TULSA, Okla. — Nebraska blew a five-run lead, then rallied from a two-run hole in the late innings to best Oral Roberts 11-10 Wednesday in its final game before Big Ten action begins this weekend.
Husker pitchers struggled again on a scheduled “bullpen” day against the perennial Summit League power after a strong four innings from junior lefty Nate Fisher. Spencer Henson provided the big blow for Oral Roberts with a fifth-inning grand slam — the fourth against Nebraska this season — as the Golden Eagles outhit NU 14-7.
But the offense cashed in on enough opportunities to keep Nebraska unbeaten in the final game of a regular-season series for the 27th straight time dating to April 2016. NU scored eight runs in unconventional fashion: a ground-ball double play, walk, steal, sacrifice fly, balk, groundout and two wild pitches.
Jake Hohensee earned his fifth save by striking out the final batter of the eighth inning with the bases loaded and pitching a perfect ninth. True freshman Max Schreiber picked up the win with a two-run, two-inning appearance as NU split the two-game series.
The Huskers (12-9) return to Haymarket Park for three games with Minnesota beginning at 6:35 p.m. Friday, then embark on a nine-game road swing.
The Huskers chased Henson, a sophomore making his first pitching appearance of the spring, in the second inning. They scored one in the first inning on a double-play grounder, then scored again as Zac Repinski drew a bases-loaded walk in the second. Mojo Hagge greeted the first of five relievers with a two-run single to right and Repinski later touched home on a delayed double steal as NU went ahead 5-0.
Ten walks by Oral Roberts helped the Huskers’ cause. Coach Darin Erstad said it was a welcome change from when his pitchers issued eight walks in Tuesday’s loss.
“I’ve said it a million times: It’s who screws up less in the game of college baseball,” Erstad said during his postgame radio interview. “When you limit free passes and play defense, you give yourself a fighting chance. And we were on the right end of that today.”
Fisher turned in a strong start after being lifted from the weekend rotation last week, lasting four innings and 57 pitches while allowing five hits, no walks and striking out three. Oral Roberts collected its only run off him in the second when it strung together three two-out singles.
NU extended to 6-1 on a Jesse Wilkening RBI hit in the fifth before the bullpen ran into trouble in the bottom half.
Junior Ethan Frazier — two hits, two walks — managed one out and left with the bases loaded after walking in a run. Henson then cleared the bases with a grand slam to center field off Paul Tillotson to knot the game 6-6.
“I know they’re going to fight. They’re competitive kids,” Erstad said of the Huskers. “We’ve got to continue to find ways to limit free passes and get guys on the mound to be consistent with their stuff.
“Some days they look good and then they’re just not repeating it. So we’re going to have to figure out how to fix that.”
Oral Roberts (12-7) grabbed its first lead at 8-6 in the sixth off Max Schreiber, with a wild pitch and a Riley Keizor RBI hit doing the damage. But Nebraska battled back with three runs in the seventh — via a wild pitch, Wilkening’s sacrifice fly and a balk — and two more in the eighth thanks to a wild pitch and Scott Schreiber RBI groundout.
Oral Roberts closed to 11-10 in the eighth when it loaded the bases with no outs off Zack Engelken, scoring twice. Both runs came on a fielder’s choice groundout when a wild relay throw on an attempted double play allowed another Golden Eagle to come home. ORU reloaded the bases on walks before Hohensee came on to end the rally with a strikeout.