Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Kristina Thorson, who had her scoreless streak snapped at 30 innings in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Huskers, was brilliant in winning her fifth straight start, including four consecutive victories over ranked foes. In a complete-game effort, Thorson allowed just a single run on only three hits while striking out 12.
Thorson improved to 35-8 with the win and propelled 10th-seeded Cal (46-12) into Super Regional play, where the Bears will be seeking their eighth consecutive Women's College World Series appearance next weekend.
Junior right-hander Ashley DeBuhr (26-10) took the loss for Nebraska, which finished its season with a 44-12 record and a .786 winning percentage, the third-best mark in school history. DeBuhr surrendered five runs on seven hits, but struck out nine Bears. With her strikeout of Julie Meyer in the top of the third inning, DeBuhr became the first Husker hurler to record 300 strikeouts in more than one season. She struck out a career-high 335 batters a season ago and now ranks second and third on the NU single-season strikeout list, trailing only school record-holder Peaches James.
Freshman right-hander Molly Hill relieved DeBuhr with two runners on and none out in the top of the seventh. After tossing three innings of scoreless relief in her postseason debut against Cal on Saturday, Hill allowed one run on two hits against the Bears on Sunday.
Pitching dominated early as Cal managed just one baserunner and Nebraska four through the first three innings. Cal threatened in the bottom of the third inning when Gina Leomiti lined an 0-2 pitch into right center for a leadoff double. DeBuhr quickly responded, however, by striking out the next three batters to end the inning.
Nebraska threatened in the bottom of the frame, but ran into some tough luck. Junior Carmen Kier reached on an error to lead off and with one out, senior Lizzy Aumua slapped a ball between the pitcher and first baseman. But Kier inadvertantly ran into the Cal second baseman and was called out for interference. Senior Jessica Yoachim then struck out looking to end the inning.
After threatening in the third, the Bears broke through in the fourth. Consecutive singles from Lindsay James and Haley Woods gave Cal runners at first and second with no outs. Emily Friedman was then retired before Katie Vickers ripped the first pitch she saw over the first base bag for an RBI double. Woods then scored on a wild pitch to give Cal a 2-0 lead. On the wild pitch, Vickers moved to third, which was a key play as Chlose Kloezeman grounded out to second to plate Vickers one batter late.
Cal added to its lead with three more runs in the top of the seventh. A pair of singles and an intentional walk loaded the bases with only one out before Friedman recorded an RBI single and Vickers delivered her second big blow of the game with a two-run single that gave the Bears a commanding 6-0 lead.
Senior Trisha Tannahill kept Nebraska from being shutout when she led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run in her final at bat as a Husker. Tannahill's blast also marked the first earned run Thorson had given up in 40 innings.
Nebraska finished a successful 2006 season with a 44-12 record and a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference regular-season standings. The Huskers' .786 winning percentage marks the third-best winning percentage in the 31-year history of Nebraska softball. Despite an earlier end to the season than the Huskers had hoped, the 2006 Nebraska softball team accomplished plenty, including:
- Posting a 44-12 overall record
- Posting .786 winning percentage, third-best in school history
- Winning 44 games to mark the sixth-most victories in school history
- Tying the school record with 20 home victories
- Advancing to the program's 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament
- Becoming the first women's program at Nebraska to win 1,000 games
- Seeing six school records tied or broken this season
- Seeing six players earn All-Big 12 honors
- Seeing three players earn first-team academic All-Big 12 accolades
- Seeing four players named to the NFCA All-Midwest region teams
- Seeing three players advance to the Academic All-America ballot
- Seeing Ashley DeBuhr become the first Husker to strikeout 300 batters in consecutive seasons
- Stealing 87-of-99 bases for a program-best .879 success rate