MANHATTAN, Kan. — Jesse Wilkening swatted a dramatic three-run homer in the eighth inning to help Nebraska end its losing skid at four games with an 11-9 comeback victory over Kansas State on Tuesday night.
The Huskers (15-16) appeared headed toward a familiar fate when three errors and erratic pitching put them in a 9-7 hole heading into the eighth. But NU scored a run on a double-play groundout with the bases loaded, and one batter later Wilkening sent a ball well over the left-field wall to highlight a three-hour, 47-minute seesaw affair.
“He just kept grinding,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said of Wilkening during his postgame radio interview. “You get rewarded for doing that and he really got rewarded with a huge hit.”
Mojo Hagge and Luke Roskam also homered for Nebraska, which returns to Big Ten action Friday when it hosts Iowa for a three-game series.
NU was far from perfect against its old Big 12 rival. Its seven pitchers combined to allow eight walks and 12 hits, and K-State scored in six innings. The Huskers’ No. 5 through 9 spots in the lineup went 1 for 16.
But the offense reached double-digit runs and closer Jake Hohensee logged two perfect innings for his seventh save. Reigning Big Ten player of the week Scott Schreiber extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a 2-for-4 effort and Jaxon Hallmark walked four times.
Nebraska tied the game 2-2 in the second inning on the first career RBIs by true freshman Kennet Sorenson (run-scoring groundout) and redshirt freshman Carter Cross (sacrifice fly). An error, walk and wild pitch set the table. Sorenson finished 0 for 2 in his college debut while Cross, in right field, was 0 for 3 in his first college start.
Hagge led off the third with his first home run of the season — and second of his career — before Wilkening and Roskam added RBI hits to put the Huskers in front 5-3. Roskam added a two-run bomb over the wall in right in the fifth for his third round-tripper of the spring to stake NU to a 7-5 edge.
Kansas State (15-18) used six pitchers, but kept up with Nebraska offensively. It tagged starter Nate Fisher for five earned runs on eight hits across 32⁄3 innings and 66 pitches, using two singles and three fielder’s choices to plate the runners.
KSU — which lost its sixth straight — batted around in the seventh off relievers Byron Hood (one hit, three walks) and Ethan Frazier (one hit, one walk) to regain a 9-7 lead. A rare two-run sacrifice fly on a ball that Hagge laid out to catch at the wall in left-center and a Rainer Ausmus RBI double did the damage.
NU finished 4 of 11 with runners in scoring position after going 3 for 20 in that category in two games against Michigan State last weekend.
Erstad said the team continues to compete and play with energy, but the struggles in the field and on the mound remain problems that need correcting.
“It feels good to get a win,” Erstad said. “But it’s not sustainable when you’re not throwing strikes and not playing quality defense.”