The game was rocky from the get-go for Lemke as he allowed two runs in the top of the first inning on three straight singles and an error to start the game. The Huskers answered with a run in the second inning, but ended up leaving two runners in scoring position.
Illinois broke the game open with four runs in the 6th inning and four more in the 9th. Nebraska's biggest threat came in the 8th when they cut the lead to 7-3 with back-to-back doubles to start the inning by Michael Pritchard and Rich Sanguinetti followed by an RBI single from Chad Christensen. This knocked Illini starter Kevin Johnson (4-1) out of the game, but Luke Joyce came on and induced a double play by Richard Stock, killing the rally.
Following the game Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad said that the Huskers never got into the right mentality, as opposed to Illinois. "They came to play and they were hitting line-drives all over the place and running the bases very aggressively. They took the game to us and had us on our heels and we had to fight back. It should be the other way around."
It was a tough loss for Nebraska, but they'll be back on the field tomorrow to try and even up the series. The Huskers will send sophomore Jon Keller (3-0) to the mound to face Illinois freshman John Kravetz (3-0). Erstad knows his club will be up to the challenge. "These guys are reigning Big Ten champions for a reason: they came into our place and took the game to us tonight. Tomorrow is a new day and we'll come at them tomorrow."
* Pat Kelly committed his 6th error of the season in the first inning, which ended up costing the Huskers a run. He also had another play where he double-clutched that could have been ruled an error. While the freshman is swinging a hot bat (.436 after tonight) he has had his struggles in the field.
* After a rough first inning, Lemke battled through 5.1 innings of work, giving up five earned runs. The junior threw a season high 89 pitches - his previous high was 80 against Cal - and coach Erstad said that Lemke is ready to take another step forward in his recovery process from shoulder surgery.
*Cory Burleson gunned down two Illini base runners in the first two innings of the game, and is now 10-15 throwing out runners on attempted steals.
*Ryan Hander had another dominant outing, hurling three innings, striking out three batters. The junior righty had two 1-2-3 innings before hitting a batter to lead off the 9th inning. He was relieved by Aaron Bummer, and the baserunner ended up scoring, giving Hander an earned run. In 13 innings pitched this season, Hander has a 1.38 ERA and has one of the best curveballs on the team.
*Give credit to Illinois starting pitcher Kevin Johnson. He didn't strike out many batters, but worked efficiently, keeping the Huskers just off-balance enough to hold them down. Nebraska had some hard hit balls, but most of them were right at Illini defenders. The rest were weak pop-ups or grounders.
*An announced crowd of 5,210 was treated to fireworks following the game, as well as a fly-over during pre-game ceremonies.
- Josh Harvey -