Nebraska looked dead in the water down three runs headed into the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Huskers had put runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings and only come away with one run. But Nebraska quickly loaded the bases off Iowa reliever Nick Brown and with one run in, and runners on second and third, freshman Pat Kelly drove a belt-high slider to the warning track in center to tie the game.
In the next at-bat, Kale Kiser delivered an RBI single on a belt-high slider to give Nebraska a 9-8 victory and take the series over Iowa.
"We talk about getting over the hump and winning series and conference games, I'm not sure you can face much more adversity than we did there and our guys responded against a very good closer," head coach Darin Erstad said. "I tip my hat to our players."
The late-inning effort rectified a stretch of innings where Nebraska saw a 4-1 lead evaporate into an 8-4 deficit. Nebraska closer Travis Huber came in to stop the bleeding, pitching 1.2 innings of scoreless baseball to improve to 1-2 on the season.
While it's easy to overstate the importance of individual games, Nebraska was in danger of dropping its second-straight Big Ten series until the heroic ninth inning. Kiser, who has struggled all season at the plate, missed badly on two pitches before lining a single to right field.
While meeting with media after the game, Rich Sanguinetti splattered a towel full of shaving cream in Kiser's face.
"I told these guys before, that's why you play this game, so you can come through in that situation," said Kiser, who came into Sunday 2 of 16 at the plate dating back to March 27. "I was happy to get it done."
At least in the early-going, it seemed that Nebraska was in for a laugher. Josh Scheffert put Nebraska ahead 2-1 with his fourth homer of the season, a solo shot to right to leadoff the second inning.
Nebraska added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on a fielder's choice off the bat of Michael Pritchard. Sanguinetti singled to score a run, but Pritchard was cut down at home plate trying to score to end the inning with Nebraska leading 4-1.
Iowa (13-16, 4-5 Big Ten) finally got to Nebraska starter Zach Hirsch in the top of the sixth. Hirsch walked leadoff hitter Jake Mangler, and Ryan Rumpf and Phil Keppler followed with back-to-back singles to make the score 4-2. Hirsch allowed eight hits and three runs in five innings, but did not factor in the decision.
Nebraska reliever Dylan Vogt relieved Hirsch and retired one hitter, before allowing an RBI single to make the score 4-3 Nebraska. Vogt then struck out pinch hitter Taylor Zeutenhorst before issuing a walk to load the bases, but Tyler King got out of the jam to end the inning.
Iowa struck back in the top of the seventh. Leadoff hitter Jake Yacinich reached second on an error by Austin Darby on a ball that glanced off his glove in left field. Mangler was hit by a pitch, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. The Hawkeyes then scored a run on an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly to right field by Keppler.
Erstad said his team lost some of its momentum in the middle of the game, but didn't stop believing in the later innings. The first-year head coach had said after Saturday's game that his team needed a come-from-behind win to continue to grow. It got one Sunday.
"This is an ongoing process and these guys are still learning to win, but this was obviously a big step in that process," Erstad said. "I'm proud of our guys."
-- Nebraska kicks off its series with in-state rivals Creighton on Tuesday night in Lincoln. Erstad said he plans to start Jon Keller against the Bluejays.
-- Sunday's win was Nebraska's second come-from-behind win of the season. The first came against New Mexico State in March on Sanguinetti's walk-off homer in the ninth.
-- Pritchard went 2 for 5 with an RBI in Sunday's win and is batting .405 this year -- the only Husker to be batting better than .400.
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