Cathedral City HuddleCathedral City Huddle

No. 20 Utah Rallies Late to Defeat Nebraska

The Nebraska softball team led No. 20 Utah 5-0 after four innings only to see the Utes score the game's final nine runs and rally for a 9-5 victory Sunday at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif.

Billie Andrews and Samantha Bland homered during Nebraska's five-run third inning, with Bland's blast being a grand slam. But Utah got back in the game with three unearned runs in the top of the fifth. Then in the sixth, Utah scored five times on just three singles, aided by four Husker walks. The Utes tacked on a final insurance run in the seventh.

Nebraska (7-6) lost late for the third time this weekend. The Huskers led both San Diego State and No. 19 UCLA on Friday before losing on walk-off singles in both games.

Offensively, Billie Andrews continued her torrid hitting with a 4-for-4 effort that included her sixth home run in nine games this season. Her four hits tied her career high. Bland finished 2-for-4 with a career-high four RBIs and Sydney Gray added two hits and reached base three times.

Kaylin Kinney (4-5) took the loss for Nebraska, allowing five runs on only two singles in 1.0 inning. Sarah Harness made the start and allowed three unearned runs in 4.2 innings. Caitlin Olensky pitched the final 1.1 innings and was charged with one run.

Sarah Ladd (5-2) earned the win for Utah (8-6) with 4.2 innings of five-hit, shutout relief. Nebraska tagged All-American Mariah Lopez for five runs in 2.1 innings before Ladd came on in relief.

It was Utah who had the scoring chances early. The Utes had runners on first and second to start the second inning. But a fly out and a double play ended the inning without a run scoring.

Utah then threatened again in the top of the third. A leadoff walk and back-to-back singles loaded the bases with no outs. Nebraska then got a force out at home plate and on the play, Julia Jimenez was ejected for her slide into catcher Ava Bredwell. The Huskers got another force out at home for the second out before a fly out ended the threat.  

After escaping the jam, Billie Andrews gave Nebraska a 1-0 lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the frame. Peyton Cody and Bredwell drew back-to-back walks following Andrews’ home run and Bella Bacon singled to load the bases. Bland then hit her first career grand slam to push the lead to 5-0.

In the top of the fifth, Utah had runners on second and third with one out. The Utes then plated their first run on a sacrifice fly before a two-run homer cut the Husker lead to 5-3. Kinney entered the game and quickly got out of the inning with a ground out.

But Kinney ran into control problems in the top of the sixth. She walked the first two batters on nine pitches. A fielder's choice followed by a stolen base put the tying runners on second and third with only one out. Kinney then snagged a hard line drive back to the circle for the second out before her third walk of the inning loaded the bases for the top of the order. A check-swing two-run bloop single then tied the game before another RBI single gave Utah a 6-5 lead and marked the end of the day for Kinney.

Olensky relieved Kinney and walked the first batter she faced to load the bases. Olensky then coaxed a ground ball that Billie Andrews was in position to field but the ball took a bad hop to find its way into center field for a two-run single that stretched the Utes' lead to 8-5. 

Utah added to its lead with an unconventional run in the top of the seventh. A leadoff single and a wild pitch put a runner at second base with one out. Following a strikeout, the Utes hit a ground ball to third. Bacon, the first baseman, was unable to tag the batter out and when she threw to Caneda covering at first base, it was ruled that Caneda was not on the base. The runner then took off for second base and although Nebraska recorded the out in the ensuing rundown, a run scored on the play to make it 9-5 Oregon.

Bland singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh but Ladd then retired the final two Huskers.

Nebraska plays again on Sunday against Cal State Fullerton.

Post-Game Notes

  • Nebraska hit two home runs in the game. It marked the Huskers’ eighth consecutive game with a home run and third consecutive game – all against ranked opponents – with multiple home run.
  • The Huskers scored five runs off All-America pitcher Mariah Lopez. It marked the first time Lopez had allowed five runs in 33 consecutive appearances dating back to last March.
  • Samantha Bland hit her first career grand slam, her second home run in three games. She finished with a career-high four RBIs.
  • Billie Andrews homered for the third straight game (four home runs in that stretch). The homer was the 49th of Andrews’ career, moving her into a tie for third place with Tristen Edwards on Nebraska’s all-time home run chart.
  • Andrews went 4-for-4 to produce her third consecutive game with at least three hits. The four hits marked Andrews' second career four-hit game.
  • Sydney Gray single, doubled and was hit by a pitch to reach base in three of her four plate appearances.
  • Sarah Harness made her team-leading sixth start of the season against Utah. Harness did not allow an earned run, stretching her streak to 10.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.