A game-tying homer in the bottom of the seventh inning and a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th powered No. 2 seed Alabama past an error-prone Nebraska softball team, 6-5, in game one of an NCAA Super Regional Thursday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The two home runs were the only two earned runs Nebraska allowed, as four Husker errors led to each of the first four Alabama runs. The Huskers had a 4-0 lead only to see the Crimson Tide rally with two unearned runs in the second, two more unearned runs in the fourth and then one run in the seventh and a final tally in the 12th.
It was a heartbreaking loss for Nebraska, which fell to 44-17 on the season. Going back to last season, four of the Huskers’ five postseason losses have come to national seeds in extra innings. NU owned a one-run seventh-inning lead in three of those four losses.
With the win, Alabama (49-11) moved to within one victory of its ninth trip to the Women’s College World Series. The Crimson Tide won their 14th consecutive home game in the NCAA Tournament dating back to 2011.
Sydney Littlejohn (11-2) earned the win after Nebraska knocked three-time All-American Jaclyn Traina out of the game after 4.0-plus innings. Littlejohn was stellar in relief, scatting three hits in 8.0 shutout innings.
Sophomore right-hander Emily Lockman (20-5) took the loss in relief for Nebraska, snapping her personal 10-game hitting streak. Lockman allowed the two solo home runs in 5.0 innings, after senior right-hander Tatum Edwards surrendered four runs – all unearned – over the first 6.0 innings.
In addition to the four errors, Husker pitchers walked seven and hit a pair of batters. Alabama out-hit the Huskers, 12-11, and the Tide stranded 15 runners, while Nebraska left 10 on base.
Offensively, freshman Austen Urness was outstanding, finishing 2-for-5 with a home run and a career-high-tying three RBIs. Sophomores Hailey Decker and Kiki Stokes also produced two hits each, with Decker extending her hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. Decker added her 21st double of the season, while Stokes tripled for the fourth time this spring. Tatum Edwards also produced a multi-hit game, finishing 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Nebraska jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Decker reached on a one-out single, before Tatum Edwards followed with an RBI double to the gap in right center. Freshman MJ Knighten capped the two-run inning with a two-out, RBI single.
The Huskers added two more runs in the top of the second. Stokes tripled to the gap in right center with one out before Urness blasted a two-run homer to left center to give Nebraska a 4-0 lead.
Alabama got two runs back in the bottom of the second with some help from the Huskers. A walk and a hit batter put the first two Tide batters on base. A wild pitch then moved the runners up a base and on the wild pitch, Nebraska had a chance to throw the runner out at third, but a wild throw allowed one run to score. An RBI single followed to trim the lead to 4-2, as Alabama scored twice on only one single in the frame.
Urness gave Nebraska a 5-2 lead with her third RBI in the top of the fourth. Junior Kylee Muir began the inning with a double before moving to second on a ground out from Stokes. Urness then fell behind in the count before grounding a 3-2 pitch up the middle for an RBI single.
In the bottom of the fourth, a Husker error, a single, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk loaded the bases with only one out. Nebraska got a big second out at home plate before another Husker error allowed a run to score. Jadyn Smith then hit a chopper up the middle for an RBI single, but on the play, sophomore shortstop Alicia Armstrong made a great play to throw out the tying run at home plate and keep Nebraska on top, 5-4.
After the Huskers left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Nebraska worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the frame by getting Alabama’s top hitter, Haylie McCleney, to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Alabama finally pulled even in the bottom of the seventh on a leadoff home run from Marisa Runyon.
Both teams stranded a pair of runners in the eighth before the Huskers missed a golden scoring opportunity in the top of the ninth. With one out, Decker drew a walk and Tatum and Taylor Edwards followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases. But a pop out and a fielder’s choice ended the threat.
Alabama then missed a great scoring chance of its own in the bottom of the 11th. Following a leadoff double, a bunt was put down but Armstrong was able to tag out the runner heading to third during a rundown. Lockman then retired the next two batters to send the game to the 12th.
The Huskers were retired in order in the top of the 12th, before Peyton Grantham ended the game with a walk-off home run to lead off the bottom of the frame.
Nebraska and Alabama play game two of their series Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU. If a third game is needed to decide the champion of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional, that game will be played at 8 p.m. on ESPN.