The 19th-ranked Nebraska softball team continues its seven-game road trip with the first of two meetings this month with in-state rival Creighton. The Huskers and Bluejays open their series on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Creighton Sports Complex in Omaha. A free radio broadcast will be available on Huskers.com for those unable to make the trip to Omaha.
Both Nebraska and Creighton have fared well through the first two months of the season. The Huskers bring a 25-7 record into Wednesday’s contest, while the Bluejays are 19-9. Both teams have won eight of their last 10 games, while Nebraska’s streak extends to wins in 14 of its last 16 games. Nebraska finished with a 14-3 record in March, while the Bluejays went 13-5 in the month.
The battery will be on display in Wednesday’s matchup, as the in-state battle will feature two of the region’s top catchers and three of the area’s best pitchers. Behind the plate, Husker junior Taylor Edwards was a 2011 NFCA All-American, while Creighton senior Amy Baker is a three-time All-Missouri Valley selection. Edwards is hitting .333 in 2013 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs, while Baker, who has split time at catcher and first base this spring, is batting .407 this season with seven doubles, 11 homers and 29 RBIs. Edwards and Baker are two of the top hitters in their programs’ respective histories. With another full season in front of her, Edwards ranks fourth in Husker history with 31 career home runs and fifth with 139 RBIs. With her senior season half over, Baker enters Wednesday’s matchup with school-record totals of 52 career home runs and 154 career RBIs. Her 52 homers have also tied the Missouri Valley Conference all-time record, and she is only three shy of the league record of 157 RBIs.
In the circle, Nebraska and Creighton feature three pitchers who rank among the top 51 pitchers nationally in ERA. For the Huskers, the combination of junior right-hander Tatum Edwards and freshman right-hander Emily Lockman have helped Nebraska post a 1.57 team ERA that ranks second in the Big Ten and ninth nationally. Lockman is 9-2 on the year, ranking second in the Big Ten and 24th nationally with a 1.38 ERA. Edwards is 16-5 this spring, ranking ninth nationally with six shutouts and 13th nationally with 16 wins, while boasting a 1.69 ERA that is fourth in the Big Ten and 51st nationally. For Creighton, Becca Changstrom is 13-4 in 2013 with a 1.39 ERA that ranks 26th nationally.
The Huskers opened their seven-game road trip with a 2-1 series victory at Illinois last weekend. Nebraska rallied from a seventh-inning deficit to win 6-2 in game one, before Illinois came from behind to win game two, 5-4. NU then secured the series win with a decisive 7-1 victory in game three.
Scouting the Creighton Bluejays (19-9)
Creighton brings a 19-9 overall record into Wednesday’s game, as the Bluejays have won four straight games and six of their last seven. CU swept a three-game series from Northern Iowa last weekend in its first home games of the season. The Huskers and Bluejays share one common opponent this season in New Mexico. Both teams faced the Lobos in the opening weekend, with Nebraska claiming an 11-0 victory and Creighton earning a 5-1 win.
Offensively, Creighton is averaging 4.6 runs per game while slugging 28 home runs and batting .260 as a team. The Bluejays are led by Amy Baker, a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection. Baker leads Creighton with a .407 average this spring, and she is also the Bluejays’ leader with seven doubles, 11 homers, 29 RBIs, 15 walks, a .901 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage. Baker is Creighton’s all-time leader with 52 career home runs and 154 RBIs, while the senior has also tied the Missouri Valley Conference all-time home run record and is just three shy of matching the conference’s all-time RBI record. She ranks 17th nationally in home runs per game this spring and is eighth in slugging percentage. Behind Baker, Liz Dike is batting .324 with six doubles, while Bri Lingl has hit six home runs and Kelsey Allender has produced 17 RBIs.
In the circle, Becca Changstrom is the Bluejays’ ace. Changstrom is 13-4 on the year with five shutouts and a 1.39 ERA in 111.0 innings. She has thrown more than 60 percent of Creighton’s total innings, starting 16 of CU’s 28 games and posting five shutouts. Opponents are hitting just .180 against Changstrom and have struck out 141 times, as she boasts an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 5-to-1. Changstrom ranks 17th nationally in shutouts, 25th in strikeouts per seven innings and 26th in ERA. Alexis Cantu has seen the most action behind Changstrom, posting a 5-4 record with a 1.77 ERA in 47.1 innings. Sammy Snygg (0-0, 4.85 ERA in 4.1 IP) and Brittany Telecky (1-1, 5.43 ERA in 19.1 IP) round out the Creighton staff.
