A three-run first inning powered Kansas to a 3-1 victory over the 19th-ranked Nebraska softball team Friday afternoon in the opening game of the NCAA Columbia Regional.
The Jayhawks did all of their damage in the first five batters of the game, but that proved to be enough. Kansas was held to four hits in the game, with three of those hits coming in the first inning. KU recorded just one hit over the final six innings and had only four base runners in that stretch. Nebraska had five hits and nine base runners during that same time frame, but the Huskers could not come up with a clutch hit.
Kansas was 2-for-9 with a home run with runners on base in the game, while Nebraska was just 3-for-16. The Huskers stranded eight base runners compared to just three for Kansas. Nebraska out-hit Kansas, 5-4.
With the win, the Jayhawks (34-21) advanced to Saturday's winners bracket game, where they will face the winner of Friday's second game between 15th-seeded Missouri and Bradley. Nebraska, which fell to 40-16 with its second straight loss, will take on the loser of the Missouri-Bradley contest in an elimination matchup scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
Kelsey Kessler (20-14) earned the win for Kansas, tossing a five-hitter and allowing only one run, while striking out six. Senior right-hander Tatum Edwards (22-12) took the loss for Nebraska. Edwards fired a four-hitter and allowed three runs while striking out seven.
Kansas used a two-out rally to take a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. A leadoff infield single and a contested two-out stolen base gave the Jayhawks their first runner in scoring position. An RBI single then found its way through the right side before Taylor Hatfield lined a two-run homer just over the fence in center.
Nebraska stranded a pair of base runners in the second before scoring its only run in the bottom of the fourth. Freshman MJ Knighten began the frame with a bunt single before junior Kylee Muir lined out to right. Sophomore Alicia Armstrong reached on an infield single to put runners on first and second before classmate Kiki Stokes delivered an RBI single up the middle. Trailing 3-1, the Huskers had runners on first and second with only one out, but a strikeout and a foul out ended the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Muir led off with a walk before Armstrong singled to shallow left center. With the tying runners on base on no outs, the next three Huskers were retired. NU was then retired in order in the seventh.
Armstrong paced the offense with a 2-for-3 day, while Stokes was 1-for-2 with an RBI. Sophomore Hailey Decker produced Nebraska's lone extra-base hit with her 18th double of the season.