By Joe Shearer, Photo Editor
The UNO softball team was set for a historic day last Tuesday. But then the weather and the Huskers rained on the parade.
With a six-game winning streak on the line, the Mavs were to open the brand new Westside Field at Westbrook. But heavy rain over a few days moved the game down I-80 to Lincoln and Nebraska’s Bowlin Stadium.
Once the game finally got underway, UNO could manage only one run on six hits in a 2-1 defeat. The Mavs got the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, but the Huskers scored two in the fourth and hung on for the victory.
“Overall we’re real pleased with how our players came out to play,” UNO head coach Jeanne Scarpello said. “They played hard, they played with the mentality that they could play with them (Nebraska) and I think we really did.”
Though UNO took an early 1-0 lead, Maverick hitters were unable to solve Nebraska starting pitcher Ashley Hagemann, who threw a complete-game performance, striking out 14 while walking just three.
Hagemann helped the Mavs out with some first inning walks but soon settled down and was lights out the rest of the way.
“Obviously we didn’t do a very good job of figuring out Hagemann,” Scarpello said. “She’s one heck of a pitcher. I think she’s ranked sixth right now in the nation in strikeouts and you can see why.”
“She mixed it up just enough for us. At first I thought we did a good job of being patient and let her help us out and put some people on. Then we needed to get a little aggressive and we didn’t get the key hits we needed to in some moments.”
Fortunately for UNO, Hagemann’s counterpart on the UNO mound was just as good. Mav sophomore Dana Elsasser threw six innings allowing just one earned run on a walk, a strikeout and six hits.
Though Elsasser took the loss to drop to 5-5, she threw 67 of 100 pitches for strikes and kept UNO in the game throughout.
“Dana, our pitcher, was unbelievable,” Scarpello said. “That’s a sophomore throwing against a very good lineup and a very strong lineup. She did a great job keeping us in the game, getting us the ground balls we needed. We just didn’t make a couple plays when we needed to.”
Despite having to travel after preparing for a home game, then waiting on a 30-minute rain delay once they arrived, the Mavs came out focused and took an early lead. Tonya Peterson drew a four-pitch walk, and Ashley Lynch laid down a bunt single.
The thrown to first on Lynch’s bunt went into right field allowing Peterson to move up to third. UNO hitters then went down on back-to-back strikeouts before Amber Lutmer drew a walk to load the bases. Molly Negrete then also walked to score Peterson for the 1-0 lead.
It was a slow day the rest of the way for the Mav offense, but UNO was solid in the field. A pair of fourth inning errors spoiled an otherwise supreme defensive effort.
Nebraska led off the fourth with a double and an infield single for runners at first and second with none out. A wild pitch moved the Huskers’ Tatum Edwards to third then Edwards scored on an infield hit.
Courtney Breault hit a grounder that was thrown home but Edwards beat the throw to make it 1-1. Elsasser struck out the next hitter but Nikki Haget reached when the Mavs committed another error on a grounder to the infield, and the Huskers took a 2-1 lead.
UNO threatened once more in the top of the seventh when Emma Wright doubled with one out. Kiley Thalken came on to pinch run, but Hagemann struck out the next two Mav hitters.
It was the first Division I meeting between the two in-state programs in any sport. Nebraska took the first round but the Mavs get another shot at the Huskers when they come to Omaha on April 18.
“The bottom line is we just wanted a game, we wanted a game against a good competitor,” Scarpello said about not being able to open at home as planned. “We’ll get them back at our place anyway.”
“We’d have loved to have seen it at our home field and we would have loved to have a game like this at our home field, but for us it’s more about just getting on the field and playing against them.”