The Nebraska softball team ends the regular season with a three-game home series against Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday at Bowlin Stadium. To honor the fans for their outstanding support, several fan-friendly promotions are scheduled for this weekend, headlined by the World’s Largest Softball Tailgate on Saturday, when admission is free for both the tailgate and the game.
Friday’s doubleheader begins at 5 p.m. and it is Strike Out Breast Cancer Day. The Huskers will wear pink uniforms in the game and fans are also encouraged to wear pink to show their support in the fight against breast cancer. On Saturday, action begins at 11 a.m. with the World’s Largest Softball Tailgate with first pitch between the Huskers and Badgers set for 1 p.m.
In the best deal of the season, Saturday’s events will be completely free for all fans. The first 2,012 fans into the tailgate will receive a voucher for a free hot dog, bag of chips and one Pepsi product. Other attractions at the tailgate will include giveaways, inflatables and other fun activities. Fans can watch Nebraska take batting practice on the field and watch the teams warm up before the game. Inflatable games, including a speed pitch, a field goal kick and a Mizuno inflatable will be set up on the concourse level down the right field line. Face painting, balloon artists and music will add to the festive atmosphere, while Big Red in the Big Ten rally towels will be given away while supplies last.
Nebraska is attempting to set a new record for the world’s largest softball tailgate in its first year of hosting the event. The current record is held by Illinois, which drew 1,445 fans to its 2007 tailgate. Following the tailgate, fans will watch the Huskers take on Wisconsin in the regular-season finale. All seating for the game will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, although those who had already purchased a ticket for the game will be guaranteed their seats. Following the game, Nebraska’s six seniors will be honored in an on-field ceremony.
The Huskers, who are hoping for a record crowd for the tailgate and the game, have been one of the nation’s best home teams this season. Nebraska is 13-0 at Bowlin Stadium this spring, and the Huskers have won 16 consecutive home games dating back to last season. The 16 straight home victories are a Bowlin Stadium record, and Nebraska currently owns the nation’s longest home winning streak.
Nebraska enters this weekend with a 31-21 overall record. The Huskers and Badgers are tied for fourth place in the Big Ten standings with 12-8 records, and NU can finish as high as second place in its first year in the conference.
Scouting the Wisconsin Badgers (33-17, 12-8)
Wisconsin enters this weekend with a 33-17 overall record, and the Badgers are tied with Nebraska for fourth place in the Big Ten Conference standings with a 12-8 record in league play. Wisconsin has been terrific on the road this season, as the Badgers are 13-5 away from home and they own the third-best road record (5-4) among all Big Ten teams in conference play. Wisconsin lost both games of a rain-shortened series with Michigan last weekend, and the Badgers have lost two straight conference series after winning three straight series. Nebraska and Wisconsin share six common opponents this season in Illinois, Iowa, Loyola-Chicago, Minnesota, Northwestern and Oklahoma State. The Huskers posted a 10-4 record against that group, including an 8-3 mark against conference opponents, while Wisconsin went 10-5, including an 8-4 record against Big Ten foes.
Wisconsin is solid offensively and defensively, but the Badgers are led by one of the league’s top offenses. UW ranks second in the Big Ten with a .307 team batting average, while averaging 5.3 runs per game. The Badgers have also stolen 83 bases, the second-highest total in the Big Ten. Defensively, Wisconsin is fifth in the conference with a 2.74 ERA, second in wins and fourth in fielding percentage.
Individually, six Badgers are hitting above .300 this season, including five players batting better than .333. Maria Van Abel leads the team with a .367 average that ranks eighth in the Big Ten and 16 stolen bases in 21 attempts. Whitney Massey is batting .366 with 21 doubles, four home runs and 36 RBIs. Massey’s 21 doubles are four more than any other Big Ten player has hit, while she ranks ninth in the league in hitting and 12th in RBIs. Mary Massei is hitting .349 and leads the team with 34 runs scored and 58 hits, which ranks eighth in the conference. She has also added 13 doubles and 30 RBIs. Michelle Mueller is hitting .341, while Kendall Grimm is batting .336 with 13 stolen bases. Stephanie Peace rounds out the group of .300 hitters with a .306 average, and she has added 11 doubles, five home runs and 28 RBIs. Shannel Blackshear has also homered five times, while Molly Spence leads Wisconsin with seven home runs. Spence has only had 76 at bats this season, recording 20 hits, including 11 extra-base hits (three doubles, one triple, seven homers).
In the circle, Cassandra Darrah has seen the majority of the action for the Badgers’ three-pitcher staff. Darrah has appeared in 34 of Wisconsin’s 50 games, including 29 starts. While throwing more than half of UW’s total innings, Darrah has compiled a 21-11 record with a 2.32 ERA in 184.0 innings. She has thrown nine shutouts among her 21 complete games, and she ranks fifth in the Big Ten in ERA. Darrah has added 123 strikeouts against only 45 walks, and opponents are hitting .261 against her with only nine home runs in 710 at bats. Meghan Mcintosh and Amanda Najdek have split the innings behind Darrah. Mcintosh is 7-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 88.2 innings, while Najdek is 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA in 65.0 innings. Mcintosh earned a start against Nebraska in 2010, taking the loss after allowing seven runs (two earned) in 4.1 innings. Wisconsin has been prone to allowing unearned runs this season, as the Badgers have given up 51 unearned runs through 50 games.
Wisconsin is led by second-year head coach Yvette Healy. Healy has done an outstanding job in turning around the Badger program. Healy has led Wisconsin to back-to-back 30-win seasons, a first for the program since 2001-02. In fact, Wisconsin hadn’t had a 30-win season since 2005 and hadn’t won more than 20 games in a season in the three years prior to Healy’s arrival. Healy is 63-40 in her two seasons at Wisconsin, and she owns a 172-188-1 record in seven years as a collegiate head coach.
