The 24th-ranked Nebraska softball team continues its challenging early-season schedule with five games in three days this weekend at the Texas A&M Invitational.
Nebraska (9-7) will play all five of its games this weekend against teams that played in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, including three games against teams that advanced to a Super Regional. The Huskers open play on Friday against a Houston team that fell out of the top-25 rankings this week and fell one victory shy of advancing to the Women's College World Series last season. Nebraska closes play on Friday with the first of two games in two days against No. 21 Texas A&M, when the Huskers will have the first chance of the tournament to snap the Aggies' nation-leading 32-game home winning streak. NU also faces Texas State on Saturday and Sunday. The Bobcats upset ninth-ranked Baylor last weekend en route to winning the Texas Shootout in Waco in a field that also included Texas Tech.
The Huskers are in the midst of an 11-game stretch where they play 10 games against 2011 NCAA Tournament teams, including six games against regional champions. Through the first six games of that stretch, NU is 2-4 with wins at New Mexico State and an upset victory over No. 11 Missouri last weekend. The losses have come to No. 3 Washington, No. 5 Texas, No. 18 Oregon and an unranked Cal Poly squad.
Nebraska was its own worst enemy last weekend while posting a 1-4 record at the Cathedral City Classic, where the Huskers faced four teams ranked ahead of them in the polls. In a 4-2 loss to Oregon, the Ducks had only three base runners after the first inning, but a pair of walks and a grand slam gave Oregon all the runs it would need just five batters into the game. The next day against Cal Poly, the Husker offense scored seven runs, but it was not enough as Nebraska pitching walked five and hit four batters, with six of those runners eventually scoring.
The Huskers rebounded with an impressive 6-4 win over a Missouri squad that has advanced to the Women's College World Series in each of the past three seasons. After giving up four runs in the first inning in each of its previous two games, Nebraska scored first against the Tigers, building a 3-0 lead after two innings of play. The Huskers led 6-2 going into the seventh inning, before holding off a Missouri rally, as the Tigers' stranded the tying runners in scoring position. The next day, Washington and Texas combined for only eight hits, but turned those hits into nine runs. A three-run inning doomed the Huskers in both games, but Nebraska allowed only one hit in each of those three-run innings.
Scouting Houston (9-5)
Houston brings a 9-5 record into play this weekend, but the Cougars fell out of the top-25 polls this week. The Cougars opened the year with a No. 20 national ranking after falling one win shy of a berth in the 2011 Women's College World Series.
This season, Houston is outscoring its opponents by an average of more than three runs per game. The Cougar offense is batting .353 as a team and averaging 6.1 runs per game, while Houston's pitching staff boasts a 2.58 ERA.
Offensively, six Cougar starters are batting above .360. Reina Gaber leads the way with a .535 average, collecting 23 hits in 43 at bats. Jennifer Klinkert is batting .405 and leads the team with five doubles, six walks and a .457 on-base percentage. Holly Anderson is the top power threat, batting .378 with team-high totals of three home runs and 15 RBIs. The Cougars also boast plenty of speed, stealing 35 bases in 38 attempts this season, led by a 10-for-10 effort by Ashleigh Jones.
In the circle, Houston has used four pitchers this season but has primarily relied upon a two-pitcher rotation. Diedre Outon leads the team in appearances, starts and innings pitched, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.84 ERA in 38.0 innings. Bailey Watts is 2-3 on the year with a 2.91 ERA in 33.2 innings. Summer Groholski (3-1, 4.30 ERA in 14.2 IP) and Ty'Ara Law (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 3.1 IP) round out the Houston staff.
Houston leads the all-time series, 2-1. All three of the previous meetings have come in Houston. The Huskers defeated the Cougars 2-0 behind a Peaches James no-hitter in 2004, but lost twice to UH the next season.
Scouting Texas A&M (9-6)
Texas A&M puts its nation-leading 32-game home winning streak on the line on Friday, when the Aggies open play at their home tournament against Nebraska. Texas A&M began the year ranked 15th, but has dropped to 21st after a 9-6 start to the season heading into a Wednesday matchup at Sam Houston State. Like NU, the Aggies went 1-4 at the Cathedral City Classic last weekend. Nebraska and A&M share common opponents this season in Washington and Arizona. Each team defeated Arizona and lost to Washington (NU is 0-2 against the Huskies).
Offensively, A&M is batting .253 as a team, but the Aggies have slugged 16 home runs. Texas A&M has again shown good patience at the plate, averaging nearly five walks per game. Emily Albus leads the Aggies with a .480 average, while Brittany Clopton is hitting .375 and Sydney Shannon is batting .333 with three home runs. All-Americans Meagan May and Mel Dumezich are tied for the team lead with four home runs each, while Dumezich has driven in 17 runs, nine more than any other Aggie.
