Minneapolis, Minn. – Rich Sanguinetti capped a dramatic ninth inning for the Huskers with a two-run walk-off home run to propel the Nebraska baseball team (5-4, 0-0 Big Ten) to a 6-4 win over the New Mexico State Aggies. It was the first walk-off home run for the Huskers since March 6, 2011, when Bryan Peters beat No. 5 UCLA with a solo shot to lead off the 11th inning.
The Huskers entered the ninth down 4-2 and quickly had life following a pair of hits. Michael Pritchard led off with a single and then scored from first on Richard Stock’s double to cut the Aggie lead to one at 4-3. Freshman Blake Headley came in to run for Stock and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by fellow freshman Austin Darby, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. Head Coach Darin Erstad went to his bench once again and inserted Kash Kalkowski for afore mentioned Peters with the tying run at third base. Kalkowski, who has been limited of late due to a groin injury, got behind in the count early, but dug deep and laced a single through the right side with two strikes to tie the game at 4-4. Following an out by Kale Kiser, the Huskers were down to their last out of the inning when Sanguinetti came to the plate and lifted preseason All-American closer Scott Coffman’s first pitch deep into the right field seats to win the ballgame.
The exciting ninth inning would not have been possible without the dominating performance that the Huskers bullpen put on. Following a short outing from NU starter Jon Keller, the bullpen came in and did their part to give the Husker offense a chance. Six pitchers combined to throw the final 8.2 inning and of the game, as they kept the Aggies scoreless and gave up just three hits, while striking out 10.
Junior Dylan Vogt relieved Keller and gave Erstad 2.1 innings of no-hit baseball, while also striking out a career-high four batters. Freshmen Kyle Kubat and Jeff Stovall combined to throw the next 2.1 innings, as the pair of newcomers gave up two hits and struck out two. Tyler King took the mound in the seventh and hit the first batter he faced, but quickly settled in with back-to-back strikeouts and got a ground out to keep the Aggies scoreless for the fifth straight inning. Ryan Hander kept the support coming with a no-hit eighth inning, including one strikeout. Brandon Pierce took the mound in the top of ninth and was in a bit of trouble with two on and one out, but got a fly out and a strikeout to end the inning and ended up getting the win to move to 2-1 on the year.
The Aggies got to Keller early and knocked him out after just 1.1 innings of work. Cody Edwards led off the second with a soft fly ball to right field, but Darby was unsuccessful in his diving attempt and the ball rolled to the right field wall, resulting in a triple for Edwards. Keller walked Tanner Waite before Robert Lecount singled and Bryan Karraker doubled to plate two runs. Kurt Snowley grounded out for the first out, but leadoff hitter Kyle Phillips followed with a single to drive in the third run of the inning, which ended Keller’s afternoon. Vogt entered and hit the first batter he faced, but got a fly out, which scored the fourth run of the inning, and a swinging strikeout of Edwards with the bases loaded to the end the inning.
Nebraska answered with one run in the bottom of the second and looked poised to add more, but failed to capitalized on having the bases loaded with one out. Josh Scheffert led off with a walk and after moving to third following a wild pitch and a fly out by Kurt Farmer, Scheffert came in to score on a single by Pat Kelly, who was at the plate for the first time since the Huskers’ second game of the season. Sam Stucky and Darby produced a pair of singles to load the bases, but Peters and Ty Kildow were retired in order to end NU’s chance at a big inning.
The Huskers continued to chip away at the Aggies and cut the lead to two runs in the bottom of the fourth off a home run from Darby. With two out, the freshman laced his first career home run over the right field wall on a ball that got out in a hurry. Aggie starter Ryan Beck shutdown the Huskers over the next four innings, as he gave up just one hit and struck out two Huskers in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings combined.
The Huskers return to the Metrodome tomorrow for the final day of the Dairy Queen Classic, as they’ll meet the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 3:05 p.m. Even though both programs are members of the Big Ten Conference, the game will not count in the conference standing.