May 15, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - It took nearly six hours to complete following a three hour plus rain delay in the bottom of the seventh inning but Nebraska (35-17) outlasted Jacksonville State (39-14), 4-2 (9 inn.), on Friday evening to advance into Saturday's 1:30 p.m. ET winner's bracket contest at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Center fielder Meghan Mullin and left fielder Darcy Rutherford led the `Husker offense with two hits each in four at-bats with a RBI. Catcher Amanda Duran also knocked in a tally as part of NU's eight-hit attack. For JSU, first baseman Nikki Prier posted a pair of base knocks, while catcher Allie Barker blasted her 10th homer of the 2009 campaign.
In the circle Nebraska's Molly Hill allowed two runs on seven hits over nine innings to pick up the win, improving to 25-13 on the season. Karla Pittman took the loss for the Gamecocks after allowing two earned runs on eight hits over nine frames.
Nebraska immediately got a scoring threat started in the top of the first against Jacksonville State hurler Karla Pittman thanks to some wildness from the pitching circle and a couple of Gamecock errors. With one retired in the frame, left fielder Darcy Rutherford walked and then advanced all the way to third on a fielding miscue on a ground ball from catcher Amanda Duran. Nebraska first baseman Crystal Carwile also coerced a free pass, loading the bases with still just one down. Unfortunately for the `Huskers, second baseman Julie Brechtel and designated player Brittany Pascale each got caught looking at strike three as the trio was left stranded.
With JSU having escaped a big jam in the top half, Gamecock first baseman Nikki Prier got something going in the bottom half of the first with a sharp single back up the middle. Following a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning, second baseman Courtney Underwood blasted a shot to deep left that rattled off the top of the wall for a double. Prier raced around all the way from first just beating a tag attempt at the plate for a 1-0 lead.
Another Gamecock error opened the door for a NU opportunity in the top of the second. A low throw on a bouncer off the bat of third baseman Heidi Foland got by the first baseman as the runner ended up in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt from right fielder Haley Long advanced Foland to third with just one retired. Shortstop Whitney Barrett popped up harmlessly to first as JSU as got close to leaving another `Husker runner stranded. Center fielder Meghan Mullen stepped to the plate and bounced a ball just to the right of the circle. Pittman leapt for the ball, but it ricocheted off the tip of her glove for a single as Foland crossed to tie the contest at 1-1.
A lead-off single from JSU center fielder Hillary Downs didn't come back to haunt the Cornhuskers in the bottom of the third behind solid defensive play. Following a sacrifice bunt that advanced the base occupant to second, NU managed a pair of fielder's choice plays that cut down lead runners at third and then second base, respectively.
Singles from Jacksonville State right fielder Jackie Jarman and left fielder Chrissy O'Neal and a throwing error on Nebraska set the Gamecocks up with runners at first and third with two down in the bottom of the fifth. Once again, a scoring chance got away as Frier lined out to Carwile at first, retiring the side.
The `Huskers managed to break the tie in the top of the sixth as a lead-off single down the left field line from Rutherford, a hit batter, an infield bunt single from Carwile and a throwing error allowed Nebraska to grab a 2-1 advantage.
It didn't take long for the Gamecocks to tie the contest at 2-2 as catcher Allie Barker led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run off the scoreboard in left center.
With weather threatening on the horizon, JSU's Pittman worked quickly through the top of the seventh, bringing the Gamecocks up to the plate with the last scoring chance in regulation. Following a groundout to second off the bat of Jarman, pinch hitter Kayla Collins worked the count to 1-2. At that moment, lightning from a severe thunderstorm cell moving into the area was detected near the Lee Softball Stadium forcing a delay starting at 5:21 p.m. ET. The crew began removing the tarp at approximately 8:03 p.m., and play resumed at 8:29 p.m ET, three hours and eight minutes later. Once action recommenced, Collins grounded out to short and Downs bounced to second, sending the two teams to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth with two retired, Nebraska's Brechtel delivered a double into the left center field gap. Kelli Linke followed with a walk, but the duo was left stranded on an infield pop-up to second from Poland.
Nebraska's Long opened the top of the ninth with a single just over a leaping first baseman and down the right field line. Following a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner into scoring position, Mullin slapped a high chopper back through the middle of the infield, putting occupants on the corners with just one down. With the Gamecock infield not paying close attention, Mullin swiped second immediately after the single. That set the stage for consecutive RBI singles from Rutherford and Duran as the `Huskers took a 4-2 lead.
With JSU down to their last chance in the bottom of the ninth designated player Meredith Sellers grounded out on a 2-0 pitch to third base. Third baseman Allison Svoboda lifted a pop-up down the left field line that was caught on the run by Nebraska third baseman Poland. Jarman ended the contest with a fly out to right field as Nebraska emerged victorious.