Friday, March 10, 2006
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Senior first baseman Brandon Buckman gave the largest opening day crowd in Hawks Field history plenty to cheer about when his two-out single in the bottom of the 11th inning scored center fielder Bryce Nimmo with the winning run as No. 6 Nebraska edged the No. 25 University of Alabama 2-1 on Friday afternoon in Lincoln.
Nimmo started the winning rally when he drew a lead off walk against Alabama sophomore right-hander David Robertson. Left fielder Nick Jaros sacrifice bunt moved Nimmo into scoring positron and Robertson then intentionally walked right Luke Gorsett -- who homered in the fourth inning and just missed a game-winning home run in the ninth inning.
Pinch hitter Andrew Brown struck out before Buckman laced the 0-1 pitch down the left field line for the game-winner to delight the 6,281 fans, an opening day record for the Huskers. Buckman's game-winning single was the first hit by Nebraska since the seventh inning.
Robertson (1-1) suffered his first loss of the season for the Tide as he allowed his first earned run of the year in the 11th inning. He allowed one run and one hit in the loss, with four walks and three strikeouts.
Nebraska (9-2) won its 12th straight game at Hawks Field, dating back to last season. The win was the 28th straight home opening win, dating back to 1979.
"It was a great baseball game with great pitching," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "One team gets a hit with runners on base and the other does not. That was the difference in the game. Nebraska had a great crowd and this was a good ballgame all the way around."
Alabama (13-4) saw its eight-game winning streak end with Friday's loss. The Crimson Tide stranded 11 base runners in the loss and two chances to win the game in the seventh and eighth, with its best chance coming in the top of the seventh inning.
The Crimson Tide had runners at first and third with nobody out, but could not break the 1-1 tie. Junior left fielder Brandon Belcher reached on an error by third baseman Jake Mort and senior first baseman Spencer Pennington followed with a sharp single to right to put runners on the corners.
Junior shortstop Greg Paiml failed to get down the safety squeeze and pinch-runner Tyler Odle was caught stealing at second for the first out. Paiml then walked and junior center fielder Emeel Salem was out at first base on a close play for the second out of the inning. Senior third baseman Matt Downs walked to load the bases before senior Evan Bush grounded out to leave the bases loaded.
"The seventh inning was the key inning," Wells said. "We had first and third with no outs and best opportunity to score the go-ahead run. We weren't able to execute a play to get the lead. We had other opportunities, too, but would have needed a base hit. In the seventh inning we didn't even need a hit."
The Crimson Tide also left the bases loaded in the eighth inning after sophomore first baseman Matt Bentley narrowly missed a bases-loaded double when his line drive down the left field line was foul by inches. Bentley then lined out to shortstop Jake Opitz to end the inning.
"This was certainly a game of inches and Bentley's ball was just foul," Wells added.
Jensen (2-0) earned the win in relief with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, walked one and struck out one.
Nebraska bullpen threw five scoreless innings in the win over Alabama and allowed just one hit, two walks and struck out one batter.
Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning on senior DH David Ferazza's two-out RBI single to left field.
Senior catcher Kody Valverde started the two-out rally when he was hit by a pitch with two strikes. Freshman right fielder Ryan Rhoden followed with a single down the right field to send Valverde to third. Ferazza then gave the Tide the lead with a single to left. Belcher was then hit by a pitch to load the bases before Pennington flied out to deep centerfield to end the inning.
Nebraska evened the game in the bottom of the fourth inning when Luke Gorsett's wind-aided home run to left field tied the game at 1-1. It was was Gorsett's sixth home run of the season.
Both starting pitchers were tough on opposing hitters in the series opener. Alabama's Wade LeBlanc held Nebraska to one run and five hits in eight innings of work, with one walk and six strikeouts. Nebraska left-hander Tony Watson limited the Crimson Tide to one run and five hits in six-plus innings, with one walk and one strikeout.
The series resumes at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Hawks Field. Junior right-hander Bernard Robert (2-0, 2.45 ERA) will pitch against Nebraska right-hander Johnny Dorn (2-1, 5.28 ERA), a third-team All-America selection in 2005.
- The series finale on Sunday, March 12 has been moved up one hour to 12:05 p.m. (CT). The Saturday, March 11 game will begin at 1:05 p.m. (CT).
- Alabama did not have its usual on-site workout on Thursday evening in Lincoln as a result of numerous lost bags on the Continental Airlines flight from Mobile. The missing luggage, which included about one-half of the team's equipment, finally arrived in Omaha about 8 p.m. and was brought to the team hotel around 9:20 p.m.
- The Crimson Tide used its practice time Thursday to tour Hawks Field at Haymarket Park and Memorial Stadium, the home of the Huskers football team and its athletic facilities. The team saw the Nebraska trophy room, Heisman Trophy room and the Husker Academic Hall of Fame. The Crimson Tide also went on to the field at Memorial Stadium and many guys pretend to throw and catch passes on the field. Head Coach Jim Wells recalled the "Game of the Century" when No. 1 Nebraska beat No. 2 Oklahoma 35-31 on Johnny Rodgers magnificent punt return for the win. "Rodgers caught the punt right here," Wells said as he pointed at the 25-yard line. "He ran right down there to the end zone and Nebraska won the game. I remember watching the game on a black and white TV set in Louisiana. It was some game."
- Alabama backup catcher David Ferazza (Hayward, Calif.) originally signed with the Nebraska and was redshirted during the 2002 season under former head coach Dave Van Horn. The Huskers were 47-21 that season and made the school's second straight trip to the College World Series in Omaha, just 60 miles from the UNL campus.
- Senior third baseman Matt Downs (Centreville) extended his career-long hitting streak to five consecutive games with a two-out double to center in the fifth inning.
- Freshman Jeff Texada (New Iberia, La.) entered the game as pinch-runner in the eighth inning and he remained in the game as the backup shortstop. Texada recorded his first career hit with a one-out single to center in the top of the 11th inning.
- Salem went 0-for-5 on Friday to snap his six-game hitting streak.
- Bush went 0-for-5 on Friday to snap in his four-game hitting streak.
- Valverde went 0-for-4 on Friday to snap his three-game hitting streak.