Iowa City, Iowa - The Nebraska softball team battled itself all game long and managed to overcome its mistakes to take a one-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning, only to see Iowa rally for a 7-6 walk-off victory over the Huskers.
The game-two victory salvaged a doubleheader split for Iowa, which improved to 16-21 on the season and 6-5 in Big Ten Conference play. The Huskers fell to 26-15 with the loss and dropped to 8-3 in league action.
Nebraska was its own worst enemy all game long. The Huskers walked eight batters, hit two more and committed one error. In Iowa's three-run first inning, the Hawkeyes hit only one ball out of the infield and scored their final run on a botched squeeze attempt that resulted in a steal of home plate. After Nebraska rallied to tie the game, Iowa scored two more runs in the fourth, again hitting only one ball out of the infield, while scoring one run on an error following a successful double steal.
The Huskers again answered and tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the fifth, before junior Courtney Breault's solo home run gave NU a 6-5 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning. But in the final frame, the Huskers failed to record an out as Nebraska walked a pair of batters and hit a third to account for three of the Hawkeyes' five base runners.
With the bases loaded and none out, senior right-hander Ashley Hagemann walked Brianna Luna with the bases loaded to force in the tying run. Melanie Gladden then ripped a game-winning, walk-off, RBI single past junior Gabby Banda at third that scored pinch-runner Sydney Reynolds with the game-winning run. The Huskers lost for just the second time in 18 games this season when leading after six innings of play.
Hagemann (18-12) took the loss, allowing seven runs (six earned) in a complete-game effort. She struck out nine, but walked eight and hit a pair of batters. Defensively, Nebraska committed one error and allowed a season-high five stolen bases.
Offensively, Breault's home run was her fourth of the season and gave Nebraska its final lead of the game. Classmate Brooke Thomason produced three RBIs in the win, while fellow junior Gabby Banda went 2-for-3 to produce Nebraska's lone multi-hit game.
Kayla Massey (8-9) earned the win in a complete-game effort, scattering six hits and working around six walks and a hit batter, while allowing only four earned runs.
Nebraska jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Senior Nikki Haget began the game with a single and junior Gabby Banda followed with a bunt single. After the next two batters were retired, sophomore Tatum Edwards was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Thomason then drew a bases-loaded walk to score Haget and give Nebraska the lead.
Iowa quickly answered in a strange bottom of the first. An infield single and a walk put runners on first and second before Megan Blank lined a 1-2 pitch into left center for an RBI single. A squeeze bunt then gave Iowa a 2-1 lead before a bizzare play pushed the lead to 3-1. Iowa attempted another squeeze but bunted and missed. Sophomore catcher Taylor Edwards then chased Blank backed toward third base and attempted to tag her out, but Blank dove into fair territory and avoided Edwards' tag. Blank then got up and scampered home before Nebraska could recover.
Nebraska answered back in the top of the second. Breault walked to begin the frame before senior Madison Drake hit a sharp single to left. An error then allowed Breault to score and put Huskers at first and third. With one out, Taylor Edwards reached on an RBI fielder's choice that scored Drake to tie the game at 3-3. The RBI was the 100th of Edwards' career.
Hagemann then recorded four strikeouts in the bottom of the second inning, as she worked around a walk and a passed ball that allowed the first strikeout victim to reach first base.
After striking out the side again in the third, the Husker defense faltered in the fourth as Iowa scored twice in the inning. A leadoff walk came around to score on a throwing error before a two-out single from Katie Keim gave the Hawkeyes a 5-3 lead.
Nebraska again answered with two runs of its own in the top of the fifth. Banda singled and Taylor Edwards walked before senior Ashley Guile moved both runners up a base with a sacrifice bunt. Then with two outs, Thomason lined the first pitch she saw into right field for a clutch two-out, two-run single that tied the game at 5-5.
The Huskers then took their first lead of the game in the top of the sixth when Breault blasted a solo home run to left to begin the inning and give Nebraska a 6-5 lead. Three straight two-out walks gave NU a chance to add to its lead, but Tatum Edwards' fly ball to the gap in right center was run down by Malloree Grove.
Hagemann then worked around a leadoff triple in the bottom of the sixth, but could not do the same in the seventh as Iowa rallied for the win.
The Huskers and Hawkeyes are scheduled to wrap up their three-game series at 3 p.m. on Sunday in a nationally-televised game on the Big Ten Network.
Courtesy: Nebraska Media Relations