For the second straight year, Nebraska fell to the top-seeded Indiana Hoosiers in the Big Ten Tournament title game, losing 8-4 Sunday afternoon before 19,965 fans at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
The Hoosiers came through with the first big hit of the game as Dustin DeMuth’s two-out double scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Both runners that scored reached base via a walk while DeMuth tied an Indiana school record with his 61st career double.
Indiana took a 3-0 lead in the second when NU starter Austin Christensen uncorked a two-out wild pitch that allowed Will Nolden to score.
Nebraska forced IU starter Sullivan Stadler out of the game in the third when Ryan Boldt picked up the Huskers’ first hit of the game to put runners on first and second with no outs. Luke Harrison (6-0) came out of the bullpen and after Jake Placzek moved both runners into scoring position with a bunt, Harrison needed to retire Michael Pritchard and Pat Kelly in order. Pritchard hit a hard liner, but it was right to left fielder Brad Hartong, while Kelly grounded out to end the inning.
Following back-to-back one-out singles by Tanner Lubach and Austin Darby in the fourth, the Huskers were primed to get on the board, but Harrison dug in and got Christensen to fly out before striking out Steven Reveles to strand NU’s fifth and sixth runners of the game.
With three hits through the first four innings, the Huskers got three-straight hits to start the fifth with consecutive singles by Boldt and Placzek, along with a bunt single by Pritchard that loaded the bases. Harrison nearly got a double-play ball off the bat of Kelly, but the ground ball went through Casey Rodrigue’s legs at second base allowing a pair of runs to score. Blake Headley stepped up with the tying run at third base and grounded into a 3-6-3 double play, but Pritchard crossed home to tie the score at 3-3.
Facing the top of IU’s lineup in the bottom of the fifth, NU reliever Bob Greco (3-2) struck out Rodrigue to start the frame. All-American Kyle Schwarber then gave the Hoosiers the advantage with a solo blast down the right-field line that put IU back in front 4-3. Greco retired Sam Travis and Scott Donley in order to keep the Hoosiers’ lead at one.
IU (42-13) pushed its lead to four runs in the bottom of the sixth with two of the three runs unearned following a two-out error. After one run crossed the plate, Reveles fumbled a two-out grounder from Rodrigue. Schwarber made it hurt when he followed with a two-RBI single.
The Huskers trimmed Indiana’s four-run lead to a three-run deficit in the seventh, starting with a lead-off double by Boldt, his third hit of the game. The freshman scored three pitches later when he moved to third on a ground ball by Placzek that was followed by a throwing error by shortstop Nick Ramos. IU reliever Jake Kelzer didn’t allow any more damage though, retiring NU’s 3-4-5 hitters in order.
Nebraska had the tying run at the plate in the top of the eighth in Boldt. Kelzer jumped ahead 0-2 before a lightning streak forced a 43-minute delay. Following the delay, Kelzer’s first pitch got away from Schwarber for a passed ball putting both Huskers in scoring position. Boldt tried to pick up his fourth hit of the game with a hard hit up the middle, but Kelzer snagged the grounder to end NU’s threat.
The Huskers (40-19) now wait to learn where they will be playing in next week’s NCAA Tournament, which will be announced Monday during the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Selection/Road to Omaha Show that runs from 11 a.m. to noon on ESPNU.