The 19th-ranked Nebraska softball team earned a series victory at Illinois with a 7-1 victory in the third and final game on Sunday afternoon at Eichelberger Field.
The win improved Nebraska’s record to 25-7 on the year, including a 4-1 mark in Big Ten Conference play. The Huskers won a Big Ten road series for only the second time, after losing three of their four conference road series last season. Nebraska also improved to 8-2 in true road games this season, eclipsing last year’s total of road wins (7-12).
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards (16-5) won her eighth straight start, tossing a two-hitter and allowing only one run. After Illinois scored its only run in the bottom of the first inning, Edwards surrendered just one hit and allowed only three base runners over the final six innings. Edwards added six strikeouts and worked around four walks and one hit batter.
Offensively, senior Brooke Thomason produced a two-run double four batters into the game, ultimately giving Tatum Edwards all the run support she would need. Thomason finished 1-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Classmate Gabby Banda drew three walks and recorded a single, while adding two runs of her own. Freshman Hailey Decker, celebrating her 19th birthday, went 1-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and a walk. Junior Taylor Edwards also added three walks, as Nebraska drew 13 walks in Sunday’s win and 29 walks on the weekend.
In the top of the first, freshman Kiki Stokes and Banda began the inning with back-to-back walks and advanced to second and third, respectively, with no outs on a wild pitch. Following a strikeout, Thomason brought both runners home with a two-run double to the gap in left center. Thomason then moved to third on a ground out before scoring on a two-out Illini error to give the Huskers a 3-0 lead.
Illinois answered right back in the bottom of the first inning, scoring in its first at bat for the third straight game. A leadoff walk was followed by an RBI double that cut the lead to 3-1. A hit batter then put runners at first and second with no outs, before Tatum Edwards retired the next two hitters. A walk then loaded the bases with two outs, but Edwards escaped the jam without any further damage as freshman shortstop Alicia Armstrong showed great range to her right to record the final out.
The Huskers missed a chance to add to their lead in the top of the second, leaving the bases loaded when Katie Repole made an outstanding diving play at third base to rob Thomason of a run-scoring single.
Nebraska stretched its lead to 5-1 with two runs in the top of the fifth. Taylor Edwards began the frame with a sharp single to center. Thomason’s sacrifice attempt then turned into an error, putting Huskers at first and second. After a popped up bunt, Illinois failed to record an out on a ground ball off the bat of sophomore Mattie Fowler, throwing late to third base in an attempt to get Taylor Edwards. With the bases loaded, a ground ball back to the pitcher turned into a force out at home before Decker delivered an RBI single to left field. Fowler then scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
The Huskers took a 7-1 lead in the top of the sixth. Banda and Taylor Edwards began the inning with back-to-back walks before two quick outs. Fowler then came through with a two-out, RBI single to left to score Banda. Nebraska had the bases loaded with two outs following a walk to Tatum Edwards, and Decker worked a hard-fought walk to bring home Taylor Edwards with the second run of the inning.
NU drew three more walks in the top of the seventh, but failed to score, leaving the bases loaded as part of 14 stranded runners in the game, tying the Huskers’ season high.
Tatum Edwards then kept the Fighting Illini off the scoreboard again in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the series win.