May 23, 2010

Courtesy of Nebraska Athletics

Seattle - Clinging to a one-run lead, the Nebraska softball team homered twice after a three-hour rain delay to power past North Dakota State, 5-1, and stay alive in the NCAA Seattle Regional late Saturday night.

Nebraska scored once in the first and third innings to take a 2-0 lead before North Dakota State cut the lead in half after four innings of play. The rain then began to fall and delayed the game for three hours. The Huskers came back from the break and homered twice in the seventh inning to tack on three insurance runs and round out the 5-1 victory.

With the win, the Huskers improved to 30-28 on the season, winning 30 games for the 12th time in the past 13 seasons. Due to the lengthy rain delay, Nebraska's second game on Saturday was postponed. The Huskers will now face North Carolina at 2 p.m. (Central) on Sunday for the right to face No. 3 national seed Washington in the regional final.

Sophomore right-hander Ashley Hagemann (15-15) earned the win, allowing one run on five hits in a complete-game effort. Hagemann struck out seven and has now allowed only one earned run in 13.0 innings in regional play.

With Hagemann in control in the circle, three home runs led to four of Nebraska's five runs. Junior Heidi Foland was 2-for-3 with a homer and she also scored three runs, tying her career high. Sophomore Ashley Guile was 1-for-2 with a two-run homer, while senior Alex Hupp launched a pinch-hit home run in the seventh in her only at bat of the game.

Whitney Johnson (26-18) took the loss for North Dakota State, which ended its season with a 33-25 record and a second straight trip to the postseason.

After being shut out on Friday, the Huskers scored quickly on Saturday. Foland walked on four pitches to begin the game before sophomore Nikki Haget was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second. Guile moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt before junior Julie Brechtel lifted the next pitch to the warning track in straight away center for a sacrifice fly that put Nebraska on top 1-0.

The Bison then threatened in the bottom of the frame, as a pair of walks and an error loaded the bases with two outs before a ground out prevented any damage.

Foland then extended the lead to 2-0 in the top of the third when she lined the first pitch she saw over the wall in left for a solo home run. Her homer was Nebraska's first roundtripper in an NCAA Tournament game since Trisha Tannahill homered in her final collegiate at bat against California in 2006.

North Dakota State cut the lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single from Becca Gift.

Following the 3:01 rain dealy, a hit batter, a single and a walk loaded the bases with two outs for the Huskers in the top of the fifth, but a strikeout ended the threat.

Hupp gave Nebraska some insurance in the top of the seventh when she lined an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left center for a solo homer. Foland then lined the next pitch into left field for a single and two batters later, Guile blasted a 2-1 pitch to right for a towering two-run homer that made it 5-1 in favor of the Huskers.

Hagemann retired the first seven batters she faced following the delay before a pair of one-out singles gave North Dakota State hope in the bottom of the seventh. But Elisa Victa lined into a game-ending double play, when Husker freshman third baseman Gabby Banda made a terrific lunging grab and threw at Brechtel to complete the double play and wrap up Nebraska's 53rd NCAA Tournament win.