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Huskers Rally Twice in 5-4 Win

Photo Credit: NU Athletics Photo Credit: NU Athletics

The Nebraska softball team rallied in both the seventh and eighth innings Friday night to open Big Ten play with a 5-4 victory over Illinois.

Nebraska (17-13, 1-0 Big Ten) trailed 3-1 entering the bottom of the seventh. Samantha Bland got the inning started with a single before Sydney Gray blasted a game-tying two-run homer.

Illinois (12-14, 0-1) came back to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the eighth but Nebraska rallied again. Illinois pitched around Billie Andrews, as Andrews drew a four-pitch walk to begin the inning. Andrews moved up to second with one out on a wild pitch before Ava Bredwell hit a game-tying double to the gap in right center.

Bland then stepped to the plate and had a walk-off single up the middle, her second walk-off hit in the last week.

Bland finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in her first career conference game. Gray was 1-for-2 with a walk and her two-run homer, while Billie Andrews went 1-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored.

Billie Andrews gave Nebraska an early 1-0 lead when she led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. The home run was the 55th of Andrews' career, making her the Huskers' all-time home run leader.

Nebraska continued to lead until Illinois scored three runs in the top of the seventh. The Illini held that lead until Gray's homer in the bottom of the seventh.

Kaylin Kinney (11-8) earned the win in relief for Nebraska. She tossed 3.0 innings and allowed only one run. Sarah Harness was charged with three runs on only two hits in 4.0 innings of relief. Caitlin Olensky started for the Big Red and pitched a perfect first inning before leaving the game with an injury.

Tori McQueen (6-7) took the loss for Illinois, allowing five runs in a complete-game effort.

Nebraska and Illinois continue their series on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Post-Game Notes

Nebraska won for the third time this season when trailing after six innings of play. The Huskers had only one win last season when trailing after six innings.
The Huskers improved to 2-2 in extra-inning games this season.
Billie Andrews led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. The homer was the 55th of her career, making Andrews Nebraska's all-time home run leader. The previous record for career home runs was 54 by Taylor Edwards. 
Sydney Gray hit a game-tying two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning. The home run was Gray's eighth of the season, as she ranks second on the team in home runs.
Samantha Bland had a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was Bland's second game-winning hit in the last week, as Bland hit a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning last Friday against North Dakota.
Ava Bredwell scored one run and had one RBI, marking her sixth consecutive game with both a run and an RBI.
Caitlin Olensky started in the circle for the Big Red, becoming the first Husker freshman to start a conference opener since at least 1999.