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Scott Schreiber stared down Indiana’s catcher. Angelo Altavilla stared down a home run.

And a suddenly feisty Nebraska baseball team is still staring down a chance to rally for a Big Ten Tournament berth.

Matt Waldron pitched seven strong innings, Jesse Wilkening and Altavilla homered, and the Huskers downed Indiana 5-2 in front of 4,778 Friday night at Haymarket Park.

In picking up their second Big Ten series-opening win of the season, the Huskers (23-24, 7-10 Big Ten) won for the sixth time in their last nine games, sent Indiana to its fifth consecutive loss, and kept alive their hopes of earning a top-eight conference finish and a spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan State upset league-leading Minnesota on the Gophers' home field Friday night. That, coupled with Indiana's loss to the Huskers, left the Spartans and Hoosiers tied for seventh in the league standings, and Nebraska next, 1½ games back.

"I don't know off the top of my head if it's a must-win, but it's pretty darn close," NU coach Darin Erstad said. "So yeah, we need to win a lot of games."

The Huskers showed some attitude in winning Friday.

When Schreiber scored from second on an error bottom of the fifth, he popped up after sliding into home under Indiana catcher Ryan Fineman and stared him down while emphatically giving a safe signal after the ball popped out of Fineman's glove.

Altavilla ended the scoring in the next inning, leading off the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer that cleared the Indian bullpen in right field.

The junior, who was in a 7-for-46 slump coming into the at-bat, admired his shot for a couple seconds before flipping his bat and rounding the bases.

That led to some words from Fineman, who chirped at Altavilla as he took off for first base and again as he trotted down the third base line. Erstad was was seen telling Altavilla "Don't do that again" as he got back to the dugout.

Brison Cronenbold took Altavilla's place at shortstop in the top of the seventh.

"It was awesome. It was a little chippy. It was great," Wilkening said of the game. "We haven't had that type of game in a long time. So it was a lot of fun."

It wasn't so much fun for Indiana (31-15, 9-9), which lost for the fifth time in a row, and ninth time in its last 11 games.

The Hoosiers had a chance to build a big lead early, loading the bases with one out in the top of the first with a pair of hits that traveled a total of about 300 feet, and a hit batter. Indiana then scored on Waldron's only walk of the game before the junior induced an inning-ending double play.

Waldron went on to hold Indiana to two runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out eight with the one walk while throwing 76 of his 112 pitches for strikes.

"Oh my gosh. At the time I was probably still a little worked up, but right when it happened in was a big relief and it was a big momentum shift for us," Waldron said of the double play. "I would say it's just a testament to what I've been trying to do and what we're supposed to do: rely on the defense and just let them work."

Indiana's only other run came in the top of the fourth when Logan Sowers curled a solo homer just inside the right field foul pole.

Waldron, Reece Eddins and Jake Hohensee combined to hold the Hoosiers hitless over the game's final three innings.

Nebraska will go for the series win beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"I think we're just fighting to get in the tourney, so there's a little bit of a chip on our shoulder," said Wilkening, who hit a two-run homer in the third inning. "Coach (Erstad) said it before — every game is a postseason game for us, so we've adopted that."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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