LINCOLN–(News Release Apr. 16)–The Nebraska softball team took a one-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night at No. 24 Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers scored twice in their final at bat to rally for an 8-7 victory.
In a nearly three-hour game that featured a tight strike zone, more than 300 pitches, 12 walks and eight errors, both teams created opportunities for their opponent and it was Minnesota taking advantage of the final opportunity, as Nebraska issued three walks and committed one error in the bottom of the seventh.
The Gophers made five errors and Nebraska out-hit Minnesota 10-8. But the Huskers committed three errors of their own and issued a season-high nine walks while also dealing with multiple illegal pitch calls, which had not been an issue for Nebraska during the first 24 games of the season.
Minnesota led 4-1 before Nebraska scored six times in the fifth inning, sending 11 batters to the place. Leading 7-4, the Huskers made a pitching change but senior right-hander Olivia Ferrell faced only three batters – and did not allow a hit – before being removed from the game due to a series of illegal pitch calls. The illegal pitches erased an out on the leadoff batter and resulted in ball four to the third hitter of the inning, and both of those runners ended up scoring as Minnesota cut the lead to 7-6.
Following a scoreless sixth inning, Nebraska opened the door for Minnesota’s walk-off win. A leadoff walk, a bloop single and another walk loaded the bases for MaKenna Partain, the Gophers’ leadoff hitter and the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week. She delivered an RBI single through the right side and a throwing error on the play allowed the winning run to score.
Nebraska, which lost when leading after six innings for the first time since March 10, 2018, fell to 14-11 on the season, including 1-3 against ranked opponents. The Huskers’ three losses to ranked opponents have come by a total of four runs, including a pair of walk-off defeats.
Junior right-hander Courtney Wallace (6-5) took the loss in a game she started and re-entered. In 5.2 total innings, Wallace allowed six runs, only three of which were earned. She threw 159 pitches against the tight strike zone and walked a career-high-tying seven batters. Wallace was forced to throw nearly the entire game after Ferrell faced only three batters in the sixth inning. Although she did not allow a hit, Ferrell was charged with two walks – both of which came on illegal pitches – in one-third of an inning.
Offensively, the Huskers lost for the first time this season when out-hitting their opponent. Nebraska natives Peyton Glatter, Brooke Andrews and Rylie Unzicker each had two hits to pace the offense. Glatter was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, Andrews went 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI and Unzicker finished 2-for-4 with a walk. Wallace, seniors Tristen Edwards and Cam Ybarra and freshman Kaylin Kinney each had one hit for the Big Red. Edwards went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and a double. Edwards’ double was the 48th of her career, tying Nebraska’s all-time record.
Ava Dueck (2-0) earned the win in relief of All-American Amber Fiser for Minnesota (20-6). Dueck allowed only one hit in 2.1 scoreless innings.
The scoring began in the bottom of the third inning when Sara Kinch led off with a home run to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. An infield single and a pair of errors then put Gophers on second and third with no outs for Natalie DenHartog, who produced a two-run triple to right center to push the lead to 3-0.
Looking to answer, Wallace led off the top of the fourth inning with a bloop double down the right field line. Kinney advanced Wallace to third with a ground out and Glatter brought Wallace home with a clutch two-out, RBI single to cut the lead to 3-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, three walks and two wild pitches loaded the bases for Minnesota with only one out. A third wild pitch allowed a run to come home and make it a 4-1 game. That would be the only run the Gophers scored, as Wallace used a pop out and a strikeout to end the inning.
Nebraska then scored six times in the sixth inning to grab a 7-4 lead. Unzicker led off with her second leadoff single of the day. After freshman Billie Andrews reached on a fielder’s choice, Edwards walked for the second time in the game and Ybarra followed with a single to load the bases with one out. Wallace then reached on an error that scored Andrews to cut the lead to 4-2. Kinney fell behind in the count before grounding an RBI single up the middle to make it a one-run game. Following a strikeout, Glatter lined a 3-2 pitch to the gap in left center for a two-run double that gave Nebraska its first lead at 5-4. Brooke Andrews then beat out an infield single to score freshman pinch runner Caitlynn Neal and a throwing error on the play allowed Glatter to score as well to give Nebraska a three-run lead.
Ferrell entered the game in the bottom of the fifth and appeared to retire the first batter she faced, but the out was erased on an illegal pitch call and the batter eventually walked on another illegal pitch ruling. After a ground out, a second walk – again aided by illegal pitch calls – put runners on first and second with only one out. The illegal pitches forced Wallace to re-enter the game, and she promptly gave up an RBI single. An RBI ground out brought home the second run of the inning and cut the Husker lead to 7-6. Wallace preserved the lead however by striking out DenHartog with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Nebraska nearly added a much-needed insurance run when Brooke Andrews tripled with two outs in the top of the seventh, but she was stranded there.
In the bottom of the seventh, a leadoff walk, a bloop single and another walk loaded the bases with no outs. That set the stage for Partain’s game-tying single and the Husker error that allowed the winning run to score.
Nebraska and Minnesota continue their four-game series with a doubleheader Saturday at Noon.