Nebraska Softball vs Purdue Photo No. 15

Nebraska's Billie Andrews (6) slides into second during the game against Purdue at Bowlin Stadium on Friday, March 24, 2023, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Nebraska began the Big Ten tournament on Thursday night as the No. 4 seed, looking to defend its crown as the reigning tournament champion. The Huskers shut out the No. 12 seeded Illinois 1-0 to advance to the tournament semifinals.

Senior pitcher Courtney Wallace picked up the win on the mound, pitching in all seven innings for the shutout. She allowed only three hits on the night and struck out four batters. While Nebraska’s offense also recorded just three hits, the Huskers strung them together early in the first inning to score the first and only run of the game.

Despite Illinois recording a hit in the top of the inning, Wallace and the Huskers’ defense kept the Fighting Illini off the board. In the bottom of the inning, freshman second baseman Katelyn Caneda hit a double to left field with one out. Nebraska then followed that up with a single by junior third baseman Sydney Gray to score Caneda and take an early 1-0 lead. The Huskers tried to get a rally going early, but two outs followed to end the inning.

Nebraska only recorded one more hit the rest of the game, as the Husker defense stood strong to hold the Fighting Illini scoreless. The closest Illinois came to scoring in the game was in the top of the fourth inning.

The Fighting Illini started the inning off strong with a single through the right side of the field. After a ground out on the next batter, Nebraska recorded by junior shortstop Billie Andrews, putting runners on first and second base with just one out. Illinois couldn’t capitalize though, as the next two batters popped up and lined out to take the offense off the field.

The Huskers missed an opportunity of their own to add a little more cushion to their lead in the bottom of the fifth. The Fighting Illini walked the first two Nebraska batters, putting the offense in a great spot. However, an infield fly followed by a great double play by Illinois ended the inning in a hurry.

In the seventh inning, needing to close the game out, Wallace and company came through with a three-up, three down inning to end the game 1-0.

With the win, the Huskers will advance to 34-19 on the season. They will play the No. 1 seed, Northwestern, on Friday, May 12. In the three games Nebraska played the Wildcats in the regular season, it was swept 0-3. While the first game was a blowout, 22-4, the last two games remained very close. The second game took extra innings for Northwestern to comeback and win, while the third took another huge six-run comeback to complete the sweep.