TEMPE, Arizona — Matt Warren gave up a run just minutes into his long-awaited return to a real baseball game. But the sixth-year senior settled in from there, and Nebraska followed suit in a 5-3 comeback win over Washington State on Sunday afternoon at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Warren sat out recovering from Tommy John surgery last year and had gone 701 days since his last outing in March 2016 in a Creighton uniform. The righty showed few signs of rust in the weekend finale, though, firing five efficient innings of two-run ball across 64 pitches and striking out four. Three relievers stifled the Cougars the rest of the way to help the Huskers (3-1) get off to their best start in seven years.
Junior catcher Jesse Wilkening continued his early tear on offense, blasting the team’s first home run of the season and finishing 2 for 3 overall. He added a sacrifice fly as part of a two-run seventh inning that put NU ahead for good and capped the four-game Husker Classic 6 of 14 (.429) with eight RBIs after driving in 22 all of last spring.
Scott Schreiber connected for his first homer of the season in the top of the ninth and Jake Hohensee picked up his first career save with a 1-2-3 bottom half.
Nebraska returns to action in Surprise, Arizona, to face No. 2 Oregon State on Thursday and Saturday and meets Utah on Friday and Sunday in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge next weekend.
Washington State got to Warren early, scoring after a leadoff double, single and RBI fielder’s choice groundout. It added another run in the third when No. 9 hitter Danny Sinatro reached on an infield hit, stole second and came home on an Andres Alvarez shot up the middle.
But the former Creighton standout never needed more than 14 pitches in an inning after the first and retired the final eight Cougars he faced. It capped an outstanding first four outings for Husker starters — none of whom had begun a college game in at least 22 months — who finished with a collective 2.29 ERA in 19 2/3 innings while allowing 14 hits and four walks with 24 strikeouts.
Robbie Palkert went 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. Matt Waldron squashed a two-on, two-out WSU threat in the seventh by getting Andres Alvarez to ground to shortstop, then induced a 6-4-3 double play in the eighth after the Cougars drew within 4-3 on a double and single.
Nebraska left men on base in each of the first five innings and managed a pair of runs against WSU starter Scotty Sunitsch, who lasted six innings and 100 pitches after closing for the team last season. Wilkening, a junior catcher, blasted his third career home run in the second inning.
The Big Red tied the game 2-2 in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. Zac Repinski and Alex Henwood were plunked to start the frame and sacrificed into scoring position, then sophomore Ben Klenke picked up his first career RBI on a groundout. NU went up for good in the seventh when Angelo Altavilla walked and came in on a three-base throwing error by the pitcher on a Mojo Hagge bunt try. Wilkening brought Hagge home with a long flyout to center.
In 35 defensive innings on the weekend, Husker fielders committed just one error.