Sophomore Julie Brechtel capped a terrific homecoming weekend by belting her first career grand slam as part of a six-run first inning in the Nebraska softball team's 10-1 run-rule victory over Penn State on the final day of the Judi Garman Classic on Sunday in Fullerton, Calif.
A Fullerton native, Brechtel finished 2-for-2 against the Nittany Lions with a career-high four RBIs, while also tying her career high with two runs scored. In five games over the weekend, Brechtel went 7-for-12 with one home run, five runs scored, seven RBIs and her first two stolen bases of the season.
While Brechtel was outstanding offensively at the Judi Garman Classic, senior right-hander Molly Hill was downright dominant in the circle all weekend. Against Penn State, Hill tossed a complete game and allowed one run on four hits while improving to 10-3 on the season. Hill appeared in each of the Huskers' five games at the tournament, posting a 4-1 record with a 0.94 ERA and a pair of shutouts in 22.1 innings.
The Huskers had everything clicking against the Nittany Lions on Sunday, as in addition to the high-powered offense and shutdown pitching, the NU defense turned a pair of double plays. Senior Haley Long also highlighted the defensive effort by making a pair of diving catches in right field.
NU, which improved to 15-5 on the year, also tied a season high by stealing five bases against Penn State.
Nebraska grabbed control of the game with a six-run first inning and never looked back. A leadoff single a hit batter and an error loaded the bases with no outs in the first. Senior Amanda Duran then brought home the game's first run with a sacrifice fly that scored fellow senior Meghan Mullin. The Huskers loaded the bases again after Penn State failed to get an out on a ground ball. Sophomore Heidi Foland was then hit by a pitch to make the score 2-0.
Brechtel then stepped to the plate and belted a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right for a grand slam, the first by a Husker since 2007.
In the bottom of the second, Penn State's third error of the game opened the door for the Huskers to extend their lead to 7-0. Rutherford reached on an error to lead off the inning and Duran singled with one out to put runners on first and third. NU then perfectly executed a double steal, as Rutherford raced home from third to score for the second time in the game.
The first two Nittany Lions reached to begin the top of the third before Hill recorded a strikeout and Brechtel teamed up with junior Whitney Barrett to turn an inning-ending double play.
Brechtel then scored her second run of the game to put the Huskers in front 8-0 in the third. She drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored from third on a throwing error.
Penn State got on the scoreboard in the fourth when Desi Giordano lined a two-out home run over the fence in center, marking just the second home run Hill has allowed this season.
The Huskers answered back in the bottom of the frame when Foland hammered a 1-1 pitch to deep left for her team-leading fifth home run of the season. Foland's blast was a two-run shot that also scored freshman pinch-runner Madison Drake.
Leading 10-1, Hill closed out the Huskers' sixth run-rule victory of the season by retiring the side in order in the fifth.
Kimi Wong (0-1) took the loss for Penn State, which fell to 9-11. Wong recorded only one out and was charged with six runs (five earned) on only two hits. Lisa Akamine pitched the final 3.2 innings and allowed four runs (two earned).
In addition to Brechtel's big day at the plate, Foland added three RBIs and two runs scored of her own, while Mullin finished with two hits.
After playing its first 20 games of the season on the road, Nebraska (15-5) hosts its first home games on Tuesday with a doubleheader against North Dakota State at Bowlin Stadium beginning at 3 p.m.