The Nebraska baseball team (24-28, 8-14 Big Ten) was able to avoid a season-ending sweep on Saturday afternoon with an 11-8 win at Illinois (31-18, 15-9 Big Ten).
The Illini won Thursday’s series opener 5-2 and Friday’s game 13-6.
The Huskers ended the 2018 season on a positive note, but did not qualify for next week’s Big Ten tournament, and will not play any kind of postseason game for the first time since 2011.
Nebraska also finished with its fewest win total since going 24-20 in 1998.
Six seniors on Nebraska’s team played their final career game. Head coach Darin Erstad, who just completed his seventh season, was proud of the effort they showed in the season finale.
“They came out playing hard,” Erstad said in a postgame interview on the Husker Sports Network.”They kept fighting, regardless of what the score was. We talked about that, and I figured that’s what they’d do. You just never know if they’ve run out of gas or emptied the tank emotionally, but we were able to fight back there a little bit and put together a win.”
Illinois took an early 3-0 lead after the first two innings, but the Huskers tied the game with three runs in the top of the third, and took a 5-3 lead with two runs in the top of the fifth.
The Illini fired back with a four-run sixth inning to lead 7-5, but the Huskers took the lead for good by scoring six runs in the top of the seventh.
Junior third baseman Angelo Altavilla had one of his best games of the season, going 4-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored, two RBIs and three stolen bases.
Junior designated hitter Jesse Wilkening went 3-for-5 with a run scored, an RBI and two doubles. He ends the 2018 season with a team-best .372 batting average.
Nebraska outhit Illinois 15-8, and had two big home runs – one from senior second baseman Zac Repinski and another from freshman left fielder Keegan Watson.
It was Repinski’s second career homer in his final game, while Watson ended his first season with his first career dinger on his first career hit.
On the mound, senior Matt Warren made the final start of his college career, lasting five innings and allowing three earned runs on three hits. He also struck out and walked a pair of batters.
Freshman righty Andrew Abrahamowicz got his first win of the season on the mound, tossing 1.1 innings and allowing just one run on one hit through five batters faced.
Senior Jake Hohensee pitched the last two innings, and closed out the Illini for his 13th save of the season. He struck out two and walked two, but didn’t surrender a hit.
The Huskers will conduct exit interviews beginning on Monday, while the Big Ten tournament begins in Omaha on Wednesday.
The MLB Draft takes place June 4-6. Senior Scott Schreiber, who got drafted in the 26th round last year but returned for his final season of eligibility, finished the 2018 campaign with a .369 batting average and a team-best 18 home runs.
Senior pitcher Luis Alvarado is also hoping for good news after being announced as a 13th round pick last summer.
There’s also a decent chance Wilkening gets drafted after having the best season of his career offensively. He got drafted in the 28th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2015.
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.