LINCOLN — Nebraska bats poured out runs in bunches Sunday and washed away Stanford's chances with a 10-5 win in the finals of the NCAA regional softball tournament at Bowlin Stadium.
Enduring three rain delays lasting nearly 2 1⁄2 hours, the 16th-ranked Huskers came back from a 3-1 deficit with five runs in the fifth inning and four in the sixth to defeat the Cardinal for the second time in as many days.
Between the 7-1 win Saturday and the Sunday championship victory, Nebraska produced 17 runs and 18 hits against a team ranked 13th in the country and needing one more win to give coach John Rittman his 14th 40-win season.
It was Nebraska's first championship in five tries hosting a regional at Bowlin. The atmosphere turned festive after the sun emerged from the last rain delay, with young spectators doing the chicken dance on the dugout while the crowd of 962 clapped in rhythm.
“Our fans were fantastic,” said NU coach Rhonda Revelle, who will lead her 43-13 Huskers against Oregon in the super regional at Eugene, Ore., next weekend. The teams will play Saturday and next Sunday, though times have yet to be been determined.
NU is playing well at the right time.
Only one Husker struck out against Stanford, the lowest strikeout total for Cardinal pitchers this season. In three games, NU committed two errors — both in the fifth inning Sunday trying to make near-impossible plays on difficult ground balls.
The hitting was timely in the clutch.
Down 3-1 going into the fifth, shortstop Alicia Armstrong drilled a homer over the left-field fence to open the inning.
“She didn't just hit a home run. She hit a laser beam,” Revelle said. “You know there are differences in home runs.”
Whatever the difference, it began an inning that included a double off the right-center wall by Tatum Edwards, a run-scoring squeeze bunt by Gabby Banda, a run-scoring, crazy-hop single by Taylor Edwards and a two-run double by Courtney Breault.
The next inning featured singles by Armstrong, Brooke Thomason and Breault and walks to Banda and Taylor Evans for four more Husker runs.
It was a rough outing for Teagan Gerhart, a five-time Pac-12 pitcher of the week and two-time USA Softball national player of the week (2010 and 2012).
The wins also ended a streak of seven straight postseason losses by the Huskers against Pac-12 teams. The Lincoln Regional was the opposite of 2011, when NU went to the Stanford Regional, ended with a 2-2 record and lost 4-1 in the finals to Stanford.
Nebraska's Tatum Edwards notched her third victory of the tournament. Stanford averaged 5.65 runs a game this season but managed six in two games against Edwards.
“Honestly, (today) might have been Tatum's best outing,” Revelle said, “because she had to work through so many things.”
The rain delays meant pitchers had to warm up several times. After the first rain delay, Edwards gave up three singles and three walks to fall behind 3-1.
“Not to take anything away from Stanford, but we felt like we were still in control,” Revelle said.
The Cardinal mustered one-run innings in the fifth and the sixth, but they never caught the Huskers.
For Stanford, which beat Tulsa 4-2 and Northern Iowa 4-1 to reach the finals, the tournament did not measure up to expectations.
“I'm disappointed we didn't bring our best game,” Rittman said, “but we lost to a really good team.”
Armstrong and Breault led NU's offense by going 5 for 10 for the tournament. Breault led the team in RBIs with six.
Nebraska (43-13) ........... 100 054 0 10 10 0
Stanford (39-21) .............. 300 011 0 5 10 3
W: Tat. Edwards, 29-8. L: Gerhart, 21-13. 2B: NU, Tat. Edwards (11), Breault (2). SU, Roulund (11). HR: NU, Armstrong (4).
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