Nebraska’s two wins over top 10 Arkansas in April are still the Huskers’ best of the season, but the two game Nebraska took from league-leader Minnesota over this past weekend may go down as the most important.
The series with the Gophers unfolded in about the exact opposite way most would have predicted. Nebraska beat Tom Windle and D.J. Snelton, a pair of major league pitching prospects, on Friday and Sunday respectively. Those two games sandwiched the first start in which Huskers’ ace Kyle Kubat didn’t record a win.
That sets up a wild final weekend in the Big Ten, where four teams have a shot at the regular season title and seven teams are fighting for six spots in the conference tournament. Perhaps most importantly, both of the top two seeds in the tournament — which receive crucial first round byes — are up for grabs.
With a few cancellations in play — and more, of course, possible this weekend — the conference race will be decided on winning percentage. Here’s how the top four sit headed into the final weekend:
1. INDIANA (15-6, .714) – If the Hoosiers sweep Ohio State in Columbus this weekend, Indiana is your regular season Big Ten champion. Win the series 2-1, and the Hoosiers are still conference champions unless Minnesota sweeps its weekend series. If it comes down to tiebreakers, Indiana has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Nebraska but didn’t face Minnesota this season. NEXT GAME: 5/14 @Kentucky, NEXT SERIES: 5/16 – 5/18 @Ohio State.
2. OHIO STATE (14-7, .667) – The Buckeyes need a series win over Indiana to have a shot at being Big Ten champions. Sweep the Hoosiers and only Minnesota can catch Ohio State as the Buckeyes own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Nebraska. NEXT GAME: 5/14 Louisville, NEXT SERIES: 5/16 – 5/18 Indiana.
3. MINNESOTA (12-6, .667) – The Gophers can take home the conference crown by sweeping Illinois (31-15, 12-9) UNLESS Indiana also wins all three of its games over the weekend. Minnesota has an advantage having played three fewer conference games but in the unlikely event of a tie, Ohio State has the head-to-head tiebreaker. Indiana and Minnesota didn’t play this year but, trust me, you don’t want to wade too far into the official Big Ten tiebreaker waters unless you have to. NEXT SERIES: 5/16 – 5/18 Illinois
4. NEBRASKA (14-7, .667) – There’s one scenario where Nebraska wins the Big Ten regular season title outright, but three conditions must be met: 1) Nebraska sweeps Michigan (27-23, 12-9) at home this weekend, 2) Ohio State takes two of three from Indiana and 3) Illinois beats Minnesota once. To claim the two seed and earn a tournament bye, the Huskers have to finish with one fewer loss than either Indiana or Ohio State AND the same winning percentage as Minnesota as Nebraska has the first tiebreaker over the Gophers. NEXT GAME: 5/14 @Creighton, NEXT SERIES: 5/16 – 5/18 Michigan.
Everything make sense? Don’t worry if it doesn’t, just know this is going to be a great weekend of baseball in the Big Ten.
But before we get there, Nebraska finishes up its regular season series with in-state rival Creighton on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The game will be shown statewide on NET.