TEMPE, Ariz. — Junior pitcher Chance Sinclair delivered a strong start in his Husker debut against Gonzaga on Saturday, exactly what Nebraska needed.
The right-hander from Neosho County (Kan.) Community College gave up two runs — both unearned — in seven innings of work, lifting Nebraska to a 7-4 victory over the Bulldogs.
The Huskers (2-1) had used six relievers earlier in the day in a 15-7 blowout loss to No. 2 Oregon State, and four arms from the bullpen in Friday’s season-opening win over Pacific. Neither NU starting pitcher lasted past the fifth inning in its first two games.
Then Sinclair took the mound.
“We needed him to come out and have a great start, and he did just that,” NU coach Darin Erstad said on the Husker Sports Network. “I thought Chance really set the tone for us.”
Sinclair allowed three hits and walked two batters. He actually allowed at least one base runner in every inning until retiring the side in order in the seventh.
The two runs for Gonzaga came in the fourth, and the Bulldogs scored without the benefit of a hit. Sinclair hit a batter and third baseman Blake Headley was charged with an error. A sacrifice fly and a balk produced the scoring.
But it wasn’t enough to keep up with Nebraska.
Senior Michael Pritchard, who’s now reached base in 45 straight games, hit a two-run triple to put NU up 2-0. Pat Kelly drove in Pritchard with a double. It was one of six hits in nine at-bats Saturday for the junior second baseman from Red Wing, Minn.
The Huskers took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning and effectively put the game out of reach with three more runs. Junior Austin Darby, who had an RBI single in the eighth, finished the game with three hits.
Gonzaga did bring the game’s potential tying run to the plate in the ninth inning when it loaded the bases against freshman reliever Jake Hohensee from Lincoln East. But after NU closer Josh Roeder gave up a hit and a run, he got a game-ending double play.
The first game Saturday didn’t go as smoothly for NU.
Junior left-hander Aaron Bummer gave up four earned runs in three innings — the most he’s allowed in any of his eight Husker starts. It was also Bummer’s shortest outing since becoming a starting pitcher midway through last season.
Oregon State took control with a four-run third inning. The Beavers scored three more in the fourth. They added seven in the eighth despite recording just two hits.
NU pitchers combined to walk 11 batters and hit two. They struck out just three Beavers.
Kelly did go 5 for 5 in that first game, driving in three runs.
The Nebraska Alumni Association hosted a tailgate event just outside Tempe Diablo Stadium on Saturday, which brought a significant number of Husker fans to both games. Husker Sports Network commentators Greg Sharpe and Lane Grindle estimated more than 1,000 NU fans were in attendance.
Nebraska and Gonzaga will play again at 1 p.m. Sunday. Freshman right-hander Derek Burkamper from Muscatine, Iowa, will start for NU, Erstad said.