(Courtesy Nebraska Athletics)
The Nebraska softball team erased a pair of early three-run deficits in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader with Illinois, rallying for a 10-6 victory to complete the doubleheader sweep of the Fighting Illini.
The Huskers trailed 3-0 after the top of the first inning and 5-2 after the top of the second. But Nebraska tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the second inning and then took the lead for good with a two-out rally in the fourth, scoring four times with two outs.
Nebraska scored double-digit runs for third time this season. The Huskers had 10 hits in the game, including multi-hit performances from freshman Billie Andrews and seniors Cam Ybarra and Ally Riley. Andrews was 2-for-3 with a career-high two home runs and three RBIs. Ybarra finished 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, while Riley was 2-for-3. Junior Courtney Wallace had a two-out, RBI triple as part of a two-RBI day. Senior Tristen Edwards walked in each of her first two plate appearances before popping out in the fourth. Prior to her pop out, Edwards had reached base safely in 24 consecutive plate appearances, a streak that ranks third in NCAA history.
In the circle, senior right-hander Olivia Ferrell threw 150 pitches in earning the win for Nebraska (13-10). Ferrell (7-6) allowed 10 hits in 6.1 innings, but only four of the six runs she allowed were earned. Wallace came on with one runner on in the top of the seventh and retired two of the three batters she faced to close out the game.
Tori McQueen (2-3) took the loss for Illinois, allowing six runs (four earned) in 2.2 innings. The Huskers hit three home runs in the game, including two against Illinois starter Sydney Sickels, the reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, who had allowed only three home runs in 62.1 innings entering the game.
Illinois scored three times in the top of the first inning. The first batter was retired before the Huskers committed an error. A hit batter and a walk then loaded the bases with one out before back-to-back singles made it 2-0. The third run of the inning came home on a two-out bases-loaded walk.
Nebraska answered in the bottom of the first. Billie Andrews got Nebraska on the board with a one-out solo home run to left center into a stiff breeze. Edwards then walked on four pitches – her 23rd straight plate appearance reaching base – and Ybarra followed with a single that moved Edwards to third. Edwards then came home on a sacrifice fly from Wallace to cut the lead to 3-2.
Illinois got both runs back in the top of the second. The inning began with a leadoff single before the next two batters were retired. But a two-out, RBI infield single scored one run before an RBI double gave the Illini a 5-2 lead.
But Nebraska tied the game with a three-run answer in the bottom of the second. An error extended the inning before Unzicker launched a two-run homer to right. Following a pitching change, Andrews hit her second home in as many innings to tie the game at 5-5.
After a scoreless third inning, Illinois began the top of the fourth inning with a single and a double. But Ferrell sat down the next three batters to keep it a tie game.
Nebraska then took control by scoring four two-out runs in the bottom of the fourth. NU loaded the bases without an out on consecutive singles from Riley and sophomore Brooke Andrews and an Unzicker walk. The next two hitters were retired before Ybarra cleared the bases with a three-run double to give Nebraska its first lead. Wallace then had an RBI triple to right to cap the four-run inning and give the Huskers a 9-5 lead.
Illinois got a leadoff double and a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to 9-6 in the top of the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Riley led off with a double. Brooke Andrews then struck out swinging but she made it to first safely on a wild pitch and freshman pinch runner Camyl Armendariz advanced to third on the wild pitch. Unzicker then walked to load the bases. Billie Andrews brought Armendariz home with a sacrifice fly to right to give the Huskers the final 10-6 margin.
After winning two of the first three games, Nebraska will look for a series victory over the Illini in the fourth and final game of the series on Sunday at 11 a.m.