Nebraska opens up Big Ten Tournament with Michigan State
Posted By: Sports
The Nebraska baseball team (34-21, 14-10 Big Ten) makes its return to the postseason for the first time since 2008 when it opens play at the 2012 Big Ten Baseball Tournament on Wednesday against the Michigan State Spartans at 11:05 a.m. (CT).
Wednesday's match up will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two programs and the first since 1982 when the Huskers won back-to-back games on March 21 and 22. The Spartans won the first ever meeting, 6-0, on June 12, 1937.
Freshman lefty Kyle Kubat is scheduled to take his 5-0 record and 2.25 ERA to the mound for the Huskers on Wednesday. The Omaha, native was 4-0 during Big Ten play and 3-0 in three starts. The Spartans are set to throw senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro, who is 5-3 on the year in 14 starts, including two complete games.
Tickets: Tickets for the tournament can be purchased at Huntington Park starting two hours prior to the start of the first game each day. Tickets are now on sale for all-tournament tickets, single-game tickets and group tickets through www.ColumbusSports.org, www.bigten.org, www.ticketmaster.com and by calling the Huntington Park Box Office, 614-462-2757.
All-Tournament Pass: $100 | Team Ticket Package (2 coaches and 10 athletes): $60 | Family Ticket Package (2 adults and 4 children 18 and younger): $25 | Group Tickets (20 or more single game tickets): $7 | VIP Single Game Ticket: $15 | Single Game Tickets – Adult: $10 | Single Game Tickets (Children 12 and under/Seniors 60 and over): $7
Television: Every game of the Big Ten Tournament will be shown live on the Big Ten Network and streamed live on BTN2Go.com.
On the Radio: Fans across Nebraska and around the world can listen Greg Sharpe 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.
Following a three-year absence, the Nebraska baseball team is back in the postseason after earning the No. 4 seed at this year's Big Ten Baseball Tournament.
The Huskers qualified for 11 straight Big 12 Tournaments from 1998 to 2008 and also made the NCAA Tournament 10 of those years as well, with 2004 being the lone exception.
K For Kubat
After starting three games at the beginning of the season, freshman Kyle Kubat became a tough arm out of the bullpen for the Huskers during conference play.
Kubat then moved into the starting rotation prior to the Indiana series and has won three straight Big Ten starts for NU.
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.
In the Huskers' first five Big Ten series openers, NU was 1-4. With Kubat on the mound, the Huskers went 3-0 in Big Ten series openers.
In six total appearances during Big Ten play, Kubat has a 1.57 ERA over 28.2 innings of work and is holding opposing batters to a .233 batting average. The 6-1 lefty has allowed 24 hits and has given up eight walks, while striking out 22.
His 22 strikeouts were the most for any Husker on staff during Big Ten play.
Nebraska has never had a pair of players each record 20-game hitting streaks during the same season. The Huskers will have a shot at achieving the feat this season, as Michael Pritchard has already recorded a 25-game hitting, while Richard Stock is currently riding an 18-game hitting streak.
Previously, the closest the Huskers ever got to having two players with 20-game hitting streaks in the same season was in 2002. Current Associate Head Coach Will Bolt hit safely in 19 straight games and teammate Jed Morris had an 18-game hitting streak.
For Pritchard, his hitting streak tied Derek Dukart for the third-longest hitting streak at NU since 1958 at 25 games with a 4-for-4 performance against Creighton on May 8.
The streak started in the Huskers' Big Ten opener against Illinois on March 23, when the Pritchard produced two hits.
He notched at least a pair of hits 10 times during the streak, including three or more hits twice.
Stock started his streak in the first game of a double header at Ohio State on April 15. The junior has had a pair of four-hit games during the run and has extended the streak with just one hit in 13 of the 18 games.
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 in 1987.
No statistics on hitting streaks prior to the Huskers joining the Big Eight Conference in 1958 are available.
Get a Touchdown
Nebraska is 12-1 this during Big Ten play when scoring six or more runs and the Huskers are 11-1 when holding opponents to less than 6 runs.
NU is 2-9 when scoring less than six runs during conference play and 3-9 when opponents score six or more runs.
Freshman Pat Kelly has given the Husker offense a boost with his eight home runs this season.
Kelly entered the Michigan series with seven homers on the year, which tied him with Alex Gordon (2003) for the most homers by a freshman at Nebraska who played at Haymarket Park.
