Nebraska fought through three weather delays and a tough Stanford squad to win its first regional softball championship since 2002 with a 10-5 victory over the Cardinal in the NCAA Lincoln Regional championship game Sunday afternoon at Bowlin Stadium.
With the win, Nebraska (43-13) advances to the first Super Regional in school history as the NCAA did not adopt the regional-super regional until the 2005 season. Overall, the Huskers won their seventh NCAA regional title. NU will face No. 3 seed Oregon in the Eugene Super Regional (dates and times to be determined).
The title did not come easy. The game started late following a 32-minute rain delay. Stanford then led 3-1 after one inning before inclement weather delayed the start of the second inning for more than an hour. But the Huskers would not be denied, scoring five times in a rain-delayed fifth inning and four times in the sixth to pull away from the Cardinal (39-21).
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards (29-8) went the distance to earn the win for the third straight game, allowing five runs (four earned) on 10 hits. Teagan Gerhart (21-13) took the loss for Stanford, allowing 10 runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5.2 innings.
Offensively, Nebraska's seniors came up huge in their final home game. Gabby Banda was 1-for-2 with two runs scored and one RBI and she drew her 40th walk of the season, tying the school record.
Brooke Thomason was 2-for-2 in her final game at Bowlin Stadium, producing three RBIs. Courtney Breault also drove in three as part of a 2-for-4 day that included a double. Throw in Tatum and Taylor Edwards, who combined for two hits, two RBIs and three runs scored, and the first six hitters in the Husker lineup combined to go 7-for-14 with six runs scored and nine RBIs.
Freshman Alicia Armstrong finished 3-for-4 including a solo home run that opened Nebraska's five-run fifth inning.
Before the big middle innings, Nebraska jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a Stanford error. Tatum Edwards worked a lead-off walk after a dropped foul ball. She moved to third on a bunt single from Banda and scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly from Thomason.
In the bottom of the frame, a lead-off infield single was followed by a walk. After a pop out, Jenna Rich singled to load the bases with one out. An infield single brought home the tying run before a pair of bases-loaded walks gave Stanford a 3-1 lead.
The Huskers pulled to within one when Armstrong hit the first pitch of the top of the fifth inning over the fence in left field. A one-out error and a Tatum Edwards double then put Huskers at second and third with only one out. Banda tied the game with a squeeze bunt that scored Jordan Bettiol. Following a pick-off on a first-and-third rundown, Taylor Edwards hit a spinning ball toward second that spun away from the second baseman and into center field for a two-out, RBI single that gave Nebraska a 4-3 lead.
The falling rain then intensified and forced a 36-minute delay, the third of the day. Following the break, Thomason walked to put runners on first and second before Breault ripped a two-run double to score two and put the Huskers up 6-3. Breault's double capped a five-run inning in which four runs were unearned.
A two-out Husker error then allowed Stanford to pull to within 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth. Nebraska made up for the error with a four-run sixth inning. Armstrong began the frame with an infield single before Mattie Fowler walked. After the next two batters were retired, Banda walked to load the bases before Taylor Edwards picked up an RBI with a two-out bases-loaded walk. Thomason then produced a two-run single before Breault capped the inning with an RBI infield single that deflected off the pitcher.
Trailing 10-4, Stanford answered with a two-out RBI single from Erin Ashby to trim the lead to five, but that was as close as the Cardinal would get as Tatum Edwards held Stanford scoreless the rest of the way.