Lincoln, Neb. – Junior Austen Urness hit a walk-off home run with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead the Nebraska softball team to a 2-1 series-opening victory over Penn State Friday night at Bowlin Stadium.
Urness’ homer – her second of the season – helped Nebraska overcome an offensive night where the Huskers were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-14 with runners on base. Urness went 4-for-4 in the win, producing a career-high four hits and totaling four of Nebraska’s six hits in the game.
The walk-off shot made a winner of junior right-hander Kaylan Jablonski, who tossed one of the best games of her career. In a complete-game effort, Jablonski (9-11) allowed only five hits and one run while adding five strikeouts with no walks.
Led by Urness and Jablonski, Nebraska improved to 17-22 overall and moved to 7-5 in Big Ten Conference play. Penn State fell to 16-23 overall and 4-8 in conference action. Marlaina Laubach (8-7) was the hard-luck loser, as she allowed only two runs (one earned) in 7.1 innings.
Nebraska threatened throughout the game but struggled to come up with the clutch hit. After squandering a leadoff double in the bottom of the first, the Huskers threatened in the bottom of the second inning after Urness singled down the right field line and junior Laura Barrow walked. Junior Taylor Otte’s sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with one out, but Laubach pitched the Nittany Lions out of trouble by retiring the next two batters.
After retiring the first 10 hitters, Jablonski gave up two one-out singles in the fifth inning but escaped the jam with a double play.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, NU again had a runner in scoring position after Urness singled and Barrow reached on an error. With two outs, junior Gina Metzler hit a line drive to left but Penn State’s Tori Dubois saved a run from scoring with a diving catch for the final out.
After the Huskers missed several scoring chances, Penn State was the first to score in the top of the fifth. Kristina Brackpool led off with a single and then stole second. She advanced to third on an error and scored off Gianna Arrizurieta’s sacrifice squeeze bunt.
Trailing 1-0, Nebraska answered back to tie the game in the bottom of the frame. The scoring effort started with a single by freshman Alexis Perry. Sophomore Alyvia Simmons then reached on an error and with runners on first and third and no outs, senior MJ Knighted plated freshman pinch runner Bree Boruff with a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
The game stayed tied and went into extra innings. Jablonski retired the side in order in the top of the eighth before Urness lined the first pitch she saw over the fence in left center.
Nebraska and Penn State face off again on Saturday at Bowlin Stadium for the second game of the three-game series. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. and fans with a ticket to the Red-White Spring Football game can get into the softball game for free by presenting their ticket to the Bowlin Stadium ticket window.