Nebraska's stay in Bloomington, Indiana, was a brief one.

Illinois knocked the Husker softball team out of the Big Ten Tournament, 6-4, during the first round Thursday.

The Huskers (21-31) will miss the NCAA Tournament for a third straight season. And it's the first time NU has finished 10 games or more under .500 since 1994 (21-33).

Like they did during the final stretch of the season, the Huskers didn't go away quietly Thursday in a game that was delayed for nearly two hours because of rain.

NU's Samantha Owen hit a two-run homer to left with no outs in the bottom of the seventh to cut a 6-2 deficit to two runs. That led to Illinois taking out starting pitcher Sydney Sickels, who threw 140 pitches.

Madi Unzicker and Peyton Glatter hit back-to-back one-out singles against Taylor Edwards, and that's when Sickels re-entered the game.

The freshman right-hander coaxed a pair of popouts in foul territory to help Illinois (32-22) hold on for the win.

Eighth-seeded Nebraska had success against Sickels (18-13), recording seven hits against her, but the Illini ace also prevented any big innings. She used a strong rise ball to strike out six Huskers.

Nebraska, which stranded 10 baserunners, took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on Lindsey Walljasper's single to left field, and it regained a one-run lead on a bases-loaded walk to Owen in the fourth.

But Carly Thomas' fifth-inning double, which bounced off the wall and darted away from a pair of Husker outfielders, plated two runs to give Illinois a 3-2 lead.

Annie Fleming's solo shot to begin the seventh sparked a three-run inning before the Huskers attempted a rally in the bottom half.

Owen finished with two hits, including a double, and three RBIs.

Courtney Wallace (4-7) took the loss. The freshman pitched five innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and a walk.

The Huskers have finished 0-1 in the Big Ten Tournament in each of the past three seasons.


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