With his homer in game two of the series with the Wolverines, Kelly has the most homers by a freshman since Matt Hopper hit 21 in 2000 when NU played at Buck Beltzer Stadium.
The 40 Club
Three Huskers have driven in at least 40 runs this season, including Chad Christensen, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten Conference with 46 RBI's. Rich Sanguinetti ranks eighth in the league with 43 RBI's and Richard Stock is the third Husker to hit the 40-RBI mark with 40 RBI's. Josh Scheffert is close to joining the list with 39 RBI's on the year.
Nebraska is one of just two teams in the league to end the regular season with three players with 40 or more RBI's. Purdue also achieved the feat with Cameron Perkins (56), Barrett Serrato (45) and Kevin Plawecki (40).
He Does it All
Texarkana CC transfer Rich Sanguinetti had been a key cog in the Husker offense this season.
Sanguinetti is hitting .320 on the year with a team-high 14 sacrifice bunts and is second on the team with 43 RBI's, trailing Chad Christensen's 46 RBI's.
During Big Ten play, Sanguinetti led all outfielders with 21 RBI's.
Nebraska has kept its edge in close game this seasons, as the Huskers are 5-2 in one-run games during Big Ten play.
Last season in the Big 12, NU was 3-2 in one-run games.
Own the Fourth
The Huskers strongest inning this season has been the fourth, where they've outscored opponents 90-23. 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 (20-44) and the seventh (22-36).
In the first three innings of the game the Huskers tie the opposition 111-111, but they have destroyed opponent pitching the second time through the order in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings by 98 runs with a 178-80 advantage.
In the seventh and eighth innings the Huskers keep the lead and hold a 69-61 advantage, including a 47-25 advantage in the eighth inning.
Transfer Richard Stock has been a welcome addition to the Husker offense in 2012. The junior from Westlake Village, Calif., leads the team in both doubles (17) and triples (3), while ranking third on the team in both RBI's (40) and average (.348).
He is one of two players on the 2012 roster with 100+ total bases with 104, which ranks second to Chad Christensen's 109.
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 led all players during conference regular-season play with 39 hits and was third in average at .386.
Stock has 17 multi-hit games on the year, including eight games with at least three hits and two games with four hits.
The junior also has 10 multi-RBI games on the season and is riding an 18-game hitting streak into Wednesday's game at Michigan State.
It is the longest active streak on the team this year and the second longest streak behind Michael Pritchard's 25-game hitting streak.
A 45th-round pick out of high school by the Milwaukee Brewers, Stock has found new life at Nebraska after playing his freshman season at USC and last season at Pierce College in Los Angeles.
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 in three categories, including average (.349) home runs (8) and doubles (11). He also ranks fourth on the team with 39 RBI's.
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 22 strikeouts in 166 at bats over 47 games.
Scheffert has also been solid in the field at both corners of the diamond. He has just four errors on the season in 213 chances.
Hard to Hit
Junior closer Travis Huber has been tough on opposing hitters during Big Ten play with a 0.00 ERA in 5.2 innings of work over five appearances.
During conference play, Huber has given up just four hits and one walk, while striking out six and holding opposing batters to a .182 average.
Overall, Huber holds a 2.61 ERA and seven saves in 19 appearances. In 18.2 innings, Huber has posted 17 strikeouts and given up six earned runs.
Tough With Two
The Huskers have come up with clutch hits all season with two outs, as 124 of the team's 354 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 46 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 (17), Josh Scheffert (15) and Rich Sanguinetti (12) 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).
Get on Top
Scoring the game's first runs has been important for the Huskers during Big Ten play.
In 24 games during the Big Ten schedule, the Huskers were 9-3 when taking the first lead of a game. When the opposition scored first, the Huskers were 5-7.
Setting the Pace
Sophomore Michael Pritchard has been one of the Huskers' most lethal weapons this season with a Big Ten-leading .379 batting average. Purdue's Eric Charles is second in the conference with a .368 average.
Pritchard has .438 on-base percentage on the season, which is just two points behind Kale Kiser's team-leading .440 on-base percentage.
In the NCAA rankings, Pritchard ranks as the 11th toughest player to strikeout in the country with just one strikeout every 19.8 at bats.
Stony Brook's Maxx Tissenbaum leads the country with one strikeout every 47.5 at bats.
Even though the Huskers ended the regular season with a Big Ten Conference high 46 home runs, Nebraska has also put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses with their bunting.
On the year, the Huskers have 35 bunt singles through 55 games. In 55 games a year ago, the Huskers had just 16 bunt singles all season.
