Photo by Pat Radigan
1-4, HR, 4 RBI
2-3, 3B, 2 R
Story by Pat Radigan
Nebraska finishes homestand 4-1 before Big Ten road test
Through three-and-a-half innings of play, South Dakota was able to keep with the Nebraska softball game in a tricky midweek matchup.
Then the Coyotes made the mistake of loading the bases for Madi Unzicker.
One swing later, the Huskers were ahead 9-3 after Unzicker guided a grand slam over the fence in left to give NU the lead for good. That would be all the help Kaylan Jablonski would need, with the senior able to strike out nine Coyotes in her five innings of action to put away her nation-leading 17th win of the year.
Just two days after the Husker bats matched the weather and went cold against Michigan State, the Huskers brought the heat early and often on Tuesday to improve to 24-10 (2-1 B1G) before heading out on the road. Nebraska put pressure on with a combination of aggressive base running, home runs and patience at the place, and that set the stage for Jablonski to come on in relief and keep the Coyotes guessing.
Nebraska opened the scoring in the first inning, when Gina Metzler drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded to plate the first run without putting the ball in play. After the Coyotes briefly took the lead in response, Nebraska added two more in the second. Laura Barrow kept her recent hot streak rolling with an RBI double, then Alyvia Simmons came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Tristen Edwards.
Edwards skied a fly ball to shallow right field, but it didn’t stop Simmons. The junior took off without hesitation, and started her slide early to scoot in under the tag and in to put NU ahead 3-2 after two innings at Bowlin Stadium.
Again, the Coyotes had an answer. This time it was Lincoln-native Jamie Holscher who came up with the big swing, and her solo home run to center field tied the game at three apiece. It was the last offense USD would manage.
The Coyotes were able to keep NU off the board for the first time in the bottom of the third. Nebraska didn’t like that, and it showed the next inning. Bri Cassidy started the spurt with a solo shot of her own, her third home run this year, before Simmons added a triple to her earlier exploits.
A wild pitch scored Simmons, again with a nifty slide to make a tag impossible. That at-bat led to a walk for Barrow, then Edwards and Jablonski added singles to fill the bases. Three pitches later, and the Coyotes had to start worrying about the run rule.
Unzicker took a 1-1 pitch and blasted it just over the fence in left, and hustled her way around the bases before taking a second to celebrate coming around the third base line. It was Unzicker’s seventh home run of the year, and the Huskers’ first grand slam of the season.
That’d prove to be more than enough offense for Jablonski. Regan Mergele started for Nebraska, and gave up two runs in two innings, before Jablonski took over starting in the third inning. The only run Jablonski allowed was the home run for Holscher, and the Coyotes managed just one hit outside of that swing over the final five innings.
Jablonski’s nine strikeouts were a career high, and allowed her to move to 17-6 on the year. The senior came into the night as one of five pitchers with 16 wins nationwide, and became the first to hit the 17-win mark with the impressive effort out of the bullpen.
Now, Nebraska will hit the road for the next two weeks, starting with a three-game set at Northwestern this weekend.