Nebraska picked up a big 8-3 win Saturday afternoon over Purdue, evening up the three game series with the Boilermakers and setting up a pivotal rubber match on Sunday. The Huskers (26-14, 8-6 Big Ten) found a formula for success, getting an exceptional effort from sophomore starter Brandon Pierce (5-1) and doing the majority of their damage in a five-run 6th inning.
Purdue (30-6, 11-3 Big Ten) jumped out to an early lead for the second game in a row, with two runs in the top of the first. Only one of the runs was earned however, and Pierce would go on to allow only one more run in seven innings pitched. That was a career high for the right-hander, and he also threw 116 pitches, a high for all Nebraska pitchers this season.
His outing was just what the Huskers needed following a one-inning performance from Jon Keller the night before. After the game, head coach, Darin Erstad said that he liked the way Pierce battled. “Brandon just did a fantastic job of righting the ship and not letting it affect him. He’s earning the right to have the chance to fight through some stuff.”
Pierce agreed, saying that he definitely felt stronger during the second half of the game. “After that two-run first inning I was down and Erstad got on me, and I tried to respond to that. It took me a few innings to get settled in, but that’s just part of the process of getting used to starting again.”
“I’m my own worst enemy. I probably lead this team in walks and I might lead the team in strikeouts. I’m starting to realize that and grow as a pitcher. You want to pitch for Erstad and you want to pitch for Silva.”
Nebraska got an outstanding performance from Richard Stock, who went 4-4 at the plate, scoring three runs and driving one in as well. Stock put the punctuation mark on the game in the bottom of the 7th with a tremendous homerun to right field, nearly hitting it off the scoreboard. Stock said that he had to be reminded by hitting coach Will Bolt to ease up on his swings a little bit after taking “Frankenstein hacks” the night before. The junior also said that the approach allowed him to hit “a myriad of pitches.”
*With the big day, Stock raised his batting average to .372 and is now hitting .439 in conference. The homer in the 7th was only his second of the year and the first since March 10th against Cal.
*Last night the Huskers didn’t have a leadoff hitter reach base in any of the nine innings. Today they had it happen twice, in the 2nd inning when they scored one run, and in the 6th when they scored five. “That’s the formula for success,” said Erstad, “leadoff guys get on, that’s when you can do all your action. The more the better… We’ve had spurts where we’ve done a nice job of that and some where haven’t done a good job.”
*Michael Pritchard extended his hitting streak to 17 games. Despite that, his batting average dropped seven points to .387.
*Hawks Field saw its largest crowd of the season, with 6,257 in attendance. It’s the first time Nebraska has drawn more than 6,000 this season, and the largest home crowd since 2008.
Purdue and Nebraska will square off for the final time in the regular season Sunday afternoon at 12:05 p.m. The Huskers will send Zach Hirsch (4-2, 4.53) to the mound – their third sophomore starter in as many days. The Boilermakers will counter with freshman right-hander, Connor Podkul. (1-0, 2.30)
- Josh Harvey -