Gray Leads Huskers to Series-Clinching Win

Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletic Communications Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletic Communications

Sydney Gray had four hits and drove in five runs to lead the Nebraska softball team to a 7-3 series-clinching victory over Wisconsin Saturday afternoon in Madison.

Gray, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, had a pair of singles, a double and a home run to give her seven hits in the first two games of the series. Her three-run homer in the fifth inning gave Nebraska the lead for good.

Behind Gray's big day, Nebraska clinched a series victory over Wisconsin and won its 20th game of the year. The Huskers improved to 20-14 on the season and stayed unbeaten in conference play with a 4-0 record. Nebraska has won nine of its last 10 games heading into Sunday's series finale at 1 p.m.

Sarah Harness (3-2) pitched 2.2 innings and allowed just one run to earn the win in relief. Kaylin Kinney picked up her second save of the year after she scattered six hits in 3.0 scoreless innings. Emmerson Cope, returning from a three-week injury absence, earned the start for Nebraska and allowed two runs in 1.1 innings.

Tessa Magnanimo (5-8) took the loss for Wisconsin (12-19, 1-4), allowing seven runs in 4.2 innings.

Nebraska jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Billie Andrews reached on an error to start the game and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from her older sister Brooke. Ava Bredwell then brought home the game's first run with a double to right center. Following a ground out, Gray scored Bredwell with a two-out RBI single.

Wisconsin tied the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second. A leadoff double came around to score with one out when Nebraska threw late to home plate on a ground ball to second. That was followed by an RBI triple that tied the game. Harness then entered the game with a runner on third and only one out and kept the game tied with back-to-back strikeouts.

Each team scored one run in the third inning. In the top of the frame, Samantha Bland singled with two outs and Gray followed with an RBI double to put Nebraska on top 3-2.

Wisconsin answered with a sacrifice fly to tie the game in the bottom of the third .

Nebraska scored four times with two outs in the top of the fifth to take a 7-3 lead. The Huskers had runners on first and second with one out after Brooke Andrews reached on an error and Bredwell walked. The runners moved up to second and third on a two-out wild pitch before Gray launched a three-run homer to right field. Talia Tokheim followed with a solo blast to cap the four-run inning and give Nebraska a four-run lead. The Huskers nearly added more runs with runners on first and second but Katelyn Caneda hit a hard line drive directly to the first baseman to end the inning.

In the bottom of the frame, a hit batter and a double put Badgers on second and third with one out. But Kinney escaped the jam with an out at home and a fly out to left.

Wisconsin threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with one out. But Kinney again pitched out of trouble, ending the inning with a strikeout and a pop out to Bella Bacon at first base.

The Badgers continued to threaten in the bottom of the seventh. Wisconsin got a pair of one-out singles but on the second single, Husker right fielder Caitlynn Neal threw out the runner attempting to advance to third for the second out of the inning. A softly-hit infield single extended the game before Kinney wrapped up the win with her third strikeout.

Wisconsin stranded 13 runners in the game and was just 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

Post-Game Notes

  • Nebraska has won nine of its last 10 games. The Huskers have clinched their first series win at Wisconsin since 2017.
  • Sydney Gray went 4-for-4 with a double, a homer and five RBIs. The four hits were a career high for Gray.
  • Gray is 7-for-8 in the first two games of the series with one double, two homers and six RBIs.
  • Gray and Talia Tokheim hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning. It marked the second straight game the duo hit back-to-back home runs.
  • Tokheim, who missed one full year due to injury, has returned to start the last three games for Nebraska. In those three starts, Tokheim is 5-for-11 with three homers, six runs and six RBIs.
  • Peyton Cody went 2-for-2 with a walk, marking her first multi-hit game since Feb. 23. 
  • Kaylin Kinney has tossed 7.0 scoreless innings in the first two games of the series.
  • Kinney earned the save, and she now has picked up the win (13) or save (2) in 15 of Nebraska's 20 wins this season.
  • Emmerson Cope started in the circle, marking her first career Big Ten start. Cope played for the first time since March 9 as she has been dealing with a back injury.