Huskers Roll to Regional Title

Lincoln --- Nebraska starter Zach Kroenke struck out a career-high 13 and Husker hitters pounded Creighton pitching for 17 hits, including a season-high seven doubles to power the No. 3 national seed Huskers to the NCAA Lincoln Regional title with a 10-2 victory over Creighton Sunday at Hawks Field.

Playing in front of a packed house of 8,304 fans, Kroenke mowed down the Bluejays .
The Huskers, who will host Super Regional action, advanced to a Super Regional for the fourth time since 2000 and also swept through regional play for the fourth time in their last five NCAA Tournament appearances. Super Regional dates and times will be announced Tuesday, and the Huskers will begin play on either Friday, June 10 or Saturday, June 11.

Tickets for Nebraska's Super Regional at Hawks Field next weekend will go on sale on at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday evening.  The Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office will begin in-person and phone sales on Monday, June 6 at 8 a.m.  Fans can purchase Super Regional tickets in person at the NU Athletic Ticket Office at the Stadium Drive Parking Garage across the street from Memorial Stadium or by calling toll free at 1-800-8BIGRED.

The six games in the NCAA Lincoln Regional attracted a total of 33,713 fans to Hawks Field for the three-day event, for an average of 5,619 fans per game.  Nebraska's three games in the tournament drew an average of 8,211 fans per game, including a school-record crowd of 8,662 for a 10-8 win over Creighton on Saturday night. 

Nebraska increased its school-record win total by improving to 54-13 on the season, while Creighton saw its season come to an end with a 48-17 overall record.  The victory also allowed the Huskers to take the season series with the Bluejays 3-2, winning a pair of games against CU in the NCAA Regional.

Nebraska senior first baseman Curtis Ledbetter led NU with four hits on Sunday, including his 17th and 18th doubles of the season.  Ledbetter closed the tournament by reaching base in each of his final nine plate appearances over the final two games to earn a spot on the Lincoln Regional All-Tournament Team.

Junior All-American third baseman Alex Gordon joined Ledbetter on the all-tournament squad by going 2 for 3 with a pair of walks on the night, as the Huskers' No. 3 and No. 4 hitters combined to reach base in 9-of-10 plate appearances against the Bluejays Sunday.

Redshirt freshman Andy Gerch was named the Lincoln Regional's Most Outstanding Player.  The right fielder from Lincoln started the Husker onslaught on Sunday with a two-RBI single in the first to give Kroenke a quick 2-0 lead.  Gerch added a bases loaded triple in Friday's regional opener to power the Huskers to a win over the UIC Flames.

Kroenke, who improved to 7-2 on the year, rounded out NU's representatives on the all-tournament team with his complete-game gem.  The left hander was touched for only two runs in the third inning, before shutting down the Bluejays the rest of the way.  He scattered seven hits on his way to his second straight complete game in NCAA Tournament play, dating back to his only appearance in the 2003 NCAA Regional against Eastern Michigan at Hawks Field.

Despite Gerch's clutch hit in the first and Kroenke's dominance, the Huskers and Bluejays headed into the bottom of the fourth inning tied at 2, before NU senior Daniel Bruce led off with a double to the gap in right center and moved up on Jeff Christy's team-high 12th sacrifice of the year.

CU starter Ben Mancuso, who fell to 1-1 on the year with the loss, then uncorked a wild pitch and Bruce raced home to give the Huskers a 3-2 advantage.

Nebraska's freshman class, which powered the Huskers with eight RBIs in Saturday night's win over Creighton, came through again in the fifth when Ryan Bohanan had a pinch-hit RBI double that scored Ledbetter from first to give NU a two-run cushion.

With two outs in the sixth, the Huskers added an insurance run as Jesse Boyer and Joe Simokaitis hit back-to-back doubles down the left field line to give NU a 5-2 lead.  The Huskers kept the pressure on with another run in the seventh, before ending any hopes of a late Creighton comeback by punching across four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The extra insurance was more than enough for Kroenke, who capped a stellar performance by striking out the final three Bluejays he faced in the ninth inning to spark NU's regional title celebration.


