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Living up to her part of the promise, Ferrell delivers game-winning hit; Huskers are in the Big Ten tourney final

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After the third out in the top of the seventh inning of a tied ballgame on Friday afternoon, Liv Ferrell had a message for her teammates: "We're not going back out there" to play defense.

Wanting to end the game in seven, Ferrell lived up to her part of the promise, delivering a walk-off hit in the bottom half of the inning to lift the Nebraska softball team to a 2-1 win against Ohio State and into Saturday's Big Ten Tournament championship game.

The second-seeded Huskers will play Michigan at 10 a.m. (BTN) in East Lansing, Michigan. NU will be going for its first Big Ten tourney title.

Nebraska (39-14) has two walk-off wins in its past three games, and this one came from a player who hadn't swung a bat in a game since April 10, coincidentally when the Huskers were in East Lansing.

Ferrell hit two homers that day against Michigan State, but the senior from Elkhorn South injured her nonthrowing wrist, so her bat was put away for a while.

"They haven't let me hit at all in practice," said Ferrell, who entered the game with 43 at-bats and three homers. "I didn't swing, which is fine because I just went up there (Friday) and I know I have a little bit of strength. I was going up there, just trying to get on top of the ball."

Ferrell connected on a pitch on the outside portion of the plate, and the ball traveled to the deep part of right-center field and out of the reach of the Buckeyes' right fielder. Kaylin Kinney, who opened the seventh with a double, scored on the play.

Just moments earlier, Ferrell got out of a no-out, two-on jam, striking out Jaycee Ruberti before inducing two pop outs to end the threat and keep a pitchers' duel tied at 1-1.

That's when Ferrell told her team that it was time to finish it.

"I knew I was coming up to bat, too, so I was going to do everything I could to help my cause," said Ferrell, who took Courtney Wallace's spot in the lineup after coming on in relief of Wallace to start the fifth.

Ohio State (35-15) pitcher Lexie Handley (22-9) was strong. She struck out six, scattered six hits and threw only 95 pitches.

But she was matched by Ferrell and Wallace, who started the game and allowed only three hits over four innings a day after pitching a complete-game gem against Penn State.

Ferrell (19-6) took over in the fifth and allowed only three hits.

The Buckeyes took a 1-0 lead on an RBI triple in the top of the fourth, but NU answered in the bottom half when Abbie Squier, who had two hits, singled in a run.

The teams traded zeroes before Kinney's hit to open the seventh ignited the big finish.

Just a few weeks ago, the Huskers were atop the Big Ten standings. The hope was to win the regular-season title, but a tough stretch allowed Northwestern to vault past the Huskers for that crown. 

Now Nebraska has a chance to win another championship, this one in the form of a tournament title run.

"Regular-season title was obviously a goal," Ferrell said. "It means you're playing good consistently, but we're searching for rings, and that's kind of how our mindset has been."

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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