LINCOLN — Nebraska used clutch hitting to send 13th-ranked Stanford to the losers bracket with a 7-1 win Saturday, advancing to Sunday's finals in the NCAA regional softball tournament at Bowlin Stadium.
But the buzz following the Huskers' first postseason win over a Pac-12 team since 2002 centered on defense. Nebraska showed why it led the Big Ten in fielding percentage and tied for fewest errors.
Tatum Edwards, who struck out 11 on Friday to beat Northern Iowa, had only three strikeouts against Stanford but kept the ball down where grounders could let her infielders do the work.
“We had some phenomenal defense, and Tatum had a gutty performance,” Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle said.
In the third inning, Nebraska freshman shortstop Alicia Armstrong, a three-sport all-stater at Beatrice, made all three outs by cleanly fielding grounders to her right and her left and throwing on target to first.
In a span of four innings — third through the sixth — Armstrong fielded nine ground balls cleanly and made nine perfect throws for outs. For the season, Armstrong has made only six errors.
“Defense is my comfort zone,” she said.
Nebraska pecked away at two Cardinal pitchers with one-run innings in the first and second, building a 2-1 lead going into the sixth.
Then things fell apart for Stanford.
A double by NU first baseman Mattie Fowler, a single by Jordan Bettiol, a sacrifice fly by Tatum Edwards, a run-scoring single by Taylor Edwards and a two-run hit by Courtney Breault added up to a five-run inning.
“I had popped up two times, so I was just trying to drive through it,” said Breault, who finished with three RBIs.
Breault's hit broke the game open, Revelle said. It prompted Stanford coach John Rittman to go to his third pitcher of the game. Revelle said it was encouraging that the Huskers scored against all three pitchers.
“They have a great pitching staff,” she said.
The sixth-inning RBI for Taylor Edwards was her 50th of the year, making her the second Husker player in history to have two 50-RBI seasons.
The Huskers took a 1-0 lead in the first after Tatum Edwards doubled off the center-field fence and third baseman Gabby Banda singled sharply to left. After a walk to Taylor Edwards to load the bases, Breault lofted a sacrifice fly that brought Tatum Edwards home.
After a line-drive single by Armstrong to open the second inning, Stanford's coach lifted starting pitcher Teagan Gerhart, who had pitched a complete game on Friday.
Relief pitcher Kelsey Stevens hit the next batter and gave up a walk and an RBI on a bad-hop single by Taylor Edwards before getting the Huskers out.
Going into the game, Nebraska had lost seven straight NCAA regional games to Pac-12 teams.
The Huskers play for the regional championship at 1:05 p.m. Sunday against the winner of Saturday's late game. Sunday's game will be televised live by the Big Ten Network. A husker loss would force an if-necessary game at 3:30 p.m. that would also be televised live on btn.