Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.
Email Joe to talk about the Gophers.
Scott Donley hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning Sunday at Target Field, giving Indiana a 4-3 victory over Nebraska and the Big Ten Tournament title.
Freshman Will Coursen-Carr tossed a complete game for the Hoosiers.
Indiana (43-14) survived another feisty comeback by Nebraska (29-30), which had climbed its way through the loser’s bracket, going 4-2 in the tournament. The Cornhuskers forced Sunday's rematch after defeating Indiana 7-6 in 11 innings on Saturday night.
On Sunday, Indiana took a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning, but the Cornhuskers tied it with single runs in the seventh and eighth.
The NCAA selections will be announced Monday, and the Hoosiers have a chance to secure a top-eight seed. The Hoosiers also won the Big Ten regular season title this year, something they hadn’t done since 1949. Indiana’s last Big Ten Tournament championship came in 2009.
Nebraska needed to win the conference tournament to secure an NCAA bid, since it finished with a sub-.500 record.
Nebraska was three games under .500 entering the Big Ten baseball tournament. Now, the Cornhuskers are one win from a championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA tourney.
Nebraska continued its improbable climb Saturday at Target Field, defeating second-seeded Ohio State 5-0 and then besting top-seeded Indiana in a 7-6, 11-inning thriller.
The Indiana game was filled with big hits and momentum shifts. Nebraska overcame a 5-2 deficit and blew a 6-5 lead with the Hoosiers down to their final strike.
Leading off the 11th inning, sophomore catcher Tanner Lubach won it with a walk-off homer into the left-field seats. It was Lubach's first hit in 17 tournament at-bats.
The third-seeded Cornhuskers (29-29) will face Indiana again at noon Sunday, and this time it’s winner-take-all.
The Hoosiers (42-14) are a virtual lock to make the 64-team NCAA field, so the stakes are much higher for Nebraska.
Cornhuskers coach Darin Erstad held off on using his top pitcher, Christian DeLeon, on Friday against the Gophers, using his bullpen to eliminate Minnesota with a 7-4 victory. DeLeon (7-4) got his chance against Ohio State and allowed just five hits in eight shutout innings.
Erstad went back to his bullpen against Indiana, giving Dylan Vogt his first start of the season. On Thursday, Vogt walked home the winning run in the ninth inning in Nebraska’s 3-2 loss to Ohio State.
But the Cornhuskers have won three straight games since that disappointing moment. Vogt needed just 68 pitches to get through seven-plus innings against Indiana.
Kyle Schwarber connected for a two-run homer in the third inning, and Sam Travis hit a three-run shot in the fifth, giving Indiana a 5-2 lead.
But Nebraska trimmed it to 5-4 in the sixth and scored two more in the seventh to move in front. Red Wing native Pat Kelly singled and scored during the go-ahead rally, continuing his outstanding tournament.
When Indiana was down to its final strike in the ninth inning, pinch hitter Ricky Alfonso hit a game-tying, RBI double to right field. But the magic didn’t end there for Nebraska. Lubach made sure of it.
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.
After fending off elimination with a 3-1 victory over Illinois on Friday afternoon, the fourth-seeded Gophers have to come right back and play third-seeded Nebraska in another Big Ten Tournament elimination game.
The Gophers will start lefthander Dalton Sawyer, a true freshman from Waconia, Minn.. He is 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA, but all 17 of his appearances have come in relief. Nebraska counters with senior righthander Ryan Hander.
The Gophers are 2-1 so far in the tournament, and Nebraska is 1-1. The winner of this game will play Saturday at 3:35 p.m., against either Indiana or Ohio State.
Nebraska went 2-1 against the Gophers at Siebert Field in mid-May, outscoring Minnesota in that series 17-4.
Don't let the Cornhuskers' 26-29 record fool you. Darin Erstad's team played a tough non-conference schedule with series against Cal State Fullerton, Texas, UC-Irvine, Arkansas and Oklahoma State.
1. Schaefbauer, 2B
2. Schlangen, RF
3. Henkemeyer, LF
4. Halloran, C
5. Olinger, 1B
6. Tatera, DH
7. Handel, SS
8. Abrahamson, 3B
9. Larson, CF
Starting pitcher: LH Sawyer (2-2, 3.09 ERA)
1. Kelly, 2B
2. Pritchard, LF
3. Christensen, RF
4. Kalkowski, 1B
5. Scheffert, DH
6. Headley, 3B
7. Lubach, C
8. Darby, CF
9. Peters, SS
Starting pitcher: RH Hander (0-2, 6.00 ERA)
Target Field. First pitch: 3:35 p.m. TV: Big Ten Network
Alec Crawford pitched 6 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run, and redshirt freshman Lance Thonvold recorded the final seven outs, as the Gophers defeated Illinois 3-1 on Friday in a Big Ten Tournament elimination game at Target Field.
Illinois (34-18) got knocked out of the tournament, but the Fighting Illini entered at No. 30 in the RPI rankings and still have a strong chance to make the 64-team NCAA field.
The Gophers (32-21) will need to win the conference tournament to advance, and they’re still four wins away. They are scheduled to face Nebraska at 3:35 p.m.
Illinois grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning, capitalizing on a two-out error by shortstop Michael Handel.
But Minnesota came back with three runs in the fourth off Illinois starter Ryan Castellanos. Andy Henkemyer lined a double, and Dan Olinger tied it with a two-out single to left field. The Gophers added three bloop singles after that -- by Mark Tatera, Handel and Ryan Abrhamson -- leading to two more runs.
With Crawford (4-2) at 100 pitches, the Gophers turned to Thonvold with two runners aboard in the seventh inning. Thonvold retired Thomas Lindauer to end that threat and pitched the final two innings.
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