TEMPE, Ariz. -- In a thrilling eight-inning comeback, the Nebraska softball team topped No. 19 BYU 5-4 in its first game of the 2018 season on Friday afternoon at the Tempe Sports Complex. It is the first of two games today, as the Huskers face Arizona State later tonight. The Huskers scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to push the game to extra innings and won in the eighth inning after Tristen Edwards hit a two-out game-winning RBI single. Edwards finished the game with two hits, two runs and one RBI. The victory was the Huskers' first season-opening win against a ranked opponent since 2007, when NU beat No. 24 Auburn 1-0 in eight innings.
The seniors drove the effort on both sides of the ball. Pitcher Kaylan Jablonski recorded the win, after giving up just one earned run in 3.0 innings and striking out four batters. At the plate, Jablonski had two hits, including one double and two RBIs, including the game-tying RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Gina Metzler and Taylor Otte also had two hits and Otte scored one run.
Juniors Madi Unzicker and Alyvia Simmons each helped the Huskers offensively. Unzicker had one hit and one RBI, while Simmons had one hit.
Freshman pitcher Olivia Ferrell had an impressive debut, earning the start and becoming the first Husker freshman in school history to start a season opener against a ranked opponent. She pitched 6.0 innings, gave up two earned runs and recorded four strikeouts. Fellow freshmen Rylie Unzicker and Sarah Yocom also got their first taste of collegiate experience, as the designated player and as a pinch runner, respectively. Yocom scored the game-winning run.
The Huskers wasted no time getting to business. In the bottom of the first, Metzler hit a bullet of a base hit to get to first base. Edwards reached on a fielder's choice, but Metzler was out at second. After Edwards stole second and Madi Unzicker walked, Jablonski doubled to right field to score Edwards and give the Huskers a 1-0 lead at the end of the first inning.
In the bottom of the third, the Huskers threatened to extend their lead. Metzler singled and stole second to get in scoring position with one out, but BYU got out of the inning without allowing a run after a pop out to second and a strikeout.
In the bottom of the fourth, Nebraska had another chance to put some more runs on the board. Leadoff hitter Jablonski walked and Simmons singled to center field to put runners on first and second with no outs, but BYU's defense held strong and didn't allow a run.
In the top of the fifth, BYU took a 2-1 lead after a single, an RBI triple and an RBI single.
The Huskers had an opportunity to strike back in the bottom of the fifth. Otte singled down the right field line and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. A few batters later, Madi Unzicker was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs. The Cougars defense held strong though and the Huskers were again unable to bring in any runs.
BYU added an insurance run in the sixth inning after a walk and back-to-back singles.
The Big Red headed to the final inning down by two runs. Otte started the comeback effort by drawing a one-out walk. After a strikeout, Edwards was NU's last hope. The sophomore singled to left field to put the tying run on base. Madi Unzicker and Jablonski had back-to-back singles to score Otte and Edwards and take the game into extra innings.
In the eighth inning, BYU had a runner place on second in accordance with the international tie-breaker rule and scored her with a two-out single to left field to take a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Barrow was placed on second to begin the frame. Lexey Kneib delivered a perfect bunt move Barrow to third. Kneib reached first on a BYU throwing error following her bunt and Barrow scored on the error to tie the game. Yocom then pinch ran for Kneib. After a ground out, the top of the order was up for the Huskers, with the winning run on first. Otte singled up the middle to move Yocom to third. Two batters later, Edwards was at the plate with two outs. The sophomore came up clutch, singling to right center on a 3-2 pitch and bringing Yocom across the plate to top the Cougars.
The Huskers face No. 23 Arizona State tonight in their second of six games this weekend as part of the Kajikawa Classic. First pitch is set for 8:30 p.m. CT.