Nebraska beats Indiana on Lubach’s walk-off homer, forces winner-take-all game for title

With one swing, Tanner Lubach put Indiana’s hopes of a Big Ten championship double and a pitch for a national seed in the NCAA Tournament on hold.

The Nebraska sophomore catcher led off the bottom of the 11th inning by pummeling a 1-1 offering from Indiana closer Ryan Halstead into the left field stands at Target Field in Minneapolis, giving the No. 3 seed Cornhuskers a thrilling 7-6 win over the No. 1 seed Hoosiers on Saturday night. With the win, the Huskers stayed alive and forced Indiana to play them again at 1:05 p.m. today in an all-or-nothing game for the Big Ten Tournament championship.

The Hoosiers (42-14) are still likely safe in their hopes to host an NCAA Tournament regional, but the loss put a small blemish on their pitch for one of the tournament’s eight national seeds. And it forces them to go to their fourth starter, freshman left-hander Will Coursen-Carr, to try to win the title.

The see-saw battle saw the Hoosiers erase a 2-0 deficit, blow a 5-2 lead and get a double from a seldom-used pinch hitter when they were down to their final out to stay alive and force extra innings. But it still ended with their first loss of the tournament.

Nebraska took control in the first inning when first baseman Kash Kalkowski pounded an 0-1 pitch from Indiana starter Kyle Hart into the left-field bleachers for a two-run home run. Hart fought his way out of a jam in the second inning with two big strikeouts, however, and the Hoosiers tied the game when catcher Kyle Schwarber ripped a 1-0 pitch off the left-field foul pole just over the fence for a two-run home run in the top of the third.

Hart settled in and held the Cornhuskers scoreless for four straight innings, and hot-hitting Indiana first baseman Sam Travis put the Hoosiers in control, crushing a pitch from Nebraska’s Dylan Vogt into the second deck in left at Target Field for a three-run home run, making it 5-2.

Indiana coach Tracy Smith pulled Hart early in the sixth, however, and Nebraska got to the Indiana bullpen over the next two innings. Nebraska left fielder Michael Pritchard led off the inning with a ground ball to second. He not only reached but went to second when Indiana’s Nick Ramos missed the mark and bounced off the dugout rails. Smith pulled Hart for Luke Harrison, and Kalkowski ripped a double down the left field line to score Pritchard. Harrison came out for left-hander Brian Korte, and Nebraska third baseman Blake Headley singled home Kalkowski to make it 5-4 IU.

Right hander Scott Effross stepped in to get the Hoosiers out of the sixth, but Nebraska got to him in the seventh. Right fielder Chad Christiansen and Kalkowski both had RBI singles to put Nebraska up 6-5.

Indiana tied it in the ninth, however. Third baseman Dustin DeMuth ripped a one-out double to right-center field to put a man on. Right fielder Casey Smith followed with a flyout to right to bring the Hoosiers to their final out. Sophomore Ricky Alfonso stepped into pinch-hit, however, and ripped a 1-2 pitch just inside the right field line to bring DeMuth home and tie the game.

Halstead stepped in and pitched two scoreless innings and the Hoosiers put runners in scoring position in both the 10th and 11th. However, Lubach only needed to see three pitches and take one swing to keep Nebraska alive and force a winner-take-all Big Ten title game.

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  1. IU wins B1G Baseball tournament on walk-off single in bottom of 9th by Scott Donley beating Nebraska 4-3.

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