In the circle, Dumezich has posted similar numbers to Husker ace Ashley Hagemann, after each pitcher earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last season. Dumez has made 11 appearances and eight starts this season, posting a 4-4 record with a 3.36 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 58.1 innings. Lindsey Sisk, a transfer from Arizona who sat out last season with an injury, is 4-2 on the year with a 2.78 ERA in 40.1 innings. Kayla Klein (0-0, 8.40 ERA in 5.0 IP) and Lauren Ainsley (1-0, 21.00 ERA in 2.1 IP) round out the Aggie staff.
Texas A&M leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 36-24. The Aggies have won three straight in the series and 11 of the last 13. Nebraska is 10-17 all-time in College Station, but the Huskers have lost two straight at the Aggie Softball Complex and nine of their last 10. Texas A&M has won 32 consecutive home games dating back to May of 2010, including a 5-0 home record this season and a perfect 25-0 mark last season. The Aggies swept the Huskers in College Station last season, winning 3-0 and 5-1.
Scouting Texas State (8-7)
Texas State enters a Wednesday doubleheader at No. 6 Texas with a 8-7 overall record. After losing five of their first six games - including three games to top-five teams - the Bobcats have rebounded by winning seven of their last nine, including four in a row. Texas State won the Texas Shootout in Waco last weekend. The Bobcats defeated Texas Tech 3-1 in the championship game, after upsetting ninth-ranked Baylor, 1-0, in the semifinals.
TSU is led by a strong pitching staff that has thrown five shutouts in 15 games and has allowed only one run in its last four games. The Bobcats own a team ERA of 3.50, a figure that is bloated after Texas State allowed 31 runs in three games the opening weekend to No. 1 Cal, No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Arizona State.
Offensively, the Bobcats have gotten off to a slow start. Texas State is batting .235 as a team with only one home run, a .267 slugging percentage and a .308 on-base percentage. Selena Hernandez is the only Bobcat hitting above .300, as she leads the team with a .306 average, two doubles and seven RBIs. Brooke Baker is next with a .280 average, while Jordan Masek is hitting .278 with one triple and a team-high four stolen bases. Shelby Carnline has hit Texas State's lone home run this season.
In the circle, Anne Marie Taylor and Chandler Hall have been the Bobcats' primary pitchers. Taylor, the reigning Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week, is 6-3 on the year with a 1.86 ERA in 56.1 innings. She has tossed three shutouts and opponents are hitting .196 against her, although 18 of the 40 hits she has allowed have gone for extra bases, including eight home runs. Hall is 2-4 with a 3.96 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. Crystal Alaniz (0-0, 12.60 ERA in 8.1 IP) rounds out the Texas State staff.
Nebraska leads the all-time series, 6-0. The past four meetings have come at a neutral site, with Nebraska winning each game by at least three runs, including a 9-2 win in the most recent meeting in 2005.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers open the second month of the season at the Texas A&M Invitational in College Station, Texas:
- NU finished the month of February with a 9-7, narrowly missing become only the fourth team in school history to win 10 games in February. Nebraska posted a winning month of February for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons.
- Nebraska owns an all-time record of 420-242 (.634) in the month of March. The Huskers have posted a winning month of March for 16 straight seasons dating back to 1994.
- Seven of NU's first 16 games this season have come against top-25 teams, and the Huskers are 2-5 in those games.
- Every team the Huskers play this weekend qualified for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. After this weekend, Nebraska will have played 14 of its 21 games against 2011 NCAA Tournament teams, including eight contests against NCAA Regional champions from last season.
- Nebraska has been outscored in the first, second and seventh innings this season, 47-34. But in innings three through six, the Huskers have outscored their opponents 81-31.
- The Huskers have committed 25 errors and allowed 19 unearned runs through 16 games this season. In 55 games last year, Nebraska committed 43 errors and allowed only five unearned runs.
- Through five games this season, Nebraska had allowed more unearned runs (9) than it did all of last year (5).
- Thirty-one of the 78 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored on home runs (40 percent).
- Nebraska has issued 59 walks this season and hit 17 batters, ranking next-to-last in the Big Ten in walks and tied for last in hit batters.
- Twenty-seven of the 78 runners who have scored against Nebraska this season reached base by a walk or hit-by-pitch (35 percent), including 14 of 31 last weekend (45 percent).
- Overall, batters who have walked or been hit by a pitch score an average of 1.7 runs per game this season.
- Combining Nebraska's 59 walks, 17 hit batters and 17 errors where the hitter should have been retired, the Huskers are "giving" the opponent nearly one free base runner per inning.
Huskers Reach 100 Runs in Record Time
Nebraska scored its 100th run this season in the 13th game of the year, reaching the mark faster than any other team in school history. The previous fastest was 17 games in 1978 and 2006. The 2012 Huskers' total stood at 106 runs scored after 13 games, 17 more runs than the 1996 team scored. Currently, Nebraska has scored 115 runs through 16 games this season, easily eclipsing the previous 16-game run scored record of 97, set by the 2006 Huskers.
The Huskers are the only Big Ten team who has scored 100 runs this season, as they have totaled 25 more runs than second-place Purdue. Earlier this season, Nebraska posted double-digit runs in three consecutive games for only the third time in school history, but for the second time in the four-year tenure of Husker hitting coach Diane Miller.
