Indiana advances to Big Ten tournament final
Hoosiers beat Ohio State, which faces Nebraska for right to advance
MINNEAPOLIS -- Top-seed Indiana moved within one win of claiming the Big Ten tournament title by taking down Ohio State, 11-3, Friday night at a rain-soaked Target Field.
Four tightly contested innings gave way to Indiana's six-run fifth. The Hoosiers beat No. 2 Ohio State with six straight hits with two out to recover from a 3-2 deficit. The damage came with Buckeyes starter Brian King on the mound, but all six runs were unearned after several fielding miscues.
Sophomore Sam Travis led Indiana's offensive barrage with a 3-for-4, four-RBI night, including a home run in the sixth inning that improved Indiana's lead to six runs.
The Hoosiers, who defeated local Minnesota in their opening game Thursday, received a critical seven-inning outing from starter Joey DeNato. Holding Ohio State to three runs, DeNato stabilized after a shaky fifth inning, allowing Indiana to use only one pitcher from its bullpen, Luke Harrison, to finish off the game.
Ohio State's loss puts it on the brink of elimination. The Buckeyes could earn a rematch with Indiana in Saturday's championship game with a victory in the afternoon against Nebraska. Following a walk-off loss to Ohio State on Thursday, the Huskers stayed alive Friday by knocking Minnesota out of the tourney with a 7-4 win.
Sophomore Pat Kelly's three-run homer punctuated a six-run fourth inning to propel third-seeded Nebraska to a 7-4 victory against Minnesota, bumping the Gophers out of the tourney hours after they beat Illinois to survive.
"To be honest, our guys were crushed. They really wanted that game [against Ohio State] last night," said Nebraska coach Darin Erstad, a 14-year Major League veteran. "We're a very resilient group. We kept grinding out at-bats. It's what we do. We've had great success in doing that and finally breaking through in an inning. We keep pressing along and eventually it comes through."
Nebraska had already turned three consecutive singles into a 3-0 lead in the fourth, when Kelly rocketed a pitch from Gophers starter Dalton Sawyer into the left-field bleachers for the first home run of the tournament. Five of the 10 hits the Huskers collected off Minnesota came in the fourth inning.
But the Gophers, who beat the Illini, 3-1, with a three-run fourth earlier in the afternoon, didn't fade easily. A half inning after Nebraska took a lead, Minnesota countered with four runs, including a three-run home run by Matt Halloran.
Nebraska extinguished the rally, however, with relievers Luke Bublitz and Josh Roeder holding the Gophers to one hit in four shutout innings.
While Nebraska still has an opportunity to earn an NCAA tournament berth with a run to the title game, Minnesota will likely be left without a bid.
Nate Sandell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.