the Huskers' go to man out of the bullpen with a 1.71 ERA in 21 appearances.

 

The junior righty has worked 40.2 innings and struck out 26, while holding opponents to a .238 batting average.

 

Prior to his appearances against Indiana on May 6 when he gave up two runs in 3.1 innings of work, Vogt had pitched 14.0 straight shutout innings over six appearances.

 

Setting the Pace

Sophomore leadoff-hitter Michael Pritchard has been one of the Huskers' most lethal weapons this season with a team-high .379 batting average, which ranks second in the Big Ten Conference to Jordan Keur's .385 average.

 

Pritchard leads the Huskers with a .441 on-base percentage, which is nine points higher than Kale Kiser's .432 on-bast percentage.

 

Hard to Hit

Junior closer Travis Huber has been tough on opposing hitters during Big Ten play with a 0.00 ERA in 4.2 innings of work over four appearances.

 

During conference play, Huber has given up just four hits and one walk, while striking out six and holding opposing batters to a .211 average.

 

Overall, Huber holds a 2.75 ERA and seven saves in 18 appearances. In 19.2 innings, Huber has posted 17 strikeouts and given up six earned runs.

 

Learning Curve

Freshman Pat Kelly has made a quick transition to college pitching, as the Red Wing, Minn., is fifth on the team with a .324 batting average and is one over four Huskers with a  slugging percentage over .500 at of .541.

 

Kelly is even better with a teammate on base, hitting .350 on the season.

 

His biggest hit of the season came on Sunday, April 8, against Iowa, as he blasted a triple to the center field wall that scored two Huskers to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. Kelly then scored the winning run on a walk-off single by Kale Kiser.

 

Kelly has hit throughout the Husker lineup and has produced 12 extra-base hits, including five doubles, two triples and five home runs.

 

He has driven in 24 runs and scored another 21.

 

Rich Reward

Texarkana CC transfer Rich Sanguinetti had been a key cog in the Husker offense this season. Hitting out of the two-hole in 40 of his 43 starts, Sanguinetti is hitting .310 on the year with a team-high 12 sacrifice bunts and is third on the team with 36 RBI's.

 

Helping the Pitching Staff

Through 47 games the Huskers have turned 44 double plays. NU is on pace to turn just over 51 double plays this season after only converting 35 a year ago.

 

Hot Sticks

Under the direction of Head Coach Darin Erstad and Associate Head Coach Will Bolt, the Nebraska offense has seen great improvement across the board from a year ago.

 

During conference play the Huskers are hitting .304 as a team, with six players hitting .300 or better, including a team-leading .419 average from Richard Stock.

 

In 2011, the Huskers hit .236 during conference play and just two players hit over .300, including Cody Asche (.351) and Michael Pritchard (.340).

 

Tough With Two

The Huskers have come up with clutch hits all season with two outs, as 111 of the team's 311 RBI's have come with two outs. In 55 games a year ago the Huskers' totaled 91 two-out RBI's.

 

Leading the way is Chad Christensen, who  has driven in 24 of his team-leading 44 RBI's with two outs. Last season Christensen played in all 55 games and totaled just four two-out RBI's.

 

Juniors Richard Stock (17), Kash Kalkowski (15), Josh Scheffert (14) and Rich Sanguinetti (10) also each have double-digit two-out RBI's, to give the Huskers five players with 10 or more two-out RBI's.

 

All-American Cody Asche led the team with 16 two-out RBI's, while only three players had 10 or more on the year, including Asche, Kalkowski (14) and Bryan Peters (12).

 

Chicks Dig It

After hitting 30 home runs in 55 games last season, led by Cody Asche's 12 home runs, the Huskers have already surpassed last year's total with 39 home runs in 47 games this season.

 

In the Big Ten, Indiana is the only other program with more than 30 home runs with 33, while four other schools have more than 20.

 

Small Ball

Even though the Huskers lead the Big Ten Conference with 39 home runs through May 6, Nebraska has also put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with their bunting.

 

On the year, the Huskers have 31 bunt singles through 47 games. In 55 games a year ago, the Huskers had just 16 bunt singles all season.

 

Chad Christensen, who is tied for the team lead in home runs with eight, also leads the team with eight bunt singles in 10 attempts.

 

Michael Pritchard is next with five bunts singles, while Bryan Peters and Rich Sanguinetti have four each. Cory Burleson and Austin Darby each have three bunt singles.

 

Overall, the Huskers are 31-for-42 (.738) when bunting for a base hit and also have 37 sacrifice bunts on the year.

 

Rich Sanguinetti leads the team with 12 sacrifice bunts, which ranks second in the Big Ten to Iowa's Jacob Yacinich, who has 13 sac bunts on the year.

 

What a Fourth

The Huskers strongest inning this season has been the fourth, where they've outscored opponents 70-16. The Huskers didn't give up a run in the fourth inning until Illinois plated one run against the Huskers in the team's 25th game of the season on Saturday, March 24.

 

Looking at just the first eight innings of a game, Nebraska has outscored their opponents this season in every inning but the first (19-36) and the seventh (22-26).

 

In the first three innings of the game the Huskers trail the opposition 97-99, but they have destroyed opponent pitching the second time through the order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings with a 153-62 advantage.

 

In the seventh and eighth innings the Huskers keep up the pressure and hold a 66-55 advantage, including a 44-19 advantage in the eighth inning.

 

20-20

Senior Kale Kiser is tough on opposing pitchers with his great eye at the plate. During his career at Nebraska, Kiser has walked 93 times and struck out just 69 times for a 1.35 walk/strikeout ratio.

 

Kiser is hitting .246 on the season, but continues to get on base for the Huskers with a .432 on base percentage. His team-high 30 walks are the fifth most in the Big Ten and his 13 HBP's are tied for tops in the league.

 

Run Producers

Chad Christensen has turned into a run producer this season with a team-high 44 RBI's in 46 games. Over his first two seasons at NU, Christensen had just 31 RBI's in 86 games.

 

Josh Scheffert, Rich Sanguinetti and Richard Stock aren't far behind with 37, 36 and 35 RBI's, respectively.

 

Kash Kalkowski and Kale Kiser have also hit the 30-RBI mark with 30 each on the year.

 

A total of eight Huskers have at least 20 RBI's on the year.

 

At the end of the 2011 season, only five Huskers had 20+ RBI's on the season, including a team-high 56 from Cody Asche. Others included Kash Kalkowski (42), Kurt Farmer (32), Bryan Peters (30) and Cory Burleson (21).

 

The Bolt Effect

The Husker offense has seen major improvement under the direction of Associate Head Coach Will Bolt.

 

Looking at NU's numbers through 47 games in 2011 and 2012, the Huskers have struck out 102 fewer times, walked three more times, produced 91 more hits, scored 80 more runs and are hitting 42 points higher as a team at .313.