Michael Pritchard may not be out of his extended slump yet, but the last two games have certainly helped. After scoring what ended up being the game-winning run in the eighth inning of Nebraska's victory over Ohio State Friday night, Pritchard sliced a single back up the middle with the bases loaded and two outs Saturday to give the Huskers the 4-3 win.
"The last two days have just been out of control - so many emotions and I'm so happy to get it done for the boys," Pritchard said. "We were getting no-hit through six, but everybody just kept grinding. Guys coming in and just doing their jobs set us up to win the game."
The late offense was surprising given NU's complete lack of spunk early in the game. Darin Erstad was extremely disappointed in his team's approach to batting practice, and the Huskers were held without a hit until Tanner Lubach singled to center with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
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"We had an awful batting practice," Erstad said. "It was lethargic. That's on me to get them prepared to play. There's nobody else to blame - not the players, not the other coaches. That's on me. That's my job. I'll give the players credit for fighting and finding their way through at the end, but that's my job."
Luckily, starter Chance Sinclair was on his game, even if the defense wasn't behind him. First baseman Bryce Only and shortstop Steven Reveles combined to make three errors and were replaced in the game's first five innings.
But one night after Christian DeLeon went the distance for Nebraska, Sinclair battled through nine innings, giving up only three unearned runs. Despite the offense's lack of life, the junior said he remained confident in NU's batters.
"I knew if I just kept giving them a chance, they would come back," Sinclair said. "They've been doing this all year. They never give up, and this feels great."
Sinclair's intuition turned out to be correct. The Huskers scratched across a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Pritchard, but things still looked bleak heading into the ninth.
After Ryan Boldt flew out to center, Blake Headley walked. Christian Cox singled , but Austin Christensen struck out. Ty Kildow walked to load the bases, and Jake Placzek followed suit to force in a run.
Then Pritchard, down to a 1-2 count, laced a line drive back up the middle that easily scored both runners and won the game.
Nebraska was sloppy both in its execution at the plate and in the field early on, but Erstad took responsibility and said those things can't happen consistently if Nebraska wants to win. The Huskers will get a chance to improve on them in the series finale tomorrow at 1:05 p.m.
"I'll take responsibility for the first seven innings," Erstad said. "I didn't have our team ready to play. Absolutely atrocious baseball, terrible defense, a terrible approach at the plate… now the last couple of innings, I'll give credit to our guys for keeping it together and finding a way and grinding out a victory."
Starter Chance Sinclair: Victimized time and time again by a porous defense, Sinclair refused to give in. The junior recorded his first complete game at Nebraska, giving up just seven hits and three unearned runs. He didn't walk a single batter.
Designated hitter Christian Cox: The speedy utility man came in to run for Ben Miller after his leadoff single in the eighth and came around to score. He then singled and scored again in the ninth. In a game where runs were so hard to come by, Cox's two scores were imperative.
Around the horn
***The game was Nebraska's third walk-off win of the season.
***Lubach has thrown out five runners trying to steal this series, including three Saturday. It's the third time in Lubach's career that he's thrown out three base stealers in one game.
***Sinclair has now gone at least six innings in seven of his eight starts. He's given up more than one earned run in just one start.
***Nebraska hasn't had an extra-base hit in its past four games.
***The attendance was 3,871.