The 19th-ranked Nebraska softball team begins a season-long seven-game road trip with a three-game series at Illinois this weekend. The Huskers, who will be playing the first games in the state of Illinois in program history this weekend, face the Fighting Illini in a Saturday doubleheader at 1 p.m. before concluding the series with a single game on Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
Fans will have a variety of ways to follow the series. Fans can tune into a free radio broadcast of every game this season on Huskers.com, with veteran softball announcer Nate Rohr calling all of the action. Saturday’s doubleheader will also be streamed live to subscribers of BTN.com, while Sunday’s game will be televised by the Big Ten Network. Sunday’s game will air on a tape-delay beginning at 2 p.m., with Lisa Byington calling the play-by-play and Stacey Phillips adding color analysis.
The weekend schedule originally had Nebraska and Illinois meeting once each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but Saturday was switched to a doubleheader to allow Eichelberger Field another day to dry out after the Champaign-Urbana, Ill., area received about a foot of snow last Sunday. The Huskers have been strong in doubleheaders this season, especially in game two. NU has played six doubleheaders - all this month - posting a 10-2 record. The Huskers have been outscored 29-18 in game one of the doubleheaders, while outscoring their opponents 53-6 in game two, including three run-rule victories.
In addition to continuing its success in doubleheaders, Nebraska will also be looking for better results on the road in Big Ten Conference play this season, after finishing just 4-8 in road games during last year’s league schedule. The Huskers won only one of their four Big Ten road series in 2012 and were just 7-12 overall in true road games. Nebraska has fared better on the road through non-conference play this season, posting a 6-2 record, with a victory at No. 1 Oklahoma and losses to the top-ranked Sooners and 16th-ranked Arizona. The Huskers have won five straight road games, tying for Nebraska’s longest road winning streak in a decade.
Overall, Nebraska has won four straight games and 12 of its last 13 contests. The Huskers played in-state rival UNO on Wednesday, posting a 4-0 victory over the Mavs. Nebraska won comfortably over the 22-4 Mavericks, after needing to rally from a one-run deficit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning in the teams’ first meeting. It was an impressive victory over a UNO squad that was ranked 50th in the first NCAA RPI rankings of the year on Monday. The Huskers were 17th in the RPI, the highest ranking of any Big Ten team and one of four conference teams ranked in the top 25.
Scouting the Illinois Fighting Illini (10-15 Overall, 0-3 Big Ten)
Illinois, which had its mid-week game with Illinois State canceled, brings a 10-15 overall record into this weekend’s series, including an 0-3 mark in Big Ten play. Illinois was swept in a three-game home series with Wisconsin last weekend, snapping the Illini’s four-game win streak. Nebraska and Illinois share three common opponents this season in No. 4 Cal, Drake and North Dakota State. The Huskers posted a 2-2 record against that group, while the Fighting Illini went 1-2.
Offensively, Illinois is hitting just .251 as a team with only 28 extra-base hits, six home runs and a .317 slugging percentage. The Illini were held to four total runs in their three-game series with Wisconsin last weekend, collecting only 10 hits in the series. While Illinois lacks power, its speed could provide problems for a Husker pitching staff that is reliant on ground balls. Illinois has stolen 48 bases in only 52 attempts this season, while three Illini are hitting .300 or better. Alex Booker leads the team