Riverside, Calif. – Trailing 5-3 in the seventh inning, Nebraska (1-0) scored 18 runs over the final three innings en route to a 21-6 win in the season opener at Riverside Sports Complex on Friday night. It marked Nebraska’s most runs scored in a season opener since 1996 when the Huskers scored 23 against New Mexico State.
Junior right-hander Chad Luensmann made his first career start (56th career appearance) and first appearance since the 2017 season after missing last year with an injury. He went 3.0 innings, while Connor Curry also returned from an injury and earned the win with 4.0 one-hit shutout innings. Ben Klenke threw 2.0 innings to finish the game.
In the top of the first, the Huskers drew one walk, but their other three batters struck out. In the bottom of the opening frame, the Highlanders went down in order as Luensmann recorded two strikeouts.
In the second inning, Cam Chick drew a leadoff walk before Jaxon Hallmark and Colby Gomes hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. Spencer Schwellenbach was hit by a pitch to bring in NU’s first run. In the bottom half of the frame, UC Riverside’s leadoff batter reached on a hit-by-pitch, but a double play following by a 6-3 groundout ended the inning.
The Huskers added two runs in the third to build a 3-0 advantage. Aaron Palensky drew a one-out hit-by-pitch before Luke Roskam singled. Chick’s sacrifice fly drove in Palensky. Jaxon Hallmark hit an RBI single. The Highlanders scored two runs in the bottom of the third to cut the Husker lead to 3-2. UC Riverside recorded four hits, but left three runners stranded.
Joe Acker reached on an error in the leadoff spot in the top of the fourth, but he was left stranded after the next three Huskers went down in order. In the bottom of the fourth, UC Riverside scored three runs to take a 5-3 lead. NU committed two errors during the inning and allowed one hit.
NU went down 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth. Curry retired all three Highlanders he faced in the bottom of the fifth with two strikeouts.
Mojo Hagge hit a one-out single in the top of the sixth, but a groundout double play ended the frame. The Highlanders had a leadoff single in the sixth, but left two runners stranded.
Nebraska scored six runs on seven hits to build a 9-5 lead in the top of the seventh. Four of the first five batters (Altavilla, Hellstrom, Palensky and Roskam) singled and scored. Hagge and Acker each doubled during Nebraska’s seventh-inning hitting barrage. The Highlanders went down in order with a pair of flyouts and a strikeout in the bottom half of the frame.
NU added seven runs in the top of the eighth. The Huskers drew five walks, while tallying two hits as UC Riverside committed one error. The inning gave NU a 16-5 lead. UC Riverside went down in order in the bottom of the eighth as Klenke struck out a pair of Highlanders.
In the top of the ninth, Nebraska plated five more runs. Alex Henwood drew a two-out walk before Blake Peterson hit a double. It was a span of eight consecutive batters that reached for the Big Red. In the bottom of the ninth, UC Riverside scored one run.
The Huskers and Highlanders return to action for a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 2 p.m. (CT).