LINCOLN — Nebraska's Chad Christensen stepped to the plate in the 16th inning needing a hit to end the longest game at Haymarket Park since 2005. Somehow his mind was clear.
He wasn't thinking about the magnitude of the moment. No thoughts about the early blown lead, Nebraska's unlikely ninth-inning rally or all the squandered scoring chances after that.
Instead Christensen, poised and determined, saw a teammate standing 90 feet away from the plate. Two outs. Scored tied 9-9. The Huskers needed a hit.
The focus paid off. The senior drove a 2-0 fastball into right field, scoring senior Bryan Peters and clinching a 10-9 win Friday for Nebraska (9-15, 3-1 Big Ten) in the first game of the weekend series against Northwestern.
“You stick with the same approach,” Christensen said. “I felt confident at the plate. It was what I needed to do: just drive in the run.”
It was the Huskers' first 16-inning game since 2008, and their first at home since a 4-3 win against Texas in 2005.
This year's NU squad had already lost several heartbreakers, coming into Friday's game with a 1-6 record in games decided by one run.
But the Huskers came up with several clutch hits to stay alive against the Wildcats (10-7, 2-2).
After blowing an early 3-0 lead, Nebraska tied the game 8-8 in the seventh when Peters hit a three-run double into right-center field.
“I was sitting fastball away,” he said. “I got it, put a good swing on it and found a gap.”
Northwestern took a 9-8 lead on senior Jack Havey's double off closer Dylan Vogt in the top of the ninth inning.
But junior Ty Kildow, pinch running after sophomore Chase Headley drew a two-out walk, stole second and then scored to tie the game at 9-9 on catcher Tanner Lubach's single to left field.
The Huskers probably should have ended the game soon after that.
Northwestern managed four hits in extras, silenced by the dominance of relievers Josh Roeder and Zach Hirsch (who combined for eight strikeouts in six scoreless innings). Nebraska's offense couldn't take advantage until the 16th, though.
Junior Michael Pritchard, the potential winning run, was thrown out at home in the 10th inning. Senior Kash Kalkowski reached third base with two outs in the 11th, but senior Rich Sanguinetti flied out to end that threat. The Huskers had a runner on third base with no outs in the 13th against Wildcat reliever Ethan Bramshreiber, but freshman Jake Placzek popped out, Tanner Lubach struck out looking and Bryan Peters flied out.
“Intestinal fortitude,” Northwestern coach Paul Stevens said of Bramshreiber's effort.
At the time, it seemed like a possible turning point. Husker coach Darin Erstad noticed the energy and enthusiasm in Nebraska's dugout start to dip. He reminded the players that wins had to be earned.
“I saw a lot of shoulders drop, a lot of deflation, and you see a lot of excitement in that other dugout,” Erstad said. “They responded and did a very nice job.”
Northwestern's starter, Zach Morton, came into Friday's game with a 0.74 ERA, but he had to leave with a foot injury after warming up to begin the second inning. Morton was also one of the Wildcats' top hitters, batting .333 and starting in the 3-hole spot in the lineup Friday.
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