Nebraska softball was unable to complete the series sweep against Penn State on Sunday, as its comeback attempt fell short in a 7-5 defeat in eight innings.
Penn State jumped ahead early with a four-run first inning, matching its total number of runs from the first three games of the series. Nittany Lion sophomore right fielder Maggie Finnegan led the game off with a single, and advanced to second off a passed ball. Freshman second baseman Melody Coombs bunted a single to the pitcher, and advanced Finnegan to third where she would score off another passed ball to give Penn State a 1-0 lead.
Junior utility Chelsea Bisi then singled, advancing Coombs to third. Coombs scored on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore first baseman Lexie Black. A single up the middle by junior left fielder Lilia Crouthamel scored both Black and Bisi, and Penn State took a commanding early 4-0 lead.
“It was just the first inning, so we knew we still had time to come back,” freshman shortstop Billie Andrews said postgame. “We’re fighters, so we’re not going to give up after the first inning.”
Nebraska cut into the lead in the second inning, with a single by freshman left fielder Caitlynn Neal scoring freshman third baseman Sydney Gray. Senior right fielder Tristen Edwards had a chance to drive in runs with the bases loaded, but flew out into foul territory to end the inning with the Huskers trailing 4-1.
Senior second baseman Cam Ybarra got the Huskers in scoring position again with a double in the third inning. Senior pitcher Courtney Wallace then doubled to center field, scoring Ybarra and trimming the Penn State lead to 4-2.
Penn State extended its lead to 5-2 in the fourth inning, after a solo home run by Coombs.
Nebraska rallied in the bottom of the fifth, with a double by Gray scoring Billie Andrews from second and cutting the lead to 5-3. The Huskers got within a run after a single by Wallace scored Gray, making it 5-4 after five innings.
The Huskers had an opportunity to complete the comeback in bottom of the sixth. Senior first baseman Sarah Yocom reached first on a fielder’s choice, junior outfielder Peyton Glatter walked, and Edwards was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Billie Andrews hit a ground ball single down the left field line, scoring Yocom to tie the game at 5. Ybarra was at bat with a chance to take the lead, but flew out to end the inning.
The Huskers had another chance with the game tied and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh. Sophomore infielder Brooke Andrews, pinch hitting after Gray went down with an injury, was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Wallace reached first safely after a fielder’s choice, with Brooke Andrews out at second. Senior pitcher Olivia Ferrell reached base after a fielding error, and senior center fielder Rylie Unzicker walked to load the bases.
However, Nebraska failed to capitalize yet again. An infield fly by Yocom and a groundout by Neal ended the inning, sending the game into extra innings.
Penn State got off to a hot start in the eighth inning, with singles by sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Morrison and Finnegan. A single by Bisi scored Finnegan and freshman outfielder and pinch runner Liana Jones, handing Penn State a 7-5 lead.
Billie Andrews and Ybarra both singled for the Huskers in the bottom of the eighth, putting the potential winning run at the plate. Brooke Andrews flew out to left field, and Wallace hit a pop up to second base, ending the Husker rally.
“I was really proud of my team’s fight, but to Penn State’s credit they capitalized on every opportunity,” Nebraska head coach Ronda Revelle said postgame. “We had lots of chances to win it, but we couldn’t get the key hits. This is a new group, and we try to take losses and learn from them.”
Nebraska will be in Piscataway, New Jersey next for a series against Rutgers starting on April 2.