Husker History vs. Creighton
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Creighton, 79-37. The teams split the season series last year, with Nebraska earning a 3-0 win in Lincoln, and the Bluejays posting a 2-1 win in Omaha. Creighton’s win in last year’s second game snapped Nebraska’s six-game win streak in the series. The Huskers’ 79 victories against Creighton are unofficially the fifth-most victories over one opponent in NCAA Division I history. NU owns a 30-21 record in Omaha, while Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 51-14 against the Bluejays in her career and 48-12 against 20th-year Creighton Head Coach Brent Vigness.
Last year, Nebraska won the first meeting in Lincoln behind a one-hit shutout and 14-strikeout performance from Ashley Hagemann. Madison Drake drove in two runs for the Husker offense, while Jordan Bettiol added the Huskers’ third RBI. In game two in Omaha, Creighton pulled out a 2-1 victory on Amy Baker’s sixth-inning solo home run. Mattie Fowler accounted for Nebraska’s lone run with a fifth-inning solo home run.
Among current Huskers, Taylor Edwards has enjoyed the most success against Creighton in her career. Edwards is 3-for-9 against Creighton in her career with one home run, six RBIs, five walks and three hit-by-pitches. Fowler went 2-for-6 with a home run in her first two career games against Creighton last season, while Tatum Edwards is 2-for-8 against the Bluejays with one home run. Brooke Thomason is just 4-for-17 (.235) in her career against Creighton, but she has produced two doubles and six RBIs in only five games. For Creighton, Baker is the only Bluejay who owns a career batting average of at least .200 against Nebraska. Baker is 7-for-17 (.412) with four home runs and eight RBIs in six career games vs. the Huskers.
In the circle, Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards is 1-0 against Creighton in one career appearance in 2011, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits in 3.1 innings. Creighton’s Becca Changstrom has started three of the Bluejays’ four games against Nebraska the past two seasons, posting a 1-2 record with a 2.95 ERA, 10 walks, 12 strikeouts and three home runs allowed in 19.0 innings.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes heading into this week:
- Nebraska owns an all-time record of 478-233 (.672) in the month of April.
- NU was ranked 18th in the second NCAA RPI ranking released on Monday. The Huskers remained the highest ranked Big Ten team, while overall the conference had four teams ranked in the top 25 and six teams in the top 50.
- NU’s roster features seven freshmen, tying for the most freshmen in Coach Revelle’s 21 seasons (also 2008).
- Five freshmen started the season opener, the most in Coach Revelle’s tenure and believed to be the most ever.
- NU’s starting lineup has featured at least three freshmen in every game, including 14 games with five freshmen.
- The freshmen have combined for 22 extra-base hits, the ninth-highest total by a freshman class in school history.
- Nebraska has allowed one run or less in 19 of its 32 games this season, including 11 shutouts. In 55 games last season, NU allowed one run or less just 16 times, posting 13 shutouts.
- Nebraska’s first four hitters in the batting order (Kiki Stokes, Gabby Banda, Taylor Edwards and Brooke Thomason) have remained the same for all 32 games this season.
- Five Huskers have started all 32 games at the same position this spring (Taylor Edwards - C, Hailey Decker - 2B, Gabby Banda, - 3B, Kiki Stokes - CF, Brooke Thomason - RF).
- Husker pitching has not allowed an extra-base hit in 14 of its 32 games this season.
- Nebraska is 21-1 when out-hitting its opponent this season.
- The Huskers are 23-1 when recording at least five hits.
- NU is 19-0 when it scores first and 12-0 when it scores in the first inning.
- Nebraska is 15-0 when it scores five-or-more runs.
- NU is 20-0 when leading after four innings.
- NU is 8-3 in true road games this season, after posting a 7-12 road record in 2012.
- The Huskers are 3-0 in extra-innings this season and have won six straight extra-inning games.
