The Nebraska baseball team came up one win shy of the NCAA Tournament, as the Huskers fell to the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at Target Field in the title game of the Big Ten Tournament.
After the Huskers won on Saturday night on a walk-off homer by Tanner Lubach in the 11th inning, the Hoosiers returned the favor with a walk-off win in the ninth inning on Sunday. With a 29-30 overall record on the season, the Huskers are not eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Sunday marked the first time since 2006 that the Huskers have played for a conference tournament title.
Will Coursen-Carr went all 9.0 innings for the Hoosiers, giving up three runs (all earned) on eight hits and three walks, while striking out three. NU countered with sophomore Kyle Kubat, who was starting on three-days rest after beating Michigan in the opening game of the tournament. The NU lefty limited the Hoosiers to one run over 5.0 innings, walking one and striking out two.
All-tournament performers Bryan Peters and Pat Kelly each had a pair of hits, including Peter’s first triple of the season. Kelly drove in a pair, while Lubach added a double and a RBI.
Trailing 3-1 going into the seventh, the Huskers scored a run and tied the game, 3-3, in the eighth.
Coursen-Carr stayed in the for the ninth and sent the Husker bats down in order, setting up an opportunity for the Hoosiers to win their third tournament title and their first since 2009.
Following a leadoff double by Will Nolden, the Huskers intentionally walked Kyle Schwarber and then tournament MVP Sam Travis worked a walk to load the bases with no out. Sitting 0-for-3 on the day, Scott Donley singled to left field off reliever Josh Roeder, plating the game-winning run.
The Hoosiers opened the scoring on the day by getting their leadoff man, Justin Cureton, on in the bottom of the third on a single. Cureton moved to second on a sacrifice but by Chris Sujka and to third on a fly out from Schwarber. With Kubat in position to get out of the inning, Travis notched his fourth extra-base hit of the tournament with a RBI double off the right-field wall. Kubat retired Donley on a ground to end the inning, but not before the Hoosiers took a 1-0 lead.
With just two hits over the first four innings, the Huskers strung together a pair of hits in the fifth, tying the game 1-1. Peters picked up his second hit of the day with a one-out stand-up triple into the left-field gap. Indiana brought in its infield and Kelly was able to bounce a RBI single up the middle that scored Peters. Coursen-Carr quickly ended the NU rally, getting Michael Pritchard to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play.
Brandon Pierce took over for the Huskers in the sixth and promptly gave up a double to Travis, who moved to third on a groundout by Donley. Pierce then hit Michael Basil to put runners on the corners, forcing Head Coach Darin Erstad to bring in Luke Bublitz for his third appearance of the tournament. Bublitz got a ground ball to Kelly, but a throwing error by the sophomore plated a run, while also putting runners on second and third. After a walk to Casey Smith loaded the bases, Ricky Alfonso came in as a pinch hitter and delivered a sacrifice fly to put the Hoosiers ahead, 3-1. Bublitz was able to strand a pair in scoring position on a groundout to Peters at short.
Nebraska got a run back in the seventh and nearly added more. After Kelly drove in Austin Darby with a two-out single, Pritchard worked a four-pitch walk that loaded the bases for Christensen. The senior got a good swing on the first pitch he saw, but lined out to Basil at shortstop.
Freshman Jeff Chesnut took the mound in the bottom of seventh, facing the top of Indiana’s lineup. The Omaha native walked Nolden, but then got Schwarber to bounce into a fielder’s choice, clearing Nolden. Travis, arguably the hottest hitter at the tournament, stepped in and work a full count. Chesnut stayed composed and got a 6-4-3 double play ball to end the inning, the Huskers’ third double play of the game.
The Husker offense used the momentum to tie the game in the top of the eighth on a pair of hits. Kash Kalkowski led off with a single and moved into scoring position on a sacrifice from pinch-hitter Rich Sanguinetti. Blake Headley came through with his eighth hit of the tournament, an infield single that put runners on the corners, setting the table for Lubach to deliver a game-tying sacrifice fly to center field.
Indiana was poised to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth, as it loaded the bases with one out following an error at third by Headley. Chesnut came through once again though, getting pinch-hitter Nick Ramos to pop out and pinch-hitter Trace Knoblauch to fly out.
Eight seniors played their final game in a Husker uniform on Sunday, including Christensen, Ryan Hander, Peters, Tyler Niederklein, Scheffert, Kalkowski, Dylan Vogt and Sanguinetti.