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Saturday, March 19, 2011 - 1:14am
The New Mexico State softball team notched its first win over a ranked squad in three seasons by defeating No. 14 Nebraska 4-3 to kickoff a four-game weekend series Friday evening at the NM State Softball Complex.
NM State (19-7) snapped the Cornhuskers’ nine-game win streak with a come-from-behind win, handing No. 14 Nebraska just its third loss of the season against 21 wins. The Aggie win marks the first victory over a ranked team for NM State since defeating No. 17 Hawai’i 4-1 on March 24, 2008 in Honolulu.
Nebraska (21-3) ace Ashley Hagemann suffered just her second loss of the season with the defeat to stand 15-2 on the year. Sophomore hurler Alex Neman earned the win for the Aggies to improve to 12-1 while freshman Celisha Walker secured the win with her second save of the season. The Aggies allowed just seven hits to NU while posting five critical ones. The Aggies only left two on base while Nebraska stranded six in the error-free game.
Nohara led the Aggie offense with a leadoff triple in the second and would score on senior Ashley Maroda’s single in the next at-bat. Both Aggies extended their current hitting streaks to six games tonight to lead the squad. After the Huskers scored three in the top of the fourth, the Aggies answered when Nohara unleashed her 16th home run of the year. Her three-run shot gave the Aggies a 4-3 lead and ended up as the game-winning RBI.
“I felt like this is a really good win for us against a great Nebraska team,” said Aggie head coach Kathy Rodolph. “I felt like both Alex Newman and Celisha Walker were able to hit their spots and we were able to defend behind them. I’m very proud of the fact that when Nebraska made their push, that we decided we were going to push right back.
“I think the (Tuesday night) loss against Arizona stung a lot and we’ve all been thinking about that because we felt like that was a game we let slip by that we had. We came out with a purpose tonight. Hoku is playing every day as if it could be her last. She is staying under control emotionally at the plate, so she is a tremendously tough out. She doesn’t have a lot of holes in her swing right now.”
Newman found her groove early, retiring the visitors in order to start the game, as did Hagemann.
NU threatened in the second with runners in scoring position but Newman rang up her only strikeout of the game to get out of inning unscathed.
NM State opened the scoring when Nohara tripled down the right field line. Maroda followed with an RBI-single to score Nohara and give the Aggies a 1-0 lead after two.
After a scoreless third, Nebraska opened with a pair of singles sandwiching a sacrifice bunt to put runners on the corners with one out. NU’s ninth batter Gabby Banda came through with a clutch home run over the left field wall to clear the bases and put the Huskers up 3-1 going into the bottom of the fourth.
Senior Kandis Jones singled up the middle to start the fourth for NM State. Junior Tiare Jennings followed with a single up the middle to advance Jones to second. Nohara battled to a full count against Hagemann at the plate before smashing her 16th home run of the season over the right field fence to put the Aggies back on top 4-3 after four innings.
Rodolph pulled Newman from the circle in the fifth with one out on the board and a base runner at first and replaced her with Walker. The Aggie defense helped Walker notch a pair of outs in the next two at-bats to get out of the inning.
Neither team would score the rest of the way, as the Aggies held on for the win.
Walker retired NU batters in order in the sixth while posting two K’s. The rookie gave up one hit in the seventh but secured the win with another strikeout and forcing a fly to left field for the final out.
The Aggies and Huskers play two games on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. at the NM State Softball Complex; then finish the series with a single game on Sunday at noon.