No. 20 Nebraska Uses Eight-Run Second to Claim Series Title
April 6, 2014
Urbana, Ill. - No. 20 Nebraska claimed the Big Ten series title on Sunday afternoon, using an eight-run second inning to top Illinois, 12-3, in five innings in the weekend finale. Katie Repole hit her first career home run in the bottom of the fifth, but a two-out rally in the second allowed the Huskers (26-12, 5-4 Big Ten) to cut the game short and move above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time this season. With the loss, Illinois fell to 18-15 (2-7 Big Ten).
Illinois scored all of its runs with the long ball, as Jenna Mychko went 2-for-2 with a two-run homer in the fourth, and Repole ripped her first career dinger off the scoreboard in the fifth. Nicole Evans, Allie Bauch and Alex Booker tallied the remaining Illinois hits, and Bauch also walked to start the game.
Nebraska collected a total of 13 hits in the game, led by Alicia Armstrong, who hit three doubles, while scoring twice and driving in two runs. Hailey Decker was 2-for-4 with the three-run home run that put the Huskers back in run-rule contention in the fifth, and MJ Knighten and Kiki Stokes each had two hits, two RBI and a run, with Stokes' hits both going for extra bases, with a double and a triple.
Brandi Needham (13-7) got the start for Illinois, but allowed eight runs on eight hits and two walks over the first inning and two-thirds. Shelese Arnold took over in relief and got the Illini out of the nightmare of a second inning, but gave up some extra-base hits later in the game, leading to a total of four runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts over three-and-a-third.
Emily Lockman (11-4) made her first start of the weekend for Nebraska, after making a pair of relief appearances on Saturday, and limited the Illini to three runs on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts over the full five innings.
"Nebraska really came out aggressive today, and after two outs, exploded," said Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "We didn't answer back immediately, and that hurt us. Shey gave us some quality innings in relief, and that's important at this time of the year."
Nebraska broke the game wide open in the top of the second, putting up eight runs on seven hits to chase Needham from the circle. The Huskers started the inning with a pair of infield singles, and an RBI single by Woolman plated two runs. The Illini had a shot to end the inning right there, as the Orange and Blue threw it around the horn looking for the 5-4-3 double play, but Woolman just barely beat the throw to second to keep the inning alive. Nebraska then went on a huge two-out rally, with four hits and three walks, to take a daunting 8-0 lead.
The Huskers added to their lead in the top of the fourth, as Armstrong doubled and Stokes hit a two-out RBI triple to make it 9-0.
Illinois got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, as Booker led off with a single to short and Mychko ripped a two-run homer that caught the top of the wall in left and bounced over to make it 9-2.
A three-run homer by Decker put the Huskers back in run-rule territory, making it 12-2 in the top of the fifth.
Repole hit her first career home run in the bottom of the fifth, drilling a solo bomb off the scoreboard in left center, but that was it for the Illini offense, as Nebraska captured the rubber match by a final score of 12-3.
Next Up: Illinois hits the road for Wisconsin next weekend, taking on the Badgers in a three-game Big Ten series on April 11-13. First pitch on Friday is slated for 4 p.m., with both weekend games starting at Noon.