- Only four Big Ten pitchers have shut out a ranked team this season, Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards and Emily Lockman, along with Wisconsin’s Cassandra Darrah and Ohio State’s Alex DiDomenico.
- In the circle, 30 of the 76 hits Tatum Edwards has allowed this season have been infield singles (39 percent).
- Offensively, 14 of Tatum Edwards’ 18 hits have gone for extra bases, including seven doubles and seven homers.
- Tatum Edwards enters this week with 95 career RBIs, five shy of 100.
- Taylor Edwards enters this week with 96 career runs scored. She needs four runs scored to become only the third player in school history to produce 100 career hits, runs and RBIs prior to her senior season.
- Banda is one double shy of cracking Nebraska’s all-time top 10.
- Banda has started 167 consecutive games for the Huskers.
- Brooke Thomason and Taylor Edwards have each hit 31 career home runs, giving Nebraska a lineup that features two players with 30 career home runs for only the second time in school history (also 1998). NU has never had a lineup with three players with 30 career homers and Tatum Edwards owns 28 career home runs.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game nine times in their careers, including twice in 2013.
Walk This Way
Nebraska’s offense had its patience tested in a three-game series at Illinois last weekend. The Huskers drew 29 walks in the three games, averaging one walk every 3.9 plate appearances. Nebraska was also hit by five pitches last weekend, posting a .442 on-base percentage despite hitting only .203 in the series. The Huskers drew 10 walks in game one, six walks in game two and 13 walks in game three. Nebraska posted two games with at least 10 walks last weekend, after recording 10 walks in a game only twice since 2001 entering the Illinois series. The Huskers’ 13 walks in game three tied for its most since 2003 against Pacific, while Nebraska’s five hit-by-pitches in game one tied for its most since 2008 against Northern Colorado.
Thomason Produces Fourth Straight 30-RBI Season
Senior Brooke Thomason produced a two-run double in the top of the first inning of Nebraska’s 7-1 victory at Illinois last Sunday. The two runs driven in gave Thomason her 29th and 30th RBIs this season. Thomason, who ranks third in school history with 149 career RBIs, is the only player in school history to produce four 30-RBI seasons. She drove in 38 runs as a freshman, 34 as a sophomore and 47 as a junior, a class record.
A native of Overland Park, Kan., Thomason had been the only Husker to open her career with three straight 30-RBI seasons before junior Taylor Edwards matched that feat last weekend at Illinois. Thomason was also the only Husker to homer at least seven times in each of her first three seasons, before junior Tatum Edwards matched that feat with her seventh home run this season against North Dakota State. One of only four Huskers with 30 career doubles and 30 career home runs and one of just nine players in school history with 100 career runs, hits and RBIs, Thomason needs two more home runs this season to become the first Husker to produce four seven-homer seasons in a career.
Taylor Edwards Sets Walk Record
Junior Taylor Edwards walked six times last week, increasing her career total to 97 walks. Edwards passed three-time All-American Jennifer Lizama for the most walks through a player’s first three seasons in school history. Lizama walked 92 times through her junior season. Edwards, who tied the school record with 40 walks in 2012, is only 28 walks from passing Lizama’s overall school-record total of 124 career walks. Edwards was also hit by three pitches last weekend, moving into a tie for sixth place on NU’s all-time chart (18).
Tatum Edwards Has Won Last Eight Starts
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards has been excellent in a starting role since allowing a career-high nine earned runs in a loss at No. 1 Oklahoma on March 2. Edwards has made eight starts since the Oklahoma game, posting an 8-0 record with a 0.69 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 51.0 innings. Opponents are hitting just .144 against her, and Edwards has thrown four shutouts and has not allowed an earned run in six of her last eight starts, including a streak of 33.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. In her last eight starts, Edwards has tossed a one-hitter, a pair of two-hitters, a three-hitter, three four-hitters and a five-hitter.
Edwards has also helped herself offensively during the win streak. She has been in the starting batting order in each of her last eight starts in the circle, producing eight runs, three doubles, three homers and eight RBIs in only 22 at bats. During that same stretch, Edwards has held all opposing hitters to just nine runs, three doubles, no home runs and nine RBIs in 174 combined at bats.