Nebraska is a perfect 6-0 all-time against Wisconsin, with all six meetings coming since 2000. Four of the six all-time meetings have been played in Lincoln, including a Nebraska doubleheader sweep at Bowlin Stadium in 2010 in the most recent meetings. Four of the Huskers’ six victories in the series have been decided by one run, while the other two wins were both 8-0 victories shortened to five innings due to the run-rule. Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 6-0 in her career against Wisconsin.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes heading into this weekend.
- Nebraska is 166-113 (.595) all-time in the month of May.
- Nebraska is 13-0 at home this season, and the Huskers’ 16-game home winning streak ranks first nationally.
- NU has allowed 184 runs through 52 games this season, after allowing 116 runs in 55 games last season.
- The Huskers have committed 63 errors and allowed 47 unearned runs through 52 games this season. In 55 games last year, Nebraska committed 43 errors and allowed only 14 unearned runs.
- Twenty-six percent of the runs Nebraska has allowed have been unearned (47 of 184).
- Nebraska is allowing an average of 0.9 unearned runs per game.
- Thirty-six percent of the runners who have scored against Nebraska (67 of 184) reached base by a walk or HBP.
- Overall, batters who have walked or been hit by a pitch score an average of 1.3 runs per game this season.
- Fifty-four percent of the runners who have scored against NU (100 of 184) reached base on a walk, HBP or error.
- Nebraska is “giving” the opponent an average of 1.9 runs per game this season when combining unearned runs and runners who have scored after reaching base on a walk or hit-by-pitch.
- Nebraska has let the opponent reach base more this season on walks, hit batters and errors (279), than the opponent has earned its way on via a hit (272).
- Between the walks, hit batters and errors, NU is “giving” the opponent an average of 5.4 base runners per game.
- In its 21 losses, Nebraska has allowed 33 unearned runs (1.6 per game), walked and hit 129 (6.1 per game) and allowed a walk or hit batter to come around and score 49 times (2.3 per game).
- Taking out any overlap from the totals above, errors and free passes are costing NU 3.6 runs per game in its losses.
- The Huskers scored 102 runs through their first 18 conference games this season, after scoring 59 total runs through their 18-game Big 12 schedule last season.
- Brooke Thomason needs one home run this weekend to become the first player in school history to homer at least eight times in each of her first three seasons.
- Courtney Breault enters this weekend with 98 career hits.
- Taylor Edwards enters this weekend with 96 career hits.
- Ashley Hagemann ranks fourth nationally in strikeouts.
Hagemann Sets Nebraska’s All-Time Strikeout Record
Ashley Hagemann struck out eight Creighton Bluejays on April 25, and her third strikeout of the game made her Nebraska’s all-time strikeout leader. Hagemann enters this weekend with 978 career strikeouts, 33 more than All-American Peaches James’ produced in her record-setting career. In addition to setting the school record, Hagemann needs 22 strikeouts to become the 11th Big Ten pitcher to record 1,000 strikeouts.
Hagemann has struck out 310 batters this season, the fourth-highest single-season total in school history and the second-best mark by a Husker senior. After striking out 344 batters as a junior, the second-highest total in school history, Hagemann has put together a second straight 300-strikeout season this spring. Hagemann is one of only three pitchers in school history to record a 300-strikeout season, and Hagemann and Ashley DeBuhr are the only Husker pitchers to strike out 300 batters in back-to-back seasons.
A native of Elkhorn, Neb., Hagemann owns two of the top four single-season strikeout marks in Husker history. She needs 25 strikeouts this weekend to hold two of the top three all-time marks at Nebraska.
Home Sweet Home
Nebraska is 13-0 at home this season, and NU has won 16 straight home games dating back to last season. The 16-game win streak is tied for the longest streak in the nation after Louisiana-Lafayette saw its 39-game home winning streak snapped last weekend. The Huskers’ 13-game winning streak to open their home schedule ties for the longest in the 11-year history of Bowlin Stadium, matching a 13-0 start in 2006. NU’s current 16-game home winning streak also marks the longest overall win streak in Bowlin Stadium history, eclipsing the 13-game streak in 2006.
While Nebraska’s offense has been solid at home, the Husker pitching staff has been stellar. Nebraska has allowed only 19 runs in its 13 home games this season, an average of 1.5 runs per game. The staff has thrown six shutouts at home and combined for a 1.14 ERA. Individually, sophomore right-hander Tatum Edwards is 4-0 with a 0.29 ERA in four home starts this season. Edwards has thrown two shutouts and held opposing hitters to a .174 average while striking out 20 and walking only six in 24.0 innings. Senior right-hander Ashley Hagemann is 9-0 at Bowlin Stadium with a 1.47 ERA. She has thrown four shutouts in 10 starts has held opponents to a paltry .142 average while tossing one no-hitter, two one-hitters and a pair of two-hitters. Hagemann has struck out 89 batters in only 62.0 innings at home, an average of 10.0 per seven innings.
Offensively, the junior duo of Gabby Banda and Brooke Thomason and senior Nikki Haget are the only Huskers hitting above .333 at home this season. The junior duo has combined to hit .387 (29-for-75) at Bowlin Stadium this season with six doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs. Banda leads NU with a .415 average, 17 hits and four doubles, while Thomason has paced NU with three home runs, 18 RBIs and a .676 slugging percentage, while hitting .353. Haget is batting .341 with a team-high 12 runs scored at home.