A day after finally getting to Penn State’s Bailey Parshall and pulling out a late 3-1 win, the Huskers’ Comeback Kids were tasked with facing Lexie Handley, Ohio State’s fireballer averaging 8.7 K’s/7 innings. Handley would be making her 3rd straight start and showing little sign of exhaustion despite ending up north of 250 pitches for the week, scattering 6 hits and striking out the same in another solid performance.
However, the Huskers were gutting it out as well. With the contest tied 1-1 entering the 7th inning, things did not start well. .143 hitting PH Taylor Heckman ripped a sharp single to left off of Nebraska’s Olivia Ferrell who had entered in relief in the 5th inning. Buckeyes leadoff hitter Melina Wilkinson then took a home run cut at a ball that dribbled about 10 feet for an infield single putting runners on 1st and 2nd with no one out.
However, Ferrell dug in, first throwing a change which had the batter waving about 10 feet in front of the pitch for a strikeout, then drawing two straight popups to the right side.
The table was set for the bottom of the seventh.
First up was Kaylin Kinney whom Handley had struck out her first two times up. Well, you can’t be a Comeback Kid if you let that get you down. Kinney instead ripped a missile down the right field line that left burn marks on its way to the fence. When the dust settled, she was standing on 2nd with a double. And up came Ferrell with one out.
She took a swing and lifted the ball to right field. Kinney tagged up on second. And suddenly, the noise in Secchia Stadium changed - the right fielder had been cheating in hoping to get a step on a play at the plate if there was a single. Now she was moving backward, moving faster and finally backpedaling madly unable to catch up as the ball landed behind her.
Kinney came flying in and suddenly it was over.
Ferrell said she had no idea the right fielder was cheating in, she just wanted to get something into right field, so if it wasn’t a hit, she could at least put Kinney on 3rd with the full confidence Billie Andrews would get the job done.
Comeback Kids just try to do the right thing and karma picks the best times to reward them.
Courtney Wallace knows this as well. Instead of starting Ferrell who had looked very good against the Buckeyes two Sundays ago, Coach Rhonda Revelle went with Wallace for the second straight day since she had the hotter hand of late and had only thrown a couple innings in that previous series.
Solid decision, right? The top of the 1st for Ohio State started with a deep shot to right run down by Peyton Glatter for the first out.
A walk on four pitches.
A sharp single up the middle.
The cleanup hitter drilled by a pitch.
One out and the bases loaded, not exactly the start the Huskers were dreaming of and time to talk it over with the coach. Wallace said she knew was trying to work the edges too much and just needed to settle down and pitch her game.
First, she fielded a hot shot back to the mound and tossed it home for the force then got the next batter to swat a lazy fly to left center and the Huskers were out of it.
Comeback Kids don’t panic. They realize the solution, as Herb Brooks once said, is to play their game.
Of course, the Huskers had to let Ohio State draw first blood with a 1-0 lead in the top of the 4th. However, they mercifully didn’t let the fans sweat it for several innings like Thursday as Abby Squier knocked Sydney Gray home in the bottom of the inning to tie it right back up.
Squier had already made a headfirst diving grab of a low liner in left in the top of the 3rd which truly deserves to be in the ESPN Top Ten for Friday (BTN - get that tape to Bristol). However, not to be outdone, Brooke Andrews helped Ferrell by doing the same thing on a sinking liner to right in the top of the 6th. They both wore grass stains of pride back to their hotel.
The game was a white knuckle battle all day with plenty of hard, smart, solid play and fire on both sides. And when it was over, the two senior captains had combined to scatter 6 hits over 7 innings and allowed no earned runs with gutsy pitching, diving catches by Squier and Andrews, bullet throws from Billie Andrews at short to nip runners…
And of course, the confidence that Comeback Kids are going to find a way.
Final tomorrow at 11AM (10AM CST) vs winner of #1 Northwestern/#4 Michigan