Guile Produces 100th Career RBI
Senior Ashley Guile produced a fourth-inning RBI single last Saturday to drive in what proved to be the winning run in Nebraska's upset of 11th-ranked Missouri. For Guile, the RBI was the 100th of her career, as she became the 14th Husker to record 100 career RBIs. She enters this weekend with 101 career RBIs, 12 shy of tying for 10th place in school history. Earlier this season, Guile set a school record by producing an RBI in 10 consecutive games, eclipsing the previous record by three games.
Husker Offense Gets Tougher as Game Progresses
Nebraska has put up tremendous offensive numbers early this season, averaging more than seven runs per game while batting .330 as a team, slugging .481 and reaching base at a .434 clip. The offense has been good throughout the game, scoring in the first inning eight times in 16 games. But Nebraska has really excelled in the middle and late innings in its second and third time through the lineup.
Although the Huskers are batting .330 as a team, Nebraska is batting just .304 over the first three innings. But over the final four innings, Nebraska is batting .354, including a .373 average in the fourth, a .344 mark in the fifth and a .412 average in the sixth. The Huskers have been outscored 36-25 over the first two innings this season, but Nebraska has outscored its opponents 90-42 over the final five innings, including a 65-24 margin in the third, fourth and fifth frames.
Tatum Edwards Ties Husker RBI record
Sophomore Tatum Edwards tied a school record against New Mexico State on Feb. 17. As the designated player against the Aggies, Edwards tied the school record with seven RBIs. She tied the mark set by Jenny Smith against Kansas in 1996. Edwards finished 3-for-4 against NMSU, with a pair of home runs and a walk in Nebraska's 15-2 victory. She launched a two-run homer in the first inning, a three-run shot in the sixth and produced a two-run single in the seventh.
Edwards is tied with senior Ashley Guile for the Nebraska and Big Ten Conference lead with 18 RBIs this season.
Guile Posts Record RBI Streak
Senior Ashley Guile produced an RBI in 10 consecutive games in February, setting a school record for most consecutive games with an RBI. The previous record was seven consecutive games set twice last season by Taylor Edwards, once by Lisa Wangler in 2003 and once by Ali Viola in 1995. The streak began with two RBIs in Nebraska's upset of eighth-ranked Arizona on Feb. 10 and ended with an 0-for-3 day in a 4-2 loss to No. 19 Oregon on Feb. 24. During the streak, Guile drove in more than one run six times and produced 16 total RBIs. She also reached base safely in all 10 games, including a career-long nine-game hitting streak.
Banda Already With Career High RBI Total
Junior Gabby Banda has moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup this season and with that switch, she has seen a dramatic rise in her RBI production. Through 16 games, Banda ranks third on the team with 17 RBIs. The 17 RBIs are already a career high, as Banda produced 16 RBIs in 56 games as a freshman and totaled 10 RBIs in 55 games last season. Overall, Banda combined for 26 RBIs over 111 games in her first two seasons, but she has 17 RBIs in 16 games this year.
Entering this season, Banda had produced a total of seven multi-RBI games in 111 career games played, but only one game with more than two RBIs. Through 16 games this season, Banda has produced five multi-RBI contests, including three games with at least three RBIs. A native of Angleton, Texas, Banda set a career high with four RBIs while fueling Nebraska's come-from-behind victory over No. 8 Arizona on Feb. 10 with a fourth-inning grand slam. She then notched three RBIs later that same day against Idaho State.
Heading into this weekend, Banda has produced an RBI in six of her last eight games, totaling 10 driven in during that span. Banda's 17 RBIs on the season are tied for third among all Big Ten players. In addition to the increased RBI production, Banda has also hit two home runs this season, double her total from last season and one shy of her career high. Banda's season batting average is also .127 better than her career average entering the year, and she tied a school record with four walks against No. 23 Georgia Tech on Feb. 12.
Hagemann Posts Solid Weekend
Senior right-hander Ashley Hagemann posted solid performances in four complete games against ranked teams last weekend, despite a 1-3 record. Hagemann posted a 3.89 ERA in her 27.0 innings against ranked teams, but those statistics don't tell the whole story. A few bad breaks and some bloop hits gave Hagemann worse numbers than she deserved. In the four starts against top-20 teams, Hagemann allowed only 20 hits in her 27.0 innings, struck out 26 and opponents hit only .211 against her. She also hurt herself with 21 walks.
In her first start against No. 19 Oregon, Hagemann tossed a four-hitter with eight strikeouts in only six innings. Hagemann allowed only three balls to leave the infield all game long, but one of those was a first-inning grand slam that was preceded by a pair of walks and an infield single. Hagemann then earned a win over No. 11 Missouri in a 6-4 win in what statistically was her worst performance of the four. The next day in losses to No. 8 Texas and No. 5 Washington, Hagemann allowed only eight combined hits in 14.0 innings. But both games turned on a three-run inning, and UT and UW each managed only one hit in those three-run frames.