Tucson, Ariz. - The Nebraska softball team overcame four errors and a wild seventh inning to defeat Purdue, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon and match the best 10-game start in school history.
The Huskers trailed 3-0 early after Purdue scored three times in the second inning, thanks to a pair of Husker errors. Senior Brooke Thomason pulled Nebraska to within one with a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning. Freshman Alicia Armstrong then tied the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, before classmate Hailey Decker brought home the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom oof the sixth.
NU took all the momentum and a 4-3 lead into the top of the seventh. Ashley Courtney led off the inning and appeared to ground a ball off of her foot. The ball rolled to senior Gabby Banda at third, but Courtney stayed at home plate and bent down to tend to her foot. However, the umpires did not rule it a foul ball and after some initial hesitation, Banda threw to first. But Banda's throw was wild and went into the dugout and Courtney - although she still had not made her way toward first - was awarded first base on the error and second base, since the ball went into the dugout.
The next batter struck out before an infield single and hit batter loaded the bases with one out. But junior right-hander Tatum Edwards dug deep and escaped the jam. Ashley Burkhardt hit a ground ball to freshman Dawna Tyson at first base, and Tyson threw home to junior catcher Taylor Edwards to record the second out. Andi Varsho then grounded a ball back to Edwards, who threw to Tyson at first to wrap up the victory.
Edwards improved to 6-1 with her second relief victory of the year. The right-hander tossed three scoreless innings, working around four hits. Freshman Emily Lockman earned the start, allowing three runs (one earned) on four hits in 4.0 innings. Nebraska, which matched the best 10-game start in school history by improving to 9-1, allowed one earned run or less for the sixth straight game.
Offensively, Thomason's two-run homer was her third of the season, and she added two runs scored and a walk. No Husker had a multi-hit game, as Purdue out-hit Nebraska 8-5.
Purdue (5-5) used three pitches in the game, with Lex Moore (1-2) taking the loss, allowing two runs (one earned) in 1.2 innings.
Nebraska's comeback was needed after a sloppy second inning. Danielle Fletcher hit the first pitch of the inning down the left field line for a solo home run. A pair of errors then put runners on first and second with no outs, before Purdue successfully pulled off a double steal, when Nebraska failed to cover third base. An RBI ground out and an RBI double stretched the lead to 3-0 before an inning-ending double play prevented further damage.
After struggling the first time through the order against starter Lilly Fecho, Nebraska struck for two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Taylor Edwards reached on a one-out single, before Thomason lined a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Husker infield was busy again in the top of the fifth, when Purdue squandered a scoring chance. A pair of singles put runners on first and second, with the second single coming against Tatum Edwards in the first batter she faced. But Taylor Edwards then picked the runner off second base for the first out. Mary Gooding then reached on an infield single and Nebraska threw late and wild to first. But the Huskers recovered in time to throw Sydney Pencek out at home plate, as Pencek attempted to score. Two batters later, Tatum Edwards got out of the inning with a ground out.
Nebraska tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the frame. A leadoff error and a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Jordan Bettiol put freshman pinch runner Sammi Noland on second base with only one out. Armstrong then delivered an RBI single to left field that brought Noland home. The Huskers then had runners at second and third with only one out, but had to settle for the tie after a pair of groundouts.
In the bottom of the sixth, Thomason walked and Tatum Edwards followed with a double to put Huskers at second and third. Freshman Hailey Decker then lined a 3-2 pitch to deep left field that served as a sacrifice fly that brought Thomason home with the go-ahead run.
The Huskers then survived the wild seventh inning to finish the weekend with a 4-1 record.
Nebraska continues its tournament season next weekend with five games in three days at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif.