Huskers Rally Past Buckeyes Again
Ten minutes after another walk off win, a dog pile on hero Tanner Lubach and the post-game cool down period, Michael Pritchard jogged up up to the microphones in the post game news conference, wide-eyed and short of breath.
“I think that pretty much sums it up right there,” Darin Erstad said from across the table.
Lubach delivered the sacrifice fly that put Ohio State on ice in the bottom of the ninth; the inning in which the Buckeyes entered with a three-run lead. For the second time this season, Nebraska knocked off Ohio State with a walk-off comeback win, this time by overcoming a 6-0 deficit. Pat Kelly delivered three hits for Nebraska, including the RBI single that tied the game up in the bottom of the ninth, setting up Lubach for the game winner.
“I mean they’re fun, but it’d be nice to put them away earlier,” Kelly said. Erstad nodded in agreement. “I think coach is getting a few gray hairs.”
Ohio State scored all six of its runs in the fourth after cracking Huskers starter Chance Sinclair, who went 3.1 innings and gave up five runs on five hits. Nebraska answered with three runs in in the fifth, but left three runners on base. Pitching dominated the next three innings, which all ended scoreless before Nebraska broke through in the ninth.
Kelly got one of his three RBIs on the afternoon in the fifth when Nebraska cut the deficit to three runs.
You might say it was Ohio State who started Nebraska’s rally in the ninth, with three straight batters put on base thanks to two walks and a hit by pitch. After Christian Cox struck out, Michael Pritchard took Nebraska’s fourth free base of the inning as he walked, bringing in a run.
Pritchard said the pressure in the ninth was staying patient with at-bats with a rally mentality
“You’ve got to trust yourself,” he said. “You can’t get too big, because when you get too big that’s when you pop up, (and) hit into double plays.”
After the walk, Ohio State pulled Trace Dempsey, the former All-American closer who gave up a run without a single Husker hit. Tyler Giannotti didn’t fare much better out of the bullpen, giving up a subsequent single to Pat Kelly that brought home the game-tying runs.
“I always have so much confidence with PK behind me. This kid’s a hit machine, just doing what he always does,” Pritcahrd said. “He loves the drama.”
Like Pritchard, Kelly said Nebraska has been in enough high-pressure situations not to be shell-shocked by a late really attempt. Kelly never questioned Nebraska’s chances, he said.
“The approach doesn’t change,” Kelly said. “You’ve just got to go up there looking to drive a fastball the other way and react to anything off speed. He gave me a fastball, and I just hit it up the middle and stuck to my approach.”
Previously, Pritchard said Kelly told him not to take too big of a swing. All they need was a line drive up the middle.
“And then what’s he do? Hits a line drive up the middle,” Pritchard said. “He preaches it and he just does it.”
With just one down, Ben Miller had the chance to play hero for Nebraska, but the Buckeyes intentionally walked him to load the bases, leaving the job to Tanner Lubach, who was in familiar territory. He blasted a walk-off home run in last year’s Big Ten tournament to force a second championship game against Indiana.
Lubach launched a ball high to center field. He had achieved the fly out portion of the sacrifice fly, but it looked like the ball might not have flown deep enough for Pritchard to tag up at third and get home for the win.
“It’s a jailbreak. You know you’re sending him, there’s no question about it,” Erstad said. “You hope they have a tough time playing catch.”
The Buckeyes fielded the catch, but Pritchard beat a close play at the plate for Nebraksa’s seventh run – the game-winner that sealed the comeback win. Erstad said three years ago, he had to teach his team to believe in these kinds of rallies. After multiple comeback wins and walk offs in 2014, they know it now.
“We’re past that point. I don’t have to say anything — they believe. We spent two and a half years trying to get them to believe in themselves,” he said. “Once they do it and they smell it and taste it…boy, I don’t have to say anything anymore.”