New England champ Fairfield, Conn., manager Bill Meury planned on having Matt Kubel balance a mix of curveballs and fastballs Saturday against Midwest champ Kearney, Neb.
Then he watched Kubel warm up, and everything changed.
"He threw far more fastballs than he did breaking balls and that was because before the game he looked great," Meury said. "His velocity was as good as it's been."
A steady diet of fastballs it was and what a diet it was. Kubel threw 4 2-3 innings of two-hit, shutout baseball, struck out six and led Connecticut to a 12-0, five-inning win at Lamade Stadium that kept its Series hopes alive.
The New England champions advance to Monday's round and plays the loser of today's Indiana-Texas game. Nebraska was eliminated and plays Germany in Monday's consolation game.
"I was a little nervous," Kubel said. "Obviously, you get nervous looking at 10,000 people sitting in the stands, but I just tried to channel it all and play my game."
Connecticut broke open a scoreless game with 12 runs in its last three at-bats. Will Lucas went 2 for 2 with a home run and five RBIs while Biagio Paoletta was 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
But had it not been for Kubel's dominance, Nebraska might have been able to take an early lead and change the game's complexion. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed only two second-inning singles and pounded the strike zone. He frequently had Nebraska batters swinging at first pitches and threw only 49, 36 for strikes.
Kubel struck out the last three batters he faced before Meury lifted him to keep him eligible if Connecticut advance's to Tuesday's round.
"He threw a great game," Nebraska manager Brad Wegner said. "He was never outside the zone."
Nebraska pitcher Matt Masker equally was locked in during the first two innings, striking out four of the first seven batters he faced while keeping Connecticut off-balance by skillfully mixing his pitches.
Masker threw 2 2-3 innings, but Connecticut started being patient and drew three walks in the third with Lucas drawing a bases-loaded one that made it 1-0. Kevin Oricoli hit a two-out, two-run single two batters later and Connecticut was on its way.
"I was just trying to get on base and put the barrel on the ball and help get runs in," Oricoli said. "It felt good because I helped my team score runs."
Connecticut kept scoring runs, adding six in the fourth inning while going up 9-0. Lucas highlighted that six-run eruption with a two-run home run to left-center field. Lucas is 4 for 5 in two Series games with six RBIs.
"I was just trying to help my team," Lucas said. "I got walked my two previous at-bats and I wanted to make it better than two walks and get the runs in."
Paoletta and Lucas have combined for nine RBIs in their first two games. They capped the scoring in the fifth inning as Paoletta hit a RBI single and Lucas followed with a RBI single.
Center fielder Ryan Meury also returned after being hit in the face by a pitch in Thursday's opener against California. Meury walked twice and scored two runs.
Masker struck out five, while Cole Staab and Thad Huber each had hits for Nebraska, which is playing at the Series for the first time.
Staab and Huber hit their singles back-to-back with one out in the second inning, but Kubel answered by retiring the next two hitters on five pitches. He allowed just two baserunners the rest of the way.
"They're hugely disappointed. They didn't think this is what would happen," Wegner said. "We have this one last game and we'll see if we can get something going in that one. It's been an awesome experience."