Champaign, Ill. – After the Nebraska baseball team (7-14, 1-1 Big Ten) and the Illinois Fighting Illini (14-5, 1-1 Big Ten), battled back-and-forth over the first eight innings of game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Illini evened the three-game series with a base-loaded squeeze to score the game’s winning run, 8-7.
Pat Kelly had three hits for the second straight game, as well as two RBIs, to lead Nebraska’s offense, who produced 11 hits in game one.
Illinois took the first lead of the game with a pair of two-out hits. After a single from Brandon Hohl put runners on first and second with two-down, Reid Roper delivered a double into the right-field corner that plated two runs.
After Illinois starter John Kravetz retired the first six Huskers he faced, Kash Kalkowski started the third with a single and then went 1st-to-3rd on a sacrifice bunt from Taylor Fish, as no one covered third base when third baseman Hohl charged on the bunt. Bryan Peters, Rich Sanguinetti and Kelly followed with three straight singles to tie the game, before Michael Pritchard grounded into a 1-6-3 double play to end the Husker rally.
The Illini got both runs back in the bottom of the third, again with two-out hitting. With leadoff hitter Will Krug on second base, Jordan Parr lined a single to score Krug and then stole second to put himself in scoring position. Parr moved to third on a wild pitch, which proved important, as David Kerian followed with a swinging bunt that just stayed in fair territory as it rolled down the third-base line to score Parr.
Chad Christensen led off the fourth with a single, stole second to get into scoring position and moved to third on a groundout to the right side by Austin Darby. After Kravetz got Josh Scheffert to pop out for the second out of the inning, shortstop Thomas Lindauer committed a fielding error on a groundball off the bat of Kalkowski that scored Christensen and extended the inning. After Fish beat out an infield single, Kravetz got a ground-ball out off the bat of Peters to keep the Illini in front, 4-3.
Nebraska took its first lead of the game in the fifth with three runs on three hits and an Illinois error. After Sanguinetti flew out to start the inning, Kelly reached on a single and tied the game, 4-4, when Pritchard doubled into the left-field gap. Christensen then hit the ball hard at Lindauer, who committed an error for the second straight inning to put runners on the corner with one out. Darby drove in Pritchard with a single and Scheffert plated Christensen with an RBI groundout to put Nebraska in front, 6-4.
The Husker lead didn’t last long, as the Illini answered with three runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth to retake a 7-6 lead. After NU starter Ryan Hander gave up a leadoff single to Michael Hurwitz, reliever Luke Bublitz came in and gave up three singles, before retiring Hohl and Roper to end the fifth.
Nebraska put together a two-out rally in the sixth to tie the game, 7-7. After Kravetz sat down the first two Huskers he faced, the righty hit Peters with a full count. With the HBP, Peters tied Kale Kiser for third in the Nebraska record book with 46 career HBP. Kraventz then walked Sanguinetti and with a righty in Kelly coming up, Illinois Head Coach Dan Hartleb made an unorthodox move to bring in lefty reliever Anthony Milazzo. Kelly took advantage of the righty-lefty matchup with his third hit of the game to drive in Peters. With runners on first and second and two down, Milazzo got Pritchard to groundout to end the Husker sixth.
After the Husker pitchers shutout the Illini in the sixth and seventh, Nebraska had the go-ahead run on to lead off the eighth when Kalkowski was HBP for the 11th time this season. Kalkowski moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt from Fish and to third on a groundout by Peters, but was unable to score when reliever Bryan Roberts struck out Sanguinetti to end the inning.
Illinois was in position to retake the lead in the bottom of the eight when they had the bases loaded with one out and its No. 3 and 5 hitters due up, but relieve Caleb Hawkins came in a got a pair of big outs. The junior from Queens City, Texas, got Jordan Parr to ground out and Kerian to pop up to keep the game tied, 7-7, heading to the ninth.
Nebraska had the go-ahead run in scoring position with two-outs, but again Roberts kept NU scoreless when he retired Blake Headley.
Lindauer doubled to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Hawkins then hit Hohl and error by Kelly on a sacrifice bunt by Roper loaded the bases. Alex Lincoln stepped in and laid down a squeeze bunt on the first pitch he saw to win the game for the Illini.