NCAA Lincoln Regional All-Tournament Team
C - Tony Daniel, Creighton
1B - Aaron Bates, NC State
2B - Tony Roth, Creighton
3B - Alex Gordon, Nebraska
SS - Brad Dutton, Creighton
LF - Chris Gradoville, Creighton
CF - Shane Crowder, UIC
RF - Andy Gerch, Nebraska
*DH - Curtis Ledbetter, Nebraska & Ted Rosinski, UIC
P - Eric Wordekemper, Creighton
P - Zach Kroenke, Nebraska
Most Outstanding Player - Andy Gerch, Nebraska
*-Tie in Voting at DH

Creighton Head Coach Ed Servais
On the game and the regional:
"I want to congratulate Nebraska on winning the regional.  NU is strong all the way around-on the mound, on defense, and they are creative with their offense.  Our kids played as hard as they could in this second game.  We have nothing to be ashamed of in the way we played this season.  While we don't leave here happy, the fact that we won 48 games, the second-most in school history, will make us feel better down the road."

On NU starting pitcher Zach Kroenke:
"Zach Kroenke threw well and did a good job of keeping the ball down.  We had a tough time staying off pitches down in the zone." 

On NU's offensive creativity:
"In situations in which you'd think they'd bunt, they hit and run or double-steal.  They're able to hit and run not only with a runner on first, but also runners on first and second."

On Creighton's fatigue down the stretch in the title game:
"We definitely wore down as the game went along.  We hung in there well for four or five innings.  Ben (Mancuso) gave us a chance to win the game and we had some good swings on Kroenke early.  But, especially after Kroenke got command of his slider, we weren't able to get good swings and we just wore down from there."

On the regional's impact on baseball in the state of Nebraska:
"When I came to Creighton as an assistant coach, Nebraska was still at Buck Beltzer (Field).  To see college baseball evolve to where there are 8,500 people at a game says a lot about baseball fans in Nebraska.  A lot of people in this state never thought they'd see the day when both teams were this good."

Creighton Pitcher Ben Mancuso
On today's starting performance:
"Today was a day to build confidence.   I worked on trying to build my confidence and get command of three pitches."

Infielder Tony Roth
On Nebraska pitcher Zach Kroenke's performance:
"He (Kroenke) did a good job locating his fastball, curveball and slider and did a good job backing that up with his change-up.  Any time a pitcher has command of three pitches, he's probably going to be successful. Early on, we got good swings on Zach Kroenke, but as the game went on, we wore down."

On Creighton's future:
"Our goals coming into the year were to win the Missouri Valley championship and to play in postseason baseball, something this senior class had never done.  It means a lot to me and the other seven seniors that we were able to do that.  While we wish we were playing tomorrow, we had a good year and this program is going in the right direction."

Nebraska Head Coach Mike Anderson
Opening Statement
"It was a good win for us obviously.  We had put ourselves in a position to win a regional at home all season and I'm proud of our kids.  I'm proud of them for a couple of reasons actually.  One is that there was a lot of pressure being the No. 1 seed coming into the tournament and then we added Creighton into that mix and it just built.  They went in and were aggressive and performed and hopefully that bodes well for this team."

"All the credit in the world to Creighton though.  Credit to Ed Servais and his entire team.  They are without a doubt the hardest competition we faced all season.  I don't know about the past between these programs, but I do know there's no bad blood between these teams, just hard-nosed baseball and that's what we saw today."

On first baseman Curtis Ledbetter's performance:
"He was great.  He took some big swings at times, but then he got rezoned in to what he was trying to do and found out those 0-1 or 1-1 pitches are a little better.  Sometimes he tended to let those fly, but that's good to be aggressive and once he got it toned down he got some good hits."

On finishing the Regional undefeated:
"A lot of confidence is built.  The biggest thing is that we don't have to play tomorrow.  These guys went out onto the field today with a purpose and they got the job done the first time around."

On the possibility of playing Miami in the Super Regional:
"I'll say this, it's going to be a Husker Super Regional.  It doesn't matter who we play because the fans are going to show up and it's going to be great Nebraska baseball.  This is what Hawks Field was built for, the chance to play Regionals and Super Regionals and now we're getting the opportunity to do both.  We'll be prepared to play no matter who is on the field against us."

Pitcher Zach Kroenke
On his performance:
"I just started off a little shaky and then the slider started to work a little better than it did earlier in the game.  I'd definitely say the slider was my bread and butter today."

On Creighton chasing low pitches:
"At the beginning of the game, I was leaving it up a lot so I think after a bit they saw the slider and decided they might as well take a swing at it.  Then I started getting it down and they were hitting the fastball all day long, so I put the slider on them and they just chased it into the dirt."

On his energy in the 9th inning:
"Well I was pretty pumped up for the ninth inning.  I mean it's the championship game of the regional at home, so there was a lot of adrenaline running through my body.  And striking out those three guys to finish out the game was really the icing on the cake."

