Huskers split doubleheader at Illinois

Taylor Edwards

Urbana, Ill. - Illinois turned the tables on the 19th-ranked Nebraska softball team in game two of Saturday's doubleheader, rallying from a two-run deficit with three runs in its final at bat, as the Fighting Illini salvaged a split with a 5-4 win in game two.

After the Huskers scored five times in the seventh inning to post a 6-2 come-from-behind victory in game one, Illinois scored three times in the bottom of the sixth inning of game two to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-2 advantage.

Illinois' decisive three-run sixth inning featured two infield singles, a Husker error and a bases-loaded hit batter and a bases-loaded walk, which forced in the game-tying and game-winning runs, respectively.

Shelese Arnold (5-6) earned the win for Illinois, allowing four runs in a complete-game five-hitter. Arnold worked around six walks to help the Fighting Illini improve to 11-16 on the season and 1-4 in Big Ten play.

For Nebraska, junior right-hander Tatum Edwards (15-5) saw her eight-game winning streak snapped, as she suffered the loss in relief. Edwards allowed three runs (two earned) in 2.0 innings of relief. Freshman right-hander Emily Lockman earned the start and allowed two runs on four hits in 4.0 innings.

Offensively, junior Taylor Edwards hit her team-leading eighth home run of the season, a three-run shot in the top of the fifth inning that gave Nebraska a 3-2 lead. Freshman Hailey Decker added an RBI single in the top of the sixth inning to extend the lead to 4-2, before Illinois' three-run rally in the bottom of the frame.

With the loss, Nebraska fell to 24-7 on the year and dropped to 3-1 in conference action The loss also snapped the Huskers' six-game road winning streak, the program's longest in a decade.

Just as it did in game one, Illinois jumped out to an early lead in the first inning of game two. Lockman struggled to find the strike zone in the first inning, walking three and hitting one batter. A double play left no runners on base with two outs before a pair of walks, a hit batter and an infield single gave Illinois a 1-0 lead.

The Fighting Illini made it 2-0 in the top of the second, manufacturing a run with a leadoff single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly.

The Husker offense didn't pick up its first hit until an infield single from senior Brooke Thomason in the top of the fourth inning, and Nebraska got only one runner to second base over the first four frames.

Then in the top of the fifth, freshman Alicia Armstrong reached on a one-out double before classmate Kiki Stokes walked. With runners on first and second and one out, senior Gabby Banda surprised the Illini infield with a bunt on a 2-0 count. Banda laid down a perfect bunt, but unfortunately for her and the Huskers, she stepped on the ball on her way to first base, and she was ruled out for interference. It would not matter however, as Taylor Edwards lined a 2-0 pitch over the wall in left field for a go-ahead three-run homer.

Nebraska added to its lead with one more run in the top of the sixth. Freshman Dawna Tyson began the inning with a single off the wall in center. Tatum Edwards walked with one out to put Huskers on first and second, before Decker delivered an RBI single up the middle that scored sophomore Jordan Bettiol and gave NU a 4-2 lead.

After Tatum Edwards retired all three batters she faced after getting the ball in the top of the fifth, she ran into trouble in the bottom of the sixth. A pair of singles and an error loaded the bases with no outs, before an infield single scored a run to trim the lead to 4-3. A hit batter and a walk then forced in a pair of runs, as the Fighting Illini grabbed a 5-4 lead. Edwards escaped further damage with a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, but Nebraska was retired in order in the top of the seventh, including fly outs to the warning track from Taylor Edwards and Thomason.

Nebraska and Illinois wrap up their three-game series on Sunday. First pitch is set for 11:30 a.m. and the game will air nationally on the Big Ten Network at 2 p.m.

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