The Nebraska baseball team (34-22, 14-10 Big Ten) nearly completed one of the biggest comebacks in program history on Wednesday afternoon at the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, but a leaping catch by Michigan State second baseman Ryan Jones on a line drive off the bat of Pat Kelly secured a 10-9 win for the Spartans at Huntington Park. The Huskers entered the bottom of the ninth inning down 10-2, but five two-out runs had the Huskers in position to tie the game with Kale Kiser at third base and Kelly at the plate.
Michael Pritchard led the Husker offense with a 4-for-4 performance and was on base five times on the day, as he also drew a walk. It was Pritchard’s third four-hit performance of the season. Kiser added three hits and led NU with three RBI’s, with all three coming on a bases-clearing double in the ninth.
The Spartans moved station-to-station on the afternoon, as 15 of their 17 hits were singles. The bottom of the lineup did the most damage, as MSU’s No. 8 and 9 hitters were 8-for-10 on the afternoon.
After not scoring since the third inning, Kelly and Pritchard got the ninth-inning rally going with a pair of one-out walks. Chad Christensen then flew out for the second out, before Richard Stock extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a single after going 0-for-4 in his first four plate appearances. Josh Scheffert then stroked a double and Rich Sanguinetti was hit-by-pitch to load the bases. Reliever Joe Zwierzynksi then hit Kash Kalkowski and walked Austin Darby to plate two more runs and leave the bases loaded for Kiser. Tony Wieber entered the game and Kiser ripped the first pitch he saw into the right-center-field gap to clear the bases. The senior moved to third on a wild pitch with Kelly at the plate and was 90-feet away from tying the game. Kelly put a charge into a 2-2 pitch, but Jones was able to climb that ladder at second and snag the 27th out of the game for the Spartans.
With the game tied at 2-2 though the third, MSU took a 3-2 lead in the fourth with one run on four singles. Sparty was in position to blow the game wide open with the bases loaded and one out, but Head Coach Darin Erstad relieved freshman starter Kyle Kubat with Luke Bublitz, who got a fly out to Sanguinetti in center and a ground out to Scheffert at third to end the inning with minimal damage.
Jordan Keur put the Spartans up 4-2 in the fifth with a home run on the first pitch off the inning. MSU later had a runner on first with one down in the inning, but Bublitz got a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.
Holding onto a 4-2 lead going into the sixth, the Spartans put the Huskers in a deep hole with five runs on five singles to take a 9-2 lead. Bublitz got the first hitter of the inning, but MSU loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. Tom Lemke then came into the game and gave up a single and got the second out of the inning on a ground out to Christensen. MSU then loaded the bases with an intentional walk to John Martinez with two down and the Spartans made the Huskers pay with back-to-back singles that plated four runs before Lemke got a deep fly out to left-center field to end the inning.
Another MSU run in the seventh put the Spartans up 10-2 and seemed irrelevant at the time, but proved to be the eventual game winner. Joel Fischer led off with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Jones.
The Huskers fall into the loser’s bracket of the Big Ten Tournament and will play the loser of today’s 2:35 p.m. (CT) game between Penn State and Ohio State tomorrow at 11:05 a.m. (CT).