First baseman Curtis Ledbetter
On the excitement of playing a Super Regional at home:
"That's big for us, getting an opportunity to play at home and maybe head to Omaha.  But we have a tough week ahead of us.  We've got to put in some good practice and work out hard here at the diamond.  It's going to be a fun week though.  We're anxious to get going again.  We wish we could play again tomorrow because this was such a fun weekend for us."

Third baseman Alex Gordon
On the fan support:
"It's always great to get such good fan support.  I mean, it's easy to play in front of a home crowd of over 8,000 like we did these last couple of days."

Shortstop Joe Simokaitis
On whether or not hitting the ball took pressure off the pitching staff:
"Yeah, sure.  They've been picking us up all year long.  They're a great staff and a deep staff.  We had the bats rolling coming out of the Big 12 Tournament and carried that into this weekend and I think we set ourselves up nicely for the Super Regional."

On playing in another Super Regional:
"It's nice.  I've never had to play a Super Regional on the road and I've had some great experiences here in Lincoln.  It's just unbelievable, just after this weekend and I know it's only going to get better.  So we're excited and ready to play.  I think this team is ready to go." 

Nebraska game notes:
**-- Pitcher Zach Kroenke made his second career start in the NCAA Tournament, throwing a complete-game while allowing just two runs on seven hits. Kroenke's first NCAA appearance came in 2003 when he also went 9.0 innings allowing just two runs -- one earned -- on eight hits to earn the win over Eastern Michigan (18-2) in a regional elimination game in 2003.

**-- Kroenke's 13 strikeouts were a season and career high, bettering his former best of 12 set against Northwestern in 2004. He now has 18 strikeouts against three walks in two NCAA Tournament appearances. He became the third Husker pitcher to record double-figure strikeouts in a game this season.

**-- Kroenke finished the game with 13 strikeouts and moved into the NU career top 10 in the process. Kroenke, who struck out the side in the third, now has 191 strikeouts in his career to rank ninth in Nebraska history. He passed Pat Leinen, who had 180 Ks from 1988 to 1990, and Aaron Marsden, who had 188 strikeouts in 2002 and 2003.

**-- Kroenke was one of four Huskers named to the Lincoln Region All-Tournament team, along with Alex Gordon, Curtis Ledbetter and Andy Gerch. Gerch was named the region's MVP.

**-- Jeff Christy added his team-best 12th sacrifice of the season in the fourth inning, moving Daniel Bruce to third with one out. Bruce then scored on a wild pitch to give Nebraska a 3-2 lead.

**-- Nebraska improved to 25-17 all-time in NCAA Tournament play as it won its fourth regional title in its last five postseason appearances. NU is now 5-1 in regional final games dating back to the 2000 season.

**-- First baseman Curtis Ledbetter opened the game with three straight hits and finished going 4 for 5 with two runs and an RBI. It was his fourth four-hit contest of the season. He improved to 14-of-32 (.438) in NCAA Tournament play during his career.

**-- Freshman Ryan Bohanan came into the regional having drove in just six runs during the regular-season, but picked up his fourth and fifth RBIs of the weekend Sunday. He punched a pinch-hit RBI double to center in the fifth inning and batted in another run in the Huskers' four-run eighth.

**-- Senior Jesse Boyer tied his season high with three hits, finishg 3 for 5 with two RBIs and a run scored. He has had three hits on two other occasions this season, with the last also coming against Crieghton.

** -- Nebraska pounded out a season-high seven doubles on the night.

**-- The crowd of 8,304 was the sixth-largest in Hawks Field history. It was the second straight 8,000-plus crowd for the Huskers in regional play as NU was one of the top drawing regionals in the nation.

Creighton game notes:
**-- Ben Mancuso threw 4.1 innings, his longest outing of the season. It was his third career start.

**-- Creighton shortstop Brad Dutton led all players with 10 hits at the Lincoln Regional, while Tony Daniel had an event-high 10 RBI.

**-- Creighton finishes with 48 wins, tied for second-most (48) all-time behind the 1991 College World Series team that won 51 contests.

**-- Chris Gradoville went 3-for-4 and finishes the season hitting .403. He is CU's first .400 hitter (min. 75 at-bats) since Chad McConnell in 1992.

**-- Tony Daniel, playing in his final game, went 0-for-4 and had a 10-game hitting streak snapped

**-- Creighton players named to the all-Tournament team included Tony Daniel, Tony Roth, Brad Dutton, Chris Gradoville and Eric Wordekemper.

**-- Creighton finished with new school records for hit batsmen (101), double-plays turned (a nation-best 85) and assists (803).

**-- Individual season marks that fell included the single-season assist record (Brad Dutton had 234) and Scott Reese (37 appearances).

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