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March 29, 2013

NU wins on Christensen walk-off in 16th inning

Nebraksa vs. Northwestern game 1 box score

Chad Christensen wasn't looking for any particular pitch. He just saw Northwestern pitcher Jack Livingston throw a ball over the plate and delivered the hit the spectators at Haymarket Park had waited more than five hours to see.

With two outs and two on in the bottom of the 16th inning, Christensen poked a single to right field to break the tie and send the Huskers home with a 10-9 win over the Wildcats. Nebraska improved to 9-15 on the season and, more importantly, 3-1 in Big Ten play.

"In conference play with where we're at, every game is basically a must win," Darin Erstad said. "You're going to have close games like this throughout conference play and we have to be on top of the majority of them. Those are plays that you have to make. When you win, you make plays and when you don't make plays, you lose. We made just enough tonight."

The Huskers never would have pushed the game to extra innings without a few two-out rallies. Down 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh, NU had five straight runners reach before Bryan Peters hit a bases-clearing double to tie the game.

And after Dylan Vogt allowed a run in the bottom of the ninth, the Huskers went to work again. Blake Headley drew a two-out walk and speedster Ty Kildow, who had come in to pinch run, swiped second. Tanner Lubach lined a single to left to tie the game.

But the clutch offense dried up despite a wealth of opportunities. With one out and Michael Pritchard on second in the tenth, Christensen singled to left for what appeared to be the game winner. But a tremendous throw caught Pritchard at home.

The Huskers' golden chance came in the 13th inning, when it had runners on second and third with no outs. But Jake Placzek flew out to shallow right, Lubach struck out swinging and Peters flew out to center to keep the game going.

"I had to step on them a little bit," Erstad said about the 13th inning failure. "I saw a lot of shoulders drop, a lot of deflation and you see a lot of excitement in that other dugout. I kicked some guys in the butt and said, 'Let's go. It's time to stop feeling sorry for yourself.' This is big boy stuff. They responded and did a very nice job."

While the offense worked through its kinks, the NU bullpen didn't even let Northwestern threaten. Vogt, Josh Roeder and Zach Hirsch combined to pitch all six extra frames, allowing just three hits and keeping the Wildcats off the board. Roeder in particular was excellent, pitching four innings of one-hit ball and retiring 10 straight at one point.

Peters led off the 16th with a single over the third baseman's head and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Pat Kelly flew out to right, but it was deep enough to advance Peters to third. After a Pritchard walk, Christensen put the game on ice.

"You just have to keep your focus no matter what happens," Christensen said. "Games like this happen in baseball. We kept getting guys in position and just couldn't quite push one across until the 16th."

The two teams will meet tomorrow at 2:05 p.m.

Around the horn

***Christensen extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He has reached base safely in 17 straight games.

***Nebraska went through the lineup eight times.

***The attendance was 3,268.

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