Sophomore right-hander Ashley Hagemann delivered another brilliant pitching performance for the Nebraska softball team on Sunday, but her two-hit effort was not enough as the Huskers’ season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to North Carolina at the NCAA Seattle Regional.
Hagemann took a one-hit shutout into the top of the eighth before Kelli Wheeler blasted a 2-0 offering over the fence in left center for a leadoff home run that produced the game’s only run. The blast spoiled a terrific effort from Hagemann, who was out-dueled once again by North Carolina’s ace and the ACC Pitcher of the Year Danielle Spaulding, who no-hit the Huskers again after doing the same on Friday’s 1-0 Tar Heel win. Spaulding (21-6) added 18 strikeouts and allowed only four base runners in the game, one more than Hagemann.
Hagemann fired her second straight two-hitter against the Tar Heels and allowed only three runners to reach base in a career-high 8.0 innings. She added six strikeouts against only one walk, but finished her sophomore season with a 15-16 record. Pitching her third complete game of the weekend, Hagemann was brilliant in regional play, despite a 1-2 record. In 21.0 innings at the Seattle Regional, Hagemann posted a 0.67 ERA, allowing only three total runs (two earned). She added 19 strikeouts and allowed only nine hits, as opposing hitters hit just .125 against her.
In a defensive contest, the game’s first base runner came in the bottom of the second, when junior Julie Brechtel was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. She stole second with one out and advanced to third on a wild pitch with two outs. Senior Alex Hupp then drew a walk and stole second to put Huskers on second and third with outs, before a strikeout ended the inning.
North Carolina didn’t get its first base runner until the top of the fifth, when Wheeler lined a two-out single to center field, as Wheeler had both of UNC’s two hits. Hagemann then walked the next batter before a fly out ended the inning.
Neither team had a base runner again in regulation, but the Tar Heels gave the Huskers a scare with two outs in the top of the seventh when Ally Blake lined an 0-1 pitch that twisted just a few feet foul as it cleared the 200-foot fence down the left field line.
There was no doubt on Wheeler’s home run to lead off the top of the eighth, but the Huskers attempted to rally in the bottom of the frame. Hupp coaxed a four-pitch walk to begin the inning and advanced to second with one out on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore pinch-hitter Jamie Gay. But a strikeout and a ground out left Hupp stranded on second, as North Carolina (42-19) advanced to the regional final against No. 3 national seed Washington.
Nebraska (30-29) loses two seniors and returns the majority of its lineup in 2011, when the Huskers will seek their 16th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 17 seasons.