EUGENE, Ore. — Nebraska softball coach Rhonda Revelle's homecoming trumped Oregon's home-field advantage.
The No. 16 Huskers handed the third-ranked Ducks their first loss in 20 games at home this season, winning an NCAA Super Regional opener 5-2 on Saturday.
Nebraska (44-13) can advance to its first Women's College World Series since 2002 with a win Sunday at 2 p.m. CDT, or at 5 p.m. if the Ducks win game two.
Revelle, who grew up in Eugene and played one season at Oregon before transferring to Nebraska, got top-notch pitching from Tatum Edwards and a five-run offensive outburst in the fifth inning to beat her hometown team.
“There's a lot of work to be done,” Revelle said. “We celebrate for about 18 seconds, but then we've got to move on. We've got our hands full tomorrow, too.”
Edwards (30-8) nearly pitched the third shutout of the season against Oregon (49-10), and the first since Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts blanked the Ducks on Feb. 9. Edwards allowed two runs in the seventh — one earned — and scattered five hits and three walks.
Edwards was cruising after a couple of early jams, and Nebraska handed her a lead in the fifth. Gabby Banda's RBI single off Pac-12 pitcher of the year Jessica Moore broke a scoreless tie and left the bases loaded, and Brooke Thomason cleared them two batters later with her ninth home run.
“She was throwing a pretty heavy drop ball, and I was definitely looking for something like that to hit,” said Thomason, who fell behind in the count before fouling off a series of pitches. “I was just looking for something on the plate I could drive a runner in with.”
The five-run fifth inning chased Moore, who fell to 27-5 on the season. The Ducks then got two shutout innings from sophomore right-hander Karissa Hovinga, a Ralston native who attended Papillion-La Vista High School.
Defense got the Huskers out of a couple of early jams. Oregon's Janie Takeda led off the bottom of the first with a double, but No. 2 hitter Courtney Ceo fouled out trying to bunt and Takeda was then caught stealing — after missing a sign, Oregon coach Mike White said after the game. The Ducks then had two on with none out in the second thanks to an error, but Nebraska second baseman Hailey Decker snared a sharp line drive and threw to second for a double play.
Edwards said she “didn't try to change much at all” after the early trouble.
“I knew my defense was going to be there and back me up,” she said. “They made big plays in big situations, and that got us rolling.”
Edwards got more help in the sixth when she fielded a comebacker with two on and one out, threw to third for an out and then watched third baseman Banda throw to first to complete the double play. The Ducks contended afterward that the squibber in front of the plate hit batter Alexa Peterson's foot, and thus should have been a foul ball.
Thanks to Edwards' ability to settle down, Nebraska is now within a game of winning a super regional for the first time. Oregon, meanwhile, is looking to come back from an opening game loss in the super regional round for the second straight year, after winning at Texas a year ago.
“We've been here and done this before,” White said.
The Huskers failed to capitalize on what seemed at the time a golden opportunity in the third after the first two runners reached. Banda singled to right with one out, but Oregon's Allie Burger threw out Mattie Fowler at home plate. Taylor Edwards then drove a ball to the base of the left-field fence, but it was caught to end the inning.
Revelle said sending Fowler on the single to right was “worth the risk” based on Oregon's tough pitching this season.
“It gave them a little momentum back, but I don't think it got in the way of what we were trying to do,” Revelle said.