NEB SB: Huskers Go 1-1 on Final Day of Mary Nutter Classic

Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Nebraska went 1-1 on the final day of the Mary Nutter Classic. The Huskers lost to No. 20 Utah (9-5) before defeating Cal State Fullerton (6-3). Nebraska (8-6) finished with a 2-3 record in the tournament while playing three ranked teams and five teams that made the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

GAME ONE - 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.

GAME TWO - A five-run first inning powered the Nebraska softball team to a 6-3 victory over Cal State Fullerton in the second of two games Sunday at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, Calif.

Cal State Fullerton (9-6) scored twice in the top of the first inning but Nebraska (8-6) scored all the runs it would need in the bottom of the inning. The five-run frame was capped by a three-run homer from Emmerson Cope, her first career home run.

Cope finished 3-for-3 at the plate with a career-high three hits. She also earned the start in the circle and threw the first 2.0 innings, allowing three runs. Caitlin Olensky (2-0) relieved Cope and earned the victory with 4.0 shutout innings, giving up only one hit. Sarah Harness picked up her first save of the season after she retired the side in order in the seventh.

In addition to Cope's three hits, Billie Andrews finished 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. In five games at the Mary Nutter Classic, Andrews went 13-for-21 (.619) with a double and four home runs.

Staci Chambers (5-2) took the loss for Cal State Fullerton, allowing six runs (two earned) in 1.0-plus innings.

Cal State Fullerton scored twice in the top of the first inning, taking a 2-0 lead on a pair of RBI singles.

Nebraska answered back in the botttom of the frame. Billie Andrews led off with a single and stole second before a throwing error put Huskers on first and third with one out. Bella Bacon then cut the deficit in half with an RBI single that scored Andrews and made it 2-1. Samantha Bland followed with another RBI single to tie the game. Cope then hit a 1-2 pitch over the fence in center for a three-run homer that put the Huskers on top 5-2.

Fullerton came back with a pair of singles to start the top of the second inning. But Cope coaxed back-to-back force outs at third base and a ground out to third to end the inning.

Nebraska added to its lead in the bottom of the second. Brooke Andrews led off with a double and scored on an RBI double from her younger sister Billie. 

Cal State Fullerton matched Nebraska with back-to-back doubles in the top of the third to cut the Husker lead to 6-3.

But the Titans would get only one hit the rest of the way as Olensky and Harness combined for 5.0 shutout innings.

After playing its first 14 games of the season away from home, Nebraska hosts the Big Red Invitational on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Bowlin Stadium.