LINCOLN — The Nebraska baseball team entered the weekend tied with Indiana for second in the Big Ten.
After two games with No. 16 Indiana at Haymarket Park, the Huskers and Hoosiers are still tied for second.
Indiana used four home runs — after NU pitchers had allowed a total of four home runs through the first 13 games of the season at Haymarket Park — to win the opener 8-6 Saturday night, but Nebraska starter Kyle Kubat pitched the Huskers past the Hoosiers in a 3-2 win to even the three-game series.
"He just did a very nice job," NU head coach Darin Erstad said of Kubat, who kept Indiana off the scoreboard until a two-run eighth inning. "I'll take that. That was pretty solid after everything he's been through (with an injury). To come back healthy and help the team like he has, I think he's doing more than enough. ... Our guys feel pretty confident when he is on the mound."
Entering Monday's 12:05 p.m. series finale, Indiana and Nebraska are both 12-5 in the Big Ten — with Indiana 35-9 overall and the Huskers 21-24. At 11-4, Minnesota will remain in first place — by percentage points — regardless of Monday's outcome.
Indiana pitcher Kyle Hart came into Sunday's game 7-0 on the season. But it was Kubat, making just his fourth start of the year after being sidelined the first part of the season, who remained perfect on the season — improving to 4-0.
The sophomore left-hander allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in a 104-pitch outing. Kubat left the game with the NU leading 3-0 in the top of the eighth with two outs and runners on second and third, but both those runners came in to score before reliever Dylan Vogt got out of the inning. Josh Roeder than pitched a perfect ninth for his third save of the season.
After Indiana hit four homers Saturday night and the wind once again blowing out to right field on Sunday, though not as strong, Kubat said he had one thing in mind.
"Keep the ball down," Kubat said. "Don't give up the fifth one, don't give up the sixth one, don't give up the seventh one. Those guys can hit."
After facing the minimum in the first three innings, Kubat ran into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. Indiana had a runner in scoring position with fewer than two outs in each inning, eventually loading the bases, but both times Kubat got out of the inning without allowing a run.
He then cruised in sixth and seventh innings, retiring the side in order in both frames, before the two runs in the eighth inning.
"Warming up, I wasn't feeling as sharp in the bullpen as I wanted to," Kubat said. "I just went out there and had to trick myself into thinking that I had everything. I just had to be confident with my pitches and just throw, not think."
Offensively, Nebraska scored an unearned run in both the first and second innings — aided by a total of three Indiana errors — to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Chad Christensen had an RBI single in the first, and Pat Kelly had an RBI single in the second.
Nebraska added what turned out to be a key run in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Tanner Lubach.
Hart took the loss for Indiana, allowing three runs — one earned — on seven hits with five walks and four strikeouts.
While Indiana committed four errors, Nebraska played error-free behind NU's three pitchers.
In left field, Christensen made the play of the game in the sixth inning when he crashed into the wall and made the catch for the second out of the inning.
"Kyle just did a great job pitching today and gave us a tremendous start. When he's rolling like that, you've just got to go make plays for him," said Christensen, who also had an outfield assist when he threw out a baserunner trying to stretch a single into a double in the third inning. "I just saw it off the bat, found the wall and made the catch."