Red Wing native Pat Kelly hit a three-run homer during Nebraska’s six-run fourth inning, and the Cornhuskers held on for a 7-4 victory over the Gophers on Friday, eliminating Minnesota from the Big Ten Tournament.
Still needing three wins to win the tournament, third-seeded Nebraska (27-29) will play Saturday at 3:35, facing the loser of Friday night’s winner’s bracket game between Ohio State and Indiana.
The 64-team NCAA Tournament field will be announced Monday, and the Gophers (32-22) don’t expect a berth.
Fourth-seeded Minnesota finished 2-2 in the first Big Ten tourney at Target Field, including a 3-1 victory earlier Friday against Illinois.
This time, Gophers freshman Dalton Sawyer made his first collegiate start. The true freshman from Waconia, Minn., had posted a 3.09 ERA in 17 appearances, all in relief. He looked good for the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, but things unraveled quickly in the fourth.
After Chad Christensen hit a leadoff single, Sawyer made an errant pickoff throw to first, allowing the runner to reach third base.
Sawyer also mishandled a suicide squeeze bunt by Tanner Lubach, three batters before Kelly hit his home run.
Trailing 6-0, the Gophers got right to work the next half-inning. Connor Schaefbauer hit an RBI single, and then with two outs, Matt Halloran hit a three-run homer over the right-field wall.
Just like that it was 6-4.
Nebraska added an insurance run in the seventh, as Kelly doubled and scored on Christensen’s sacrifice fly.