LINCOLN — Nebraska's hitters figured their mini-scoring drought wouldn't last all day. They just needed some kind of jolt.
Northwestern's infield defense accidentally provided the necessary boost.
The Huskers (10-15, 4-1 Big Ten) rallied from a four-run deficit after an uninspired start Saturday, capitalizing on three Wildcat errors in a five-run seventh and holding on for an 8-5 win a day after surviving a 16-inning thriller at Haymarket Park.
“We didn't play good baseball at all,” junior Michael Pritchard said. “But thing is, we found a way to win. We haven't been doing that much this season.”
They seized the game's momentum in the seventh, when 10 Huskers came to the plate against three Northwestern pitchers. Only two balls left the infield, but five runners crossed home plate.
There was a sacrifice bunt, a bunt single and an infield hit. Three errors, too — a fumble by first baseman Jack Havey on a grounder, a bobble by third baseman Nick Linne on another slow roller and an errant throw by shortstop Trevor Stevens.
Senior Bryan Peters' two-out bouncing single into center field put Nebraska up 5-4.
“That's just baseball,” sophomore Pat Kelly said of the quirky seventh-inning rally. “Sometimes you're gonna get those big hits in the gap and sometimes they're going to just trickle through the infield. We kind of had a little bit of both (Friday).”
It was Kelly who had one of the game's hardest hits, driving an elevated fastball into the right-center field gap to lead off the eighth inning. The Wildcats (10-8, 2-3) had just tied it at 5-5 in the top half, but the Huskers added three more runs to seal the win.
“We knew we were going to get it going,” Kelly said. “We just had to keep battling at the plate. We broke through.”
Northwestern did load the bases with one out in the ninth inning, but reliever Aaron Bummer earned his first career save by striking out a batter and getting the next one to ground out.
The Wildcats probably should have tacked on a few more insurance runs earlier in the game, though.
They had a 4-0 lead and runners on second and third in the fifth, but junior pitcher Brandon Pierce fielded a safety squeeze bunt, looked the runners back and tossed calmly to first for the inning's second out. Kelly's off-balance throw after he scooped up a grounder was just in time at first base to end the threat.
That was one of the few bright spots for Nebraska during the first six innings, when the Huskers left the bases loaded twice and struck out five times against Northwestern starter Luke Farrell. His low-90s fastball darted around the plate, too precise for the weary Huskers to adjust.
Their five-hour win Friday night, when they clinched a 10-9 victory in the 16th inning just before midnight, clearly had lingering effects a half-day later.
“I didn't like our intensity, our execution early on,” Nebraska coach Darin Erstad said. “I thought we were flat. We just can't play like that.”
The Huskers will start senior Tyler Niederklein on Sunday against Northwestern's Brandon Magallones.
Contact the writer:
402-473-9585, email@example.com, twitter.com/JonNyatawa