The Nebraska baseball team is becoming proficient at late-game wins.
For the third time in as many days, the Huskers used a late-inning rally to turn back Northwestern. On Sunday, Nebraska counted on a leaky Wildcat defense to post an 8-6 victory and earn a sweep of the Big Ten series.
"We'd been doing a good job earlier in the year of finding ways to lose. Now, we're starting to find some ways to win games," coach Darin Erstad said. "Just like you can learn how to lose, you can learn how to win. And we're seeing that.
"We're starting to get those guys with the big two-out RBIs late in the game, where they're sticking with the approach, taking the line drives the other way. Those will build confidence for future games."
Northwestern tied the game 4-4 with three runs in the fifth inning, roughing up reliever Michael Hoppes before Zach Hirsch came on to pitch 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to pick up the victory.
The Huskers took the lead for good when Rich Sanguinetti hit a two-out double and scored on a pair of outfield errors.
Nebraska broke the game open in the seventh, capitalizing on two hits and a pair of Northwestern errors.
Blake Headley reached on a one-out single. Tanner Lubach bounced into what might have been an inning-ending double play, but Wildcat second baseman Antonio Freschet dropped the ball.
Headley was originally called out by umpire Sal Giamantonio, indicating the drop came when he was trying to get the ball out of his glove to throw to first. After a conference with the other umpires, the call was reversed.
Northwestern coach Paul Stevens argued his case but was eventually thrown out of the game.
"Like umpires are supposed to do in certain situations, they get together and get the call right," Erstad said. "Fortunately, we were on the good end of that a couple of times this weekend. It's nice the crew worked together and got the call right."
Bryan Peters then reached on another error, loading the bases for Sanguinetti, who bounced out to the pitcher as Headley scored. Pat Kelly followed with a two-run single to right field, scoring Peters and Lubach.
Northwestern trimmed the deficit with a pair of runs on two hits and two Husker errors in the eighth, and Nebraska committed a season-high third error in the ninth before Dylan Vogt got out of a jam.
The Huskers started aggressively when Sanguinetti hustled for a double to lead off the bottom of the first and came home on a single by Kelly. In the second, Headley singled and went to third on Peters' hit to left. Sanguinetti's bunt single plated Headley and sent Peters to third. Kelly followed with an RBI single.
Kelly, who was 0-for-9 in the 16-inning opener won by the Huskers 10-9, bounced back with eight hits in 10 appearances in the final two games, driving in four runs Sunday.
"I felt fine on Friday, hitting balls hard. The rest of the weekend, I kept at it," Kelly said. "I was around after the first game with the guys. Baseball's supposed to be fun. You're supposed to go out and have a blast with your teammates."
* Tyler Niederklein made his first conference start and gave the Huskers four innings. He is trying to work his way back into the rotation after hip surgery.
"Throwing up zeroes in the beginning of the game is really big," he said. "I was just going to try to go as deep as I could and as hard as I could. In the dugout, I'm moving around quite a bit to stay loose. It's kind of a mystery to see how long I could go."
* The seven errors by Northwestern were the most by an NU opponent since Gonzaga committed seven a year ago.
* Nebraska heads back to Manhattan, Kan., on Tuesday for a 6:35 p.m. game against Kansas State. That game will be televised on Fox Sports Midwest. Kansas State won last Tuesday 10-8.
NEBRASKA 8, NORTHWESTERN 6
|Stevens ss||5||1||2||0||Sanguinetti cf||5||2||3||2|
|Ruchim 3b||4||1||0||0||Kelly 2b||5||1||4||4|
|Morton dh/p||5||1||2||2||Pritchard dh||5||0||1||0|
|Havey 1b||4||2||1||1||Christensen lf||4||0||1||0|
|Heelan c||4||0||1||0||Darby rf||5||0||1||0|
|Mitchell lf||4||0||1||1||Kalkowski 1b||5||0||1||0|
|Jones rf||4||0||1||1||Headley 3b||5||2||2||0|
|Freschet 2b||4||0||0||1||Lubach c||4||1||0||0|
|Moses cf||1||0||0||0||Peters ss||4||2||1||0|
E--Ruchim (3); Mitchell (1); Freschet 3(5); Dauch (1); Magallones (3); Kelly (5); Headley (1); Peters (3). DP-- Nebraska 1. LOB--Northwestern 7; Nebraska 11. 2B--Morton; Heelan; Sanguinetti 2; SB--Dauch (1); Darby (6).
HBP--by Hoppes (Moses). T--2:21. A--2,334.