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Nebraska lost a four-run lead and waited more than four hours over two separate weather delays to ultimately drop the deciding game and the series to the Illinois Fighting Illini, losing 5-4 on Sunday.

Colby Gomes stunned the crowd in Champaign with his grand slam in the top of the 3rd. It broke a 0-0 tie and could have allowed Nebraska (20-29 overall, 8-13 Big Ten) to settle into the series-deciding Sunday battle.

However, lightning delayed the game later in the third inning, and play did not resume for about 90 minutes. Illinois (28-20, 14-7) eventually chipped away at Nebraska’s lead, holding NU scoreless after the Gomes granny and scoring a run in the sixth, two more in the seventh and one more in the eighth to tie it at 4-4.

Then, another delay – this time for over three hours.

Nebraska, desperate for a season-saving win, went quietly in the top of the ninth. With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Corbin Hawkins (L, 0-2) gave up back-to-back singles. The second single was mishandled in the outfield, allowing the Illini runner to score all the way from first and end the game.

It was a cruel twist to an already underachieving season, as the Huskers are on the outside looking in after being picked to repeat as conference champions. Instead, it appears the Huskers will miss the Big Ten Tournament altogether, as only the top eight teams qualify for the postseason games in Omaha.

Saturday’s win was a feel-good 11-2 victory. Cam Chick, Max Anderson, and Colby Gomes all homered. After a scoreless first two frames, the Huskers scored in each of the next six innings.

Anderson started the party with a two-run bomb in the third. Gomes led off the fourth with a solo shot. Anderson struck again in the fifth with a one-out, two-run double to make it 5-0. Then Cam Chick smacked a sixth-inning, two-run dinger, extending the lead to 7-0.

Meanwhile, Husker starter Emmett Olsen (W, 3-3) was cruising on the mound. Olsen powered through 6.2 innings, not allowing either of his two runs until NU already led by a touchdown. He fanned six batters and allowed seven hits as the offense continued to pad the lead.

Koty Frank relieved Olsen, getting the final out of the seventh inning and all three outs in the eighth.

After striking out 12 times Friday, including five Huskers with multiple Ks, Nebraska’s lineup cut that in half, with no batter striking out more than once.

Game one of the series put Nebraska behind the 8-ball, as they fell 8-3. The Illini scored runs in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings, with the big blow coming in the form of Taylor Jackson's third-inning three-run homer. The Illinois center fielder made it 5-1

Friday starter Shay Schanaman (L, 2-8) went 3.1 innings for the Big Red, yielding seven runs on nine hits. Mason Ornelas did the heavy lifting, scattering one run and five hits over 4.1 innings and saving much of NU’s bullpen for the rest of the weekend.

Core Jackson went 2-4 with two RBIs, and Josh Caron drove in the other run.

Nebraska is tied for ninth in the Big Ten standings with Northwestern. Both teams have 8-13 conference records. In the final weekend of the regular season, eighth-place Purdue (9-10) hosts Maryland, and tied-for-sixth Michigan (10-11) hosts Rutgers. The Terps and Scarlet Knights are tied for first place entering the final weekend. Tied-for-sixth Indiana (10-11) plays at tied-for-third Iowa this weekend. Northwestern will be at last-place Minnesota (5-16), whose only Big Ten series win this year came against Nebraska.

The Huskers host Michigan State, tied for 11th place, for three games starting Thursday to close out the regular season. Nebraska will will first host Oral Roberts in Lincoln on Tuesday night.

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