Nebraska Advances with 8-6 Win Over Flames

Lincoln – The No. 3 national seed Nebraska Cornhuskers opened NCAA Regional competition with an 8-6 victory over the UIC Flames in front of 7,669 fans at Hawks Field on Friday afternoon.

With the victory, the Big 12 champion Huskers improved to 52-13 on the year and advanced to Saturday's 7:05 p.m. game against the winner of Friday's second game at the NCAA Lincoln Regional between NC State and Creighton.

The Flames fell to 38-20-1 on the season and will battle the loser of tonight's game between the Wolfpack and Bluejays on Saturday at 1:05 p.m.

UIC, the champions of the Horizon League, pushed the Huskers to the limit in the tournament opener by scoring single runs in the first and second innings to take a 2-0 lead.  Nebraska tied the score with two runs in the bottom of the third inning, but the Flames regained the lead in the top of the fourth with another single run.

Nebraska answered with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to retake the lead 4-3, before UIC fired back again with two runs in the sixth to take its final lead of the game at 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

But the Huskers responded with three runs in a decisive bottom of the sixth.  Ryan Wehrle led off with a solid single, before being sacrificed to second by Daniel BruceJeff Christy pushed Wehrle to third with a single to left, before Jesse Boyer followed with a double to the gap in left-center field to score Wehrle.

Boyer's double put runners at second and third for Joe Simokaitis, who chased UIC starting pitcher Ryan Zink by lacing a one-out RBI single that scored both Christy and Boyer to give NU a 7-5 lead. Zink fell to 8-6 on the year after surrendering seven runs, including five earned, in 5.1 innings of work.

Brian Duensing pitched 2.1 solid innings in relief of NU starter Joba Chamberlain to improve to 8-0 on the season.  Duensing surrendered just a solo home run to UIC's Shane Crowder, who finished with four hits on the day, including a double and two singles.  Crowder's homer in the eighth ended Duensing's streak of 17.2 consecutive scoreless innings that dated back to the Big 12 Tournament.

Nebraska closer Brett Jensen relieved Duensing entering the ninth inning and pitched a scoreless inning to pick up his school record 13th save on the year.

Christy, a junior catcher from Lincoln, played a major role in the Huskers' fortunes on Friday. Along with hitting his first career home run to provide NU with an insurance run in the eighth inning, Christy threw out 3-of-4 would-be base stealers to lead the Husker defense. He also tied his career high with two hits, and scored three runs on the afternoon.

Ryan Bohanan and Andy Gerch each added two-hit days to help fuel and 11-hit Husker attack.

The Huskers' timely hitting allowed NU to overcome the 14 hits put up by the Flames, including the four hits by Crowder, a 3-for-4 effort by Ted Rosinski that included a solo homer and a double, and a 3-for-5 performance by Mark Hallberg, as those three UIC hitters accounted for 10 hits.

BOX SCORE

Nebraska Quotes

Head Coach Mike Anderson

On the game...

"We were a very scrappy ballclub today.  UIC was very scrappy, too, but our kids were scrappier and did what they needed to do.  I'm glad that this game was that way (back and forth)."

 

On expecting a close game...

"We've expected close games all year.  We don't play away from teams easily.  Joba wasn't as sharp as he usually is.  You have to give our relief pitchers credit, because they did a great job late."

 

On Jeff Christy...

"He's getting to legendary status around here---he's the best .220 hitter in this program's history.  Understand that two weeks before the year he thought he was going split time as the starting catcher.  He's worked his tail off this year, and I don't think there's anyone else that could've done what he's done this year.  I'm happy for him, and I was so excited for Jeff Christy when he hit that home run."

 

On what he told the team after the second inning...

"I told the team just to relax.  We've been on the other side, too, as a visiting team that starts well and has a lot of energy and enthusiasm.  That usually fades, and what comes out is good solid baseball.  We just played good, smart fundamental baseball today."

 

On Brian Duensing..

"Brian did a great job of shutting UIC down.  When I brought him in, we needed a zero on the scoreboard.  The game was back and forth and I knew that our offense would counter, but we needed someone to shut them down."

 

Pitcher Brian Duensing

On what he had to do for Nebraska out of the bullpen...

"I knew had to come out, throw strikes, and give the team a chance to win.  UIC is a good hitting team, they do a good job of hitting mistakes, so I just came out and did the best I could and let my defense make plays behind."

 

Shortstop Joe Simokaitis

On sixth-inning two-run single...

"The infield was in, and was just trying to put the ball in play.  They kept answering, and we needed to come up with a big hit."

 

UIC postgame quotes

Coach Mike Dee:

On the game overall:
"We're disappointed we didn't win, but without question I'm proud of our kids.  They could have been distracted by so many things, the crowd, Nebraska's national ranking.  It's pretty impressive to be able to relax and be ourselves."

 

On the way the team played:

"I think we played exactly the way we wanted to play.  There were some execution mistakes that we'd like to have back, but I'm getting old now and I've never seen a perfect baseball game played."

 

On the kids playing with heart

"I'm proud that our kids played with a lot of heart and I told them to walk off the field today with pride."

 

On how hard his team played vs. NU

"We got their attention.  We literally did all the things that we set out to do.  We had a couple of mistakes mixed in, but I don't have any criticisms about how we went about things today."

 

Shane Crowder:

On the first hit of the game:

"I told (Coach) Mike (Dee) before the game that if I got a fast ball on the first pitch, I was going to take a hack at it.  Yeah, it is to set the tone a little bit and I think I did.  I showed them that we're not going to sit here and take fast balls from them all day.  Yeah, so I guess that was the game plan."

 

Ryan Zink:

On his performance

"I wouldn't say I ran out of gas.  It was more that they took advantage of my mistakes."


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