Chad Christensen, who leads the team with nine home runs, also leads the team with nine bunt singles in 11 attempts.
Michael Pritchard is next on the team with six bunt singles and Rich Sanguinetti has five. Bryan Peters has four bunt singles, while Cory Burleson and Austin Darby each have three.
Overall, the Huskers are 35-for-46 (.761) when bunting for a base hit and also have 45 sacrifice bunts on the year.
Rich Sanguinetti leads the team with 14 sacrifice bunts, which ties Iowa's Jacob Yacinich for the conference lead.
Freshman Pat Kelly has made a quick transition to college pitching, as the Red Wing, Minn., has a .318 batting average and is second on the team with a .547 slugging percentage, while Josh Scheffert leads the squad at .560.
Kelly is even better with a teammate on base, hitting .372 on the season. With a runner on third and less than two outs, Kelly has 10 RBI's in 17 chances.
Kelly has hit throughout the Husker lineup and has produced 16 extra-base hits, including six doubles, two triples and eight home runs. His eight homers are the most by a Husker freshman since Matt Hopper hit 21 in 2000.
Kelly has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice this season.
Vogt of Confidence
Dylan Vogt has been the Huskers' go to man out of the bullpen with a 1.84 ERA in 24 appearances.
The junior righty has worked 48.0 innings and struck out 31, while holding opponents to a .244 batting average.
Over his last 10 appearances dating back to April 6, Vogt has given up just four earned runs over 25.1 innings of work.
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 13-1 when leading after the sixth inning, 11-0 when leading after the seventh and 13-0 when leading after the eighth inning.
Overall, NU is 30-5 when leading through six innings, 28-3 when leading through seven and 30-2 when leading after eighth innings.
The Right Hander
After working out of the Husker bullpen, junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Hander joined the starting rotation the final two weeks of the Big Ten schedule.
On the year, Hander has a 3.00 ERA over 27.0 innings, with 18 strikeouts to just seven walks. He is holding the opposition to a .220 average and has allowed just three extra-base hits, all doubles.
Senior Kale Kiser is tough on opposing pitchers with his great eye at the plate. During his career at Nebraska, Kiser has walked 100 times and struck out just 71 times for a 1.41 walk/strikeout ratio.
Kiser is hitting .255 on the season, but continues to get on base for the Huskers with a team-high .440 on-base percentage.
His team-high 37 walks are the fourth most in the Big Ten and his 14 HBP's lead the league.
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. He hit his team-leading ninth home run of the season against Minnesota.
On the year he is hitting .322 with a team-high 46 RBI's, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten.
Chicks Dig It
After hitting 30 home runs in 55 games last season, led by Cody Asche's 12 home runs, the Huskers surpassed last year's total with 46 home runs in 55 games this season, including a team-high nine home runs from Chad Christensen.
In the Big Ten, Indiana and Penn State are tied for second with 37 home runs each, while Purdue (32) and Michigan (31) are the only other programs in the league with more than 30 home runs.
Helping the Pitching Staff
Through 55 games the Huskers have turned 51 double plays. Last season the Huskers converted just 35 twin killings.
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 17 bases in 35 attempts (.486) this season, with two of the 15 steals coming from Illinois on a double steal.
During Big Ten play, Burleson has thrown out eight runners in 16 attempts.
Burleson has worked hard in the offseason to improve his game after allowing 26 steals in 40 attempts a year ago.
Take it for the Team
In 2011 the Huskers were hit by pitch 89 times, which tied them for 13th nationally. The team was led by Bryan Peters, who was hit 18 times to tie for 20th nationally.
In 2012, the Huskers have been hit 59 times, led by Kale Kiser's 14 HBP's, which leads the Big Ten Conference. During his career, Kiser has been hit 46 times, which ranks third all-time in the Husker record book.
Teammate Bryan Peters also sits on the top-five list with 43 HBP's during his career.
After Kiser, Kash Kalkowski is second on the 2012 squad with nine HBP's and Cory Burleson ranks third with eight.
DJ Belfonte (2007-10) sits second on the career list with 59 hit-by-pitches and Daniel Bruce (2002-05) holds the NU career record with 67 hit-by-pitches.
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 .312 as a team, with eight players hitting .300 or better, including a team-leading .386 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).
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 55 games in 2011 and 2012, the Huskers have struck out 125 fewer times, produced 111 more hits, scored 91 more runs and are hitting 44 points higher as a team at .313.