Nebraska Softball 4.15

Nebraska’s Brooke Andrews (27) celebrates her single during the game against Minnesota at Bowlin Stadium on Friday, April 15, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

For the first time in program history, Nebraska softball is the Big Ten Champion.

After a defensive battle, the Huskers headed to extra innings tied 1-1 against the Michigan Wolverines. In the top of the eighth inning, senior second baseman Cam Ybarra drove in the winning run.

With two outs and one runner on first, Ybarra came to the plate. She blasted a deep drive into right field that landed just beyond an outstretched Wolverine glove. Sophomore shortstop Billie Andrews sped around the bases and easily scored from first.

The Huskers were not finished. Sophomore third baseman Sydney Gray brought Ybarra home with a single into left field. Ybarra scored standing up, adding an insurance run and extending Nebraska’s lead to 3-1.

In the bottom of the eighth, senior pitcher Courtney Wallace finished off the Wolverines. Three straight outs delivered the championship to Nebraska.

Although Wallace got the victory, senior pitcher Olivia Ferrell started in the circle for the Huskers. She had a stellar performance, allowing just three hits in six innings.

In the bottom of the seventh inning tied 1-1, Ferrell found herself in a dangerous situation. With no outs, she hit a batter and walked another to put two runners on base. Nebraska opted for a pitching change and Wallace took her place on the mound.

Junior utility Audrey LeClair, the first batter Wallace faced, grounded to Ybarra at second. Ybarra tagged the runner and threw to first for a double play. Senior outfielder Lexie Blair popped out to end the inning, and the game headed to extra innings.

After two comeback victories earlier in the tournament, it was the Huskers who took the lead first on Saturday’s decisive contest. Not only did Ybarra hit the game-winning double, but she also homered in the top of the first. With one out, Ybarra swung at the first pitch she faced. She blasted a line drive home run over the right-field wall. The solo shot gave the Huskers an early 1-0 lead.

Michigan responded with a scoring opportunity of its own in the bottom of the first. Senior outfielder Kristina Burkhardt led off with a drive that bounced off the right-field wall. She pulled into second for a stand-up double.

LeClair followed with an excellent bunt to advance Burkhardt to third. Ferrell, however, escaped without allowing a run. A strikeout and a pop-out ended the inning and the Huskers maintained the 1-0 lead.

The Wolverines had another excellent scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fourth. Blair led off with a walk and stole second. She barely beat the throw, but the ball popped out of Andrews’ glove. With no outs in the inning, Blair advanced to third base.

Ferrell continued to battle and once again escaped without allowing a run. She earned two groundouts and a strikeout to end the inning. The Huskers took the slim 1-0 lead into the fifth inning.

The Wolverines finally broke through in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Ferrell hit freshman utility Annabelle Widra with a pitch. After Widra stole second, the Nebraska pitcher walked Burkhardt to put two runners on base.

LeClair came to the plate and capitalized on the opportunity. She doubled into the gap in right-center field, bringing Widra home. Ferrell walked another batter to load the bases, but avoided any further damage. The game remained tied 1-1 as a groundout ended the inning

Holding the Wolverines to one run in the fifth paved the way for Nebraska's eventual extra-innings victory. Michigan’s inability to bring runners home was ultimately its downfall as the Wolverines stranded eight runners in the loss.

The Huskers will look to build upon their Big Ten Championship in the NCAA Tournament, where Nebraska has an opportunity to earn a high seed. The Huskers will learn their seed during the NCAA Softball Tournament Selection Show at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 15. The show can be watched on ESPN 2.

sports@dailynebraskan.com