EUGENE – In its first-ever NCAA Super Regional at Howe Field, the #3 NCAA-seeded University of Oregon softball team (49-10) dropped the series opener to #14 seed Nebraska (44-13) by a 5-2 count.
The Big Ten runner-up capitalized on a five-run fifth inning that was capped by a two-out grand slam by Husker clean-up hitter Brooke Thomason.
The Huskers opened the inning with three singles and a walk to its #9 hitter to score their first run. After a pop-out to second base made it two outs, Thomason hit a 2-2 pitch over the right center field wall for her ninth homer of the season.
The Ducks scored their runs in the seventh inning after one-out singles by senior center fielder Samantha Pappas and senior second baseman Kaylan Howard.
After a walk to freshman catcher Janelle Lindvall loaded the bases, senior pitcher Jessica Moore knocked in her eighth RBI of the year on a ground-out to second base.
UO’s final run came on a grounder by freshman third baseman Koral Costa that was booted by the shortstop as Pappas held up to avoid the ball.
Earlier in the game, sophomore left fielder Janie Takeda collected UO’s only extra-base hit – her 12th double of the season – in the first inning.
The All-Region and All-Pac-12 First-Team choice later added a sixth-inning single to center field for her team-leading 30th multi-hit game of the season.
Now with 89 hits on the campaign, she broke a tie with Lisa Wangler for the school season record, while the latter player’s total came in a 68-game slate in 2001.
Three other Ducks hit safely once – junior shortstop Courtney Ceo (1-for-2, walk), Pappas (1-for-3) and Howard (1-for-3).Starting in the circle for Oregon, Moore (27-5) struck out three, walked three, allowed six hits, and all five of her runs allowed were earned in her five innings.
Sophomore Karissa Hovinga pitched the final two innings, logged three strikeouts, no walks, allowed two hits and no runs. The Ralston, Neb., native finished her 16th game of the season – one shy of the team lead of freshman Cheridan Hawkins.
The Huskers’ Tatum Edwards (30-8) staked her 29th complete game of the season, struck out two, walked three, yielded five hits, and one of her two runs allowed was earned.
Two Nebraska players collected multiple hits – Gabby Banda (2-for-4) and Alicia Armstrong (2-for-3).
“Nebraska played very well today and made the most of their opportunities,” Oregon head coach Mike White said. “We made a run at the end, but it was a case of too little too late. (Tatum) Edwards pitched well today and did a good job of keeping us off balance. We have to be better at putting pressure on them offensively tomorrow.”
Saturday’s outcome evened the series series (1-1) after UO won 11-2 in six innings in late February’s Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic near Palm Springs.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s final day of the Super Regional, action resumes in the best-of-three series at noon, and a would-be third game would follow after a 45-minute intermission.
Each game will be shown live on ESPNU, and broadcasted by Jennie Finch and Adam Amin.
After welcoming 1,679 fans Saturday – potentially the biggest crowd ever at Howe Field – Sunday’s session is sold out.
There will be a limited number of additional obstructed view and standing room only tickets available after first pitch at noon.
Tickets available after first pitch can only be purchased at the Howe Field box office.
Photo at top by Gary Breedlove