Huskies advance at softball World Series on walkoff homer

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A walkoff home run by Kimberlee Souza in the eighth inning powered the Washington softball team to a 4-3 victory over Nebraska in the Women’s College World Series opener Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

Souza teed off on the first pitch from Emily Lockman, a sophomore who entered the game in the fifth in relief of starter Tatum Edwards, and deposited it into the left-field bleachers. It was the eighth homer of the year for Souza, a sophomore from Waialua, Hawaii, and her first career walkoff homer.

“Before the at-bat I had a little talk. Coach (Heather) Tarr talked to me and calmed me down,” said Souza. “(She) told me, ‘Get a good pitch, get up there and hit it.’ And that’s what I did.”

The 11th-seeded Huskies (44-15), who have beaten the Cornhuskers in all three of their World Series meetings, advance to play Tennessee at 4 p.m. Friday.

Souza faced Lockman in the fifth with runners at first and second, but struck out swinging to end the inning with the Huskies trailing, 3-2.

The Huskies rallied two innings later, the second time in the game they came from behind.

Victoria Hayward hit a one-out triple past diving Brooke Thomason in right field. She scored on a squeeze bunt by Hooch Fagaly, who also beat the throw at first when the Huskers first threw to the plate to try to get Hayward.

“The game that we’re used to playing and the conference that we come from comes from being able to pitch well, play great defense and get that timely hitting,” said Tarr, hoping to lead the Huskies to their first national championship since 2009.

Tarr elected to go with Bryana Walker, who started a three-game winning streak with her second career five-inning no-hitter against Hawaii in the NCAA regional title game, over Kaitlin Inglesby in the circle to start.

But after Walker allowed her only hit to open the fourth inning, followed by a walk to Thomason, the Huskers’ cleanup hitter, Tarr turned to Inglesby. Inglesby finished up with five innings of relief. Her only blemish was a wild pitch that allowed the Huskers to grab a 3-2 lead.

“Coming in, pitching, I was a little hesitant and that showed when that ball got away,” said Inglesby. “That was completely my fault.”

Before Inglesby took the mound, she had given the Huskies a 2-1 lead with a home run to left-center field, her team-leading 12th of the season. Hayward, who reached base in each of her four plate appearances, started the bottom of the first with a walk. Inglesby’s homer quickly wiped out an early 1-0 deficit.

Walker was touched for the opening-inning run without giving up a hit.

Before a crowd of 7,911, the Huskies ran their extra-inning record this season to 4-0.

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