Nebraska forces second Big Ten title game
Lubach's walk-off homer in 11th beats Indiana; teams to play again on Sunday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Nebraska's comeback run in the Big Ten tournament isn't over.
Facing elimination for the third time in two days, the Huskers forced Indiana into a deciding second title game after Tanner Lubach's 11th-inning walk-off home run ended a dramatic 7-6 victory on Saturday night at Target Field.
Indiana and Nebraska will meet again on Sunday at noon CT in the tourney's final game. A victory appears to be Nebraska's only way to gain a berth into the upcoming NCAA tournament, while Indiana, with a bid likely already firmly in hand, is aiming for its third Big Ten tournament title in school history.
Hours after shutting out Ohio State to gain a spot in the title game, Nebraska rallied multiple times before Lubach's homer handed Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana its first loss of the tournament at a critical juncture.
"I can't stop laughing," Lubach said afterward, trying to recall the scene after watching his crucial hit land in the left-field stands. "I had a zero for a batting average that game. I was starting to press [at the plate]. I told myself, 'No pressure here. You've got nothing to lose.' It all worked out."
The Huskers' victory against the Hoosiers, who needed only one win to wrap up the championship, marks the first time since 2006 that a second game is necessary to decide the Big Ten title.
First baseman Kash Kalkowski's two-run homer launched Nebraska into a 2-0 first-inning lead, but Indiana responded with five unanswered runs. The Hoosiers' typical high-powered offense delivered a pair of home runs, with Sam Travis following catcher Kyle Schwarber's two-run shot with a three-run homer that traveled an estimated 394 feet into the second deck in left field.
However, Nebraska gradually scraped its way into Indiana's bullpen and back into the lead. Hoosiers starter Luke Harrison was pulled after giving up a leadoff single in the sixth. In the course of two innings, with Indiana using three different relievers, the surging Huskers used a series of clutch hits to create a one-run advantage.
Nebraska and reliever Josh Roeder were one out away from finishing off Indiana, but pinch-hitter Ricky Alfonso dropped a hit just barely inside the right-field line for a double that brought in the tying run.
Indiana was on the verge of posting the key go-ahead run in both the 10th and 11th innings, but missed chances, and eventually allowed Lubach to deliver his memorable hit on the third pitch from reliever Ryan Halstead.
Kalkowski was a dominant force in the heart of Nebraska's order. Following his home run, Kalkowski added three more hits and an additional pair of RBIs, including the Huskers' go-ahead run in the seventh inning.
Nate Sandell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.