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NU baseball vs. Arizona State, 5.11

Nebraska's Angelo Altavilla holds on to his helmet as he races toward home plate against Arizona State in the bottom of the fourth inning Saturday at Haymarket Park. Altavilla and the Huskers face Michigan starting Thursday with a chance to finish in first in the Big Ten.

The math gets a little sticky when you start looking at where Nebraska could finish in the Big Ten baseball standings. 

Put simply, the Huskers are still alive to win the conference title. Or, NU could finish seventh.

With league-leading Michigan in town to wrap up the season with a three-game set at Haymarket Park starting Thursday, there still exists a world of possibilities for this team as it jockeys for conference tournament position and, more importantly, tries to enhance its NCAA Tournament resume.

"Michigan's in first place right now, and I want nothing more than to knock them out of first place and hopefully give us a shot," senior infielder Angelo Altavilla said Wednesday. "The excitement is high right now. We're fighting for our lives. I couldn't be happier with where we are."

Nebraska (26-19, 13-8 Big Ten) is tied for third in the Big Ten with Illinois and Minnesota. The Huskers can still finish anywhere from first to seventh, but the most likely spot is somewhere in the middle.

The Huskers sit 2½ games behind Michigan, and one game behind second-place Indiana. Iowa is in sixth, one game back of the teams tied for third. Northwestern is seventh, three games behind NU.

The problem for Nebraska comes in potential ties. Because of series losses to Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Northwestern, the Huskers would lose the first tiebreaker (head-to-head record) to all four teams should any ties arise out of this weekend.

Nebraska didn't play Indiana this season. Should the Huskers and Hoosiers end up tied, the next tiebreaker is record among common league opponents. The teams share six common foes, including Michigan. 

Indiana went 12-6 against those teams. Nebraska is currently 9-6. So, NU would need a sweep of Michigan, then need to pass Indiana in the RPI (the next tiebreaker), where the Hoosiers were nine spots higher than the Huskers as of Wednesday. Indiana hosts eighth-place Rutgers this weekend.

That math matters little to Erstad, who is focused on Nebraska playing its best baseball in Thursday's series opener. 

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"I treat every game exactly the same. So we're either going to be the first seed or we're going to be the seventh seed," Erstad said. "I guess, considering the next game is the most important, that's a pretty big game coming."

While the series is scheduled to wrap up Saturday, there is a chance the teams could play a doubleheader Friday to avoid potential bad weather in the Lincoln area. Saturday's forecast calls for likely rain after 1 p.m.

According to Big Ten rules, Nebraska and Michigan must complete their series in three days. And with the Big Ten Tournament starting next Wednesday, a Friday doubleheader is a real possibility.

"We're going to wait as long as we possibly can, but we have to have it done by Saturday," Erstad said. "I want no part of a doubleheader. I'd like to play one each day, but we have to at least keep that option open."

Either way, after a season of ups and downs, Nebraska is playing meaningful baseball at the end of the year.

"It's going to be unreal. It's going to be a fun weekend," senior pitcher Nate Fisher said. "It's crazy that it's coming down to this last weekend at Haymarket, but I'm excited for it."

Big Ten Tournament tickets on sale

Those interested in purchasing tickets for next week's Big Ten Tournament can now do so. 

Tickets are available by navigating to the baseball page at Huskers.com and clicking on the "Big Ten Tickets" link. 

The tournament will be played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

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

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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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