Down to its final strike, the Nebraska softball team rallied to tie the game in the seventh inning, score twice in the ninth and then hold off a rally by 19th-ranked Texas A&M to pull out a thrilling 3-2 victory in nine innings at the Aggie Softball Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Nebraska trailed 1-0 with two outs in the top of the seventh before senior Brittany Pascale walked on a 3-2 pitch. After having just one hit through the first 6.2 innings, junior pinch-hitter Alex Hupp singled to put runners on first and second. Sophomore pinch-hitter Kelli Linke then took a strike before ripping a pitch through the left side to bring freshman pinch-runner Nikki Haget home with the tying run.
Both teams were retired in order in the eighth before Nebraska came through with two runs in the ninth. Sophomore Julie Brechtel led off with an infield single before fellow sophomore Heidi Foland doubled to left to give the Huskers a pair of runners in scoring position. Pascale brought Brechtel home with a deep sacrifice fly to right before Hupp perfectly executed a squeeze bunt to score Foland with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Texas A&M responded with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the ninth and a Husker error cut the lead to 3-2. With the tying runner in scoring position and only one out, senior right-hander Molly Hill buckled down and coaxed a ground out and a pop out to preserve the win.
Hill was outstanding in the circle again on Sunday. After giving up only one earned run in a complete-game effort on Saturday, Hill did not allow an earned run while allowing only four hits in 9.0 innings on Sunday. Hill lowered her ERA to 1.13 with the win, while improving to 13-4 on the season. Behind Hill and the late-inning heroics, Nebraska salvaged a series split with Texas A&M while improving to 20-6 on the year and 1-1 in Big 12 play. The victory also marked the Huskers' first conference road win since 2007 and the Aggies' first Big 12 home loss since 2007.
Rhiannon Kliesing (14-7) took the loss for Texas A&M, which fell to 23-11 and 1-1 in the conference. Kliesing allowed three runs on six hits while striking out eight in a complete-game effort.
"I'm really proud of the team for not giving in even when it was two outs in the seventh," Head Coach Rhonda Revelle said. "It was a complete team effort. We had our first two pinch hits of the season in back-to-back at bats (in the seventh), then Nikki (Haget) came in and scored the tying run.
"I thought Molly (Hill) came back out today and threw courageously to only allow one hit going into extra innings. It's hard to come back out the second day and really dominate a team like that. This was a really good win for Nebraska softball."
After allowing a pair of two-out runs in Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Aggies, an error and a two-out single from Kliesing gave Texas A&M a 1-0 lead after two innings on Saturday.
The game would remain 1-0 until the seventh, when Pascale's walk and Linke's hit forced extra innings. Linke's pinch-hit RBI single marked her first pinch hit of the season in six tries. Hupp also fared well in a pinch-hitting role, going 1-for-1 with a sacrifice and the game-winning RBI. Junior Whitney Barrett paced the Husker offense with a 2-for-3 day, while Brechtel and Foland added the other two hits. Nebraska out-hit Texas A&M 6-4.
After the thrilling road win, Nebraska returns home for a pair of doubleheaders on Tuesday and Wednesday that wrap up a stretch of 10 games in nine days.