Two errors in the 8th doom Husker baseball in an extra-inning heartbreaker
Nebraska baseball (19-26, 7-10) had a three-run lead in the eighth inning on the road until two critical errors gave Minnesota (12-31, 2-14) two runs and swung the momentum tremendously.
The Gophers defeated the Huskers 9-8 in 12 innings with a walk-off single.
On Saturday, the Huskers picked up where they left off of Friday’s game against Minnesota when they won 12-5.
They scored two runs in the first inning as second-baseman Max Anderson singled to center field to bat in right-fielder Garrett Anglim who got on base with a single of his own and stole second.
Right-handed pitcher J.P. Massey walked left-fielder Leighton Banjoff and shortstop Core Jackson to load the bases. First-baseman Colby Gomes hit a grounder to the shortstop who bobbled it for a fielding error allowing Anderson to score.
Minnesota's bats also started hot as they scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. The Gophers hit back-to-back singles off of left-handed pitcher Emmett Olsen. Jack Kelly laid down a sacrifice bunt and Olsen struck out Riley Swenson for the second out.
But Olsen walked the next two batters and allowed a two-run single by Kyle Bork as it bounced awkwardly in front of shortstop Core Jackson, who couldn't corral it. The next batter struck out swinging, ending the inning with Minnesota leading 3-2.
The Husker took the lead back as Anderson got his second RBI of the game as third-baseman Efry Cervantes, who reached base after being hit by a pitch, scored and tied the game.
Minnesota replaced Massey with right-handed pitcher Tom Skoro, who gave up a single to his first batter, designated-hitter Leighton Banjoff. Banjoff hit in catcher Griffin Everitt, who reached on a fielder's choice.
Nebraska earned back-to-back ground-outs in the bottom of the second but the Gophers hit a single and a double to put pressure on Olsen. The pitcher threw out the next batter.
Gomes gave Nebraska a 5-3 lead after he launched a homer to left field, way out of the ballpark. Cervantes hit a double that bounced off of the left-center field fence but the next two Huskers left him stranded as they were retired.
With two outs and Bork on first after being walked, Drew Stahl doubled to the right field corner and advanced to third on a throwing error by Jackson. Bork closed Nebraska's lead to 5-4.
The game stayed a 5-4 Nebraska until the bottom of the sixth inning. Olsen settled in and pitched back-to-back scoreless innings. He finished with seven hits, four runs and six strikeouts in his five innings.
Right-handed pitcher Mason Ornelas started the sixth for NU but gave up two singles, walked a batter and had an unearned run scored. Left-handed pitcher Tyler Martin took the mound with two outs and helped get the third batter out.
Nebraska responded with three runs in the top of the seventh to go up 8-5. Jackson, the leadoff batter, reached on a fielding error by the third baseman. He stole second and third to get into scoring position. Chick singled to left field to bat in Jackson and Luke Sartori, who was walked.
Anglim took one for the team by being called out at first after hitting a grounder to the pitcher but Cervantes touched home to go up 8-5.
Martin struck out three consecutive Gophers, including coming back from a 3-0 count against Stanke and retiring him in the bottom of the seventh.
The Huskers left three runners on base after pitcher Noah DeLuga walked two Huskers and hit another one.
The eighth inning is when things got out of control for Nebraska.
With one out, Jackson committed his second error of the game, allowing Stahl to get on base. Pinch hitter Jake Larson was walked and RHP Braxton Bragg replaced Martin. Both Stahl and Larson scored when Everitt overthrew Gomes at first trying to pick off a runner at first.
With their lead threatened, the Huskers were retired 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth by lefty Noah Rooney.
Minnesota batted in Kelly with a single, a sacrifice bunt, a walk and then an RBI single from Stanke to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Nebraska had the leading run on third in the top of the 10th but Banjoff was called out at home on a bang, bang play.
Bragg struck out two Gophers in the bottom of the 10th after a leadoff single by Ronald Sweeny.
The Huskers had the leading run again with Palmer on third in the top of the 11th but Everitt grounded out to shortstop with two outs to end the half-inning.
Bragg and NU's defense retired all three of the Gopher's batters in the bottom of the inning. Rooney returned the favor and sat down Nebraska's three batters in the top of the 12th.
In the bottom of the inning, Stahl hit a leadoff single through the left side, Sweeny was grounded out by Cervantes and Bateman was intentionally walked with a 3-0 count.
Merila, who went 3-of-6 on Saturday, hit the walk-off RBI through the left side, winning Minnesota's first extra-innings game of the season.
After a 4-hour and 44-minute marathon of a baseball game, Nebraska and Minnesota meet in the series championship at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Find a way to close
Nebraska had a three-run lead in the eighth inning but two critical errors cost them the game.
Minnesota seemingly had no momentum until that point. The Huskers handed it over to them as Jackson and Everitt committed errors.
Not only that, they had the leading run on third base twice in the three extra innings and both men were left stranded.
The Huskers left 16 players on base during Saturday's game.
A must-win game
Minnesota is the worst team in the Big Ten.
Nebraska had very high expectations coming into the 2022 season but is no desperately grasping for ways to be one of the eight teams to make the Big Ten tournament.
Their 7-10 conference record is tied for eighth in the league with Northwestern and Indiana.
Sweeping Minnesota was key to getting into the tournament and creating some sort of momentum.
With that being said, what's done is done. Nebraska lost terribly in 12 innings. They need to move on. Tomorrow is a new day and another day to win and get closer to the tournament.
Nebraska and Minnesota are back at Siegert Field in Minneapolis at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The game can be watched on B1G+ or heard on Huskers Radio Network.