Nebraska softball swept Kansas in its exhibition doubleheader on Sunday, winning the games 5-4 and 11-1.
The Huskers, who remain undefeated in the fall at 4-0, only allowed runs in two of the 14 innings played. One of those frames did consist of four scores that brought the Jayhawks back into the first game, but defense remained a strong point that allowed the team to hold on.
“We had to make two really spectacular defensive plays to finish (the first game),” head coach Rhonda Revelle said postgame. “So that was one of those things where the defense kind of picked up the pitching there.”
In the second game, Kaylin Kinney had the standout performance among the pitchers that saw action on the day. She pitched six scoreless innings before an unearned run in the seventh avoided a shutout for the Jayhawks. Kinney gave up just five hits.
“I just have to do what I do. Stay within myself,” Kinney said. “I know I have a great defense behind me, but just go in with the mentality that I can compete and I can win at every pitch. So just the confidence and knowing that I have a great defense and offense to back me up is just the biggest thing that I kind of focused on today.”
The first of the contests featured a somewhat shaky start for the Huskers. Kansas led off the game with a single, then another single and wild pitch put runners on second and third base with one out. Starting pitcher Courtney Wallace got her team out of the inning without any runs though, forcing the next two hitters into grounders.
Kansas hit a single in the next two innings as well, along with a walk in the third, but Wallace kept any runs off the board.
The Husker offense got going in the bottom of the third, scoring four runs. Billie Andrews hit a line drive which bounced hard off the glove of a Jayhawk for what was ruled an RBI double. Two more singles brought a second run in, and with two outs and runners on second and third, Caitlynn Neal hit a two-RBI single to bring the lead to 4-0.
Neal totaled five hits and six RBIs between the two games on six at-bats. This included the team’s final run of the first game, an RBI single by Neal in the fifth inning that put the score at 5-0.
Kansas made its own push in the sixth inning. Pitcher Sarah Harness allowed a leadoff double, then an RBI single right after that. The next two batters flew out, but the Jayhawks kept pushing. With two outs, Harness hit a batter, let up an RBI single and an RBI double before ending the inning on another flyout.
The Huskers still held the lead, but only by a single run when freshman Kendall Mangel took the mound in the top of the seventh. That’s when the two defensive plays Revelle mentioned happened. Kansas sophomore Olivia Bruno hit a ball straight at Mangel, which knocked her glove off. The pitcher still managed to collect the ball and get it to first, then struck out the next batter.
Sophomore Sara Roszak then stepped up with two outs to try and keep the Jayhawks alive, and nearly did. She hit a fly ball to deep right field, and although it likely wouldn’t have cleared the wall to tie it, Brooke Andrews made an impressive running grab to close the game.
“She’s just an athlete. The coaches will say this too. She just competes and she’ll dive for balls,” Kinney said. “Of course when that ball’s going back there, you’re a little nervous, but at the same time you’re like, ‘Yeah, Brooke’s got it.’”
The second game didn’t feature the same dramatics. The Huskers scored four runs in the opening inning, capped off by a two-run homer by Andrews. Billie Andrews stole home in the next inning to match the last game’s total.
Neal and Brooke Andrews hit home runs in the fifth inning, putting the score at 10-0. The last Husker run was an RBI double from Mya Felder.
Nebraska’s fall slate will come to a close next weekend. It’ll play Colorado State three times and Nebraska-Omaha once in the Big Red Fall Classic on Oct. 8 and 9. The Huskers will have two games each day.
“I think the challenge next week is you play back-to-back days, four games,” Revelle said. “This was the first double-header we played, and it’s a longer day. But then we turn around and do it again Sunday after we did it Saturday. So I think that’s a challenge.”