LINCOLN — Nebraska used two ground-ball singles and a stolen base to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning Friday before unleashing its firepower in the sixth en route to a 4-0 win against Northern Iowa in the first round of the NCAA regional softball tournament at Bowlin Field.
Tatum Edwards (27-8) struck out 11 in the two-hit shutout and drove in the first Husker run. Her single up the middle came after shortstop Alicia Armstrong’s grounder to deep short put her on first with none out.
Armstrong’s steal of second base, only her sixth of the year, allowed Edwards’ hit to produce the important first run. It was a timely steal for a team that ranked 10th in the Big Ten with 41 steals on the year, compared with league leader Purdue, which had 120.
“When you get into big games, you look for ways to have an element of surprise,” said NU coach Rhonda Revelle.
The fifth-inning run seemed to spark Husker bats an inning later. In the sixth inning, Brooke Thomason lined a pitch from Jamie Fisher over the right-field wall to score two more runs. Then Courtney Breault drilled a line-drive single through the box, and a sacrifice fly from Jordan Bettiol added a fourth run.
“Those runs (in the sixth) showed we were there to fight,” said Thomason, who brought her homer total for the year to eight, second on the team to catcher Taylor Edwards.
Revelle said Tatum Edwards took command against the Panthers from the start, throwing strikes and keeping Northern Iowa off balance with an effective change-up.
“Tatum set the tone in the circle,” Revelle said.
She struck out two in the first, two in the second, one in the third, three in the fourth and two in the fifth. The three in the fourth kept UNI scoreless, though it loaded the bases with one out with two hit batters and its first hit.
“Her change-up kept us off balance, and she toughened up when we needed a clutch hit,” said UNI coach Ryan Jacobs.
Northern Iowa’s Fisher, whose ERA of 1.92 nearly matched Edwards’ ERA of 1.85, had the Huskers off balance for much of the game, too. A single in the first and a single in the second were the only hits for Nebraska until the two ground-ball singles that produced the fifth-inning run.
“They are a good team,” Fisher said. “They got a few clutch hits, and hats off to them.”
The 16th-ranked Huskers (41-13) moved to the second round where they will meet 13th-ranked Stanford (38-19) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Northern Iowa drops to the losers bracket and will play at 4 p.m. Saturday against Tulsa, which lost 4-2 to Stanford.
Two teams with one loss will play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The two remaining teams will play Sunday at 1 p.m. in the championship and again at 3:30 if necessary.
UNI (26-25) ........................... 000 000 0—0 2 3
At Nebraska (41-13) ........................... 000 013 x—4 6 0
W: Edwards, 27-8. L: Fisher, 21-14. HR: NU, Thomason.
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