March 30, 2013
| at Nebraska
| Box Score
|| NEB 10, NU 9
|| NU 10-7 (2-2 Big Ten), NEB 9-15 (3-1 Big Ten)
| Next NU Event
|| at Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.), March 30, 2:05 p.m. CT
LINCOLN, Neb. -- In a game that took five hours and 16 minutes to complete and featured 19 runs, 39 hits and 522 pitches, Nebraska got the best of Northwestern in the opener of the Big Ten series at Haymarket Park Friday night, 10-9, in 16 innings. The game was the longest in the 26-year tenure of NU head coach Paul Stevens.
With the heartbreaking loss, Northwestern fell to 10-7 overall on the season and 2-2 in the Big Ten. It was also the fourth extra-inning game of the season for the 'Cats, who now stand at 2-2 in contests decided after the ninth inning.
Starting pitcher Zach Morton tried to help his own cause in the top of the first inning at the plate. He put a charge into a ball that came out of left fielder Chad Christensen's glove as the Husker hit the wall for a double. Unfortunately, the fifth-year senior was stranded 180 feet from home and the inning ended without a run.
The Husker offense ignited in the bottom half of the first. After retiring the first two Nebraska hitters, Morton surrendered a double to Michael Pritchard, who scored when Christensen singled to left field. The home team added two more runs in the frame to take a 3-0 lead after only an inning of play.
Morton was shaken up with a lower body injury in the first inning and was unable to continue his night on the mound. He was relieved by lefty Dan Tyson to begin the second inning.
Northwestern's bats heated up in its half of the third inning. Trevor Stevens reached on a fielder's choice and moved to second on a base hit by Kyle Ruchim, one that extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Freshman Zach Jones entered the game as the designated hitter and roped a double to the gap in right-center field to plate Stevens for NU's first run of the game.
The next batter, Jack Havey flared a ball to foul territory on the right side and Ruchim wisely tagged and charged for home. The throw from Nebraska's Pat Kelly appeared to be there in time, but Ruchim avoided the initial tag and came back to touch the plate before catcher Tanner Lubach could apply a secondary effort. The scoring didn't stop there, however. Scott Heelan drove in the inning's final run with a base hit to right field to score Jones and even the ledger at three runs apiece.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the evening in the fourth inning. Jack Mitchell was hit by Christian DeLeon's first offering of the frame and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Nick Linne. Mitchell soon scored when Walker Moses ripped a single to left field to make it 4-3, Northwestern. After Stevens doubled down the line in left, NU added another run when Moses scored on an RBI groundout to second from Ruchim.
Northwestern scored off DeLeon for the third consecutive frame in the fifth. Havey walked and Heelan singled to open the inning and both players moved up on a sacrifice bunt from Luke Dauch. At that point DeLeon's night was over and Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad summoned relief pitcher Luke Bublitz to the bump.
Bublitz was greeted in the contest by NU's Mitchell, who flipped the first pitch he saw over the third baseman to drive in both Havey and Heelan and give Northwestern a 7-3 lead.
Nebraska scored its first run off Tyson with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Kash Kalkowski collected an RBI single with two outs, but Jack Quigley came on to retire Blake Headley and end the inning.
Tyson threw a season-high 3.2 innings with three strikeouts in relief. The San Diego, native allowed just three hits and a lone unearned run in his outing Friday.
Mitchell helped pad Northwestern's lead in the top of the seventh. Dauch legged out an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by the shortstop. Mitchell stepped to the dish and belted a double to the gap in left field for his third hit of the ballgame allowing Dauch to score and give the 'Cats an 8-4 lead.
The Huskers responded by tying the game with four runs in the bottom of the seventh, all with two outs. Pinch hitter Brian Peters delivered the biggest blow with a bases-clearing double off Ruchim, who relieved Quigley. Ruchim then struck out Nebraska lead-off man Rich Sanguinetti to end the inning.
The teams traded quick offensive halves in the eighth inning. With Nebraska's infield drawn in in the ninth, Northwestern catcher Scott Heelan chopped a ball to shortstop that developed slowly enough that Antonio Freschet was able to score from third to help the Wildcats regain the lead, 9-8.
The lead was short-lived because the Huskers orchestrated another two-out rally to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. Pinch runner Ty Kildow scored from second on a single from Lubach to even the score and force extra innings.
In the bottom of the 10th, Nebraska looked to end the game with one away, but Moses had another idea. After sliding over to left field to open the ninth, the sophomore fired a laser to Heelan to cut down the would-be winning run at the plate.
Neither team posed a very serious threat until Nebraska put a runner on third base with no outs in the bottom of the 13th inning. Reliever Ethan Bramschreiber worked out of a serious jam stranded Darby 90 feet from home by getting a pair of shallow fly balls sandwiched around a crucial strikeout of Lubach.
The Huskers finally broke through in the 16th inning. Peters, who tied the game back in the seventh inning, The third baseman led off the inning with a base hit off NU's Jack Livingston. After taking second on a sac bunt and third on a deep fly ball to right field, Peters scored the game-winning run just minutes before midnight on Christensen's fourth hit of the night.
All 10 of Nebraska's runs Friday night came with two outs on the board.
Ruchim, Heelan and Mitchell all had three hits Friday. For Heelan and Mitchell, that marks a career-best performance. Mitchell also matched his personal-best with three RBI against the Huskers.
After Friday's marathon, the Wildcats and Huskers will continue the three-game series Saturday, March 30 at Haymarket Park. Senior Luke Farrell will take the ball for Northwestern; he'll be opposed by right-handed pitcher Ryan Hander from Nebraska. Saturday's first pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m.
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