Huskers Rally to Advance to Regional Final

Iowa City, Iowa - With the end of its season only five outs away, the 14th-ranked Nebraska softball team rallied for three runs in a pivotal sixth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and post a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Illinois State that propelled the Huskers into the NCAA Regional final against sixth-ranked California on Sunday.

The sixth-inning dramatics made a winner of junior right-hander Ashley DeBuhr, who bounced back from a rough outing earlier in the day to silence a powerful Illinois State lineup. DeBuhr allowed just two hits and did not allow an earned run. She posted 14 strikeouts, including strikeouts of the side in the third and fourth innings.

DeBuhr (26-9) was perfect in every inning except the fourth, where a pair of bunt singles and a key Nebraska error led to the Redbirds' lone run of the game. DeBuhr started and finished strong, retiring the first nine hitters of the game and sitting down the final 10 hitters to pick up her 26th victory of the season, which ranks third on the NU single-season chart.

The win marked just the fifth time this season Nebraska was victorious when trailing a game after four innings. The Huskers, now 44-11 on the year, also avoided losing consecutive games for only the second time this season.

Shannon Nicholson (16-6) took the loss for Illinois State, which ended its season with a 38-16 record. Nicholson allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits in 5.1 innings.

Pitching was the story of the game early, ast he first scoring chance of the contest for either team came in the top of the third when senior KoKo Tacha lined a two-out single into left field and then swiped her career-high fourth stolen base of the season before senior Lizzy Aumua was retired on a hard ground out to first.

A pair of perfectly placed bunts gave Illinois State runners at first and second with no outs in the bottom of the fourth before DeBuhr quickly retired the next two hitters via the strikeout. Kelsey Warning then hit a grounder that Carmen Kier fielded at third and threw from her knees to Crystal Carwile at first. It appeared that marked the third out, but the umpire ruled Carwile had pulled her foot and in the confusion that followed, Tricia Gaither - who had headed to the Redbird dugout - took off for home to score the game's first run.

Nebraska broke through to take a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth. Tacha coaxed a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice slap from Aumua. Senior Jessica Yoachim then hit a slap back to the pitcher, who threw wildly to first allowing Yoachim to advance to second and Tacha to score the game's tying run. After an intentional walk to junior Jamie Waldecker, senior Trisha Tannahill slammed a single up the middle to score Yoachim with the go-ahead run.

After a Redbird pitching change, junior Devin Porter scored junior pinch runner with an RBI ground out before Carwile lined out to right to end the inning.

Porter, Tacha and Tannahill each recorded a hit for NU, while Tannahill and Porter added the lone RBIs.

Nebraska will now face Cal tomorrow at Noon tomorrow in the Iowa City Regional final. If the Huskers win, they would force a second game with the Bears. Sunday's winner advances to play the winner of the Corvallis Regional for a trip to the Women's College World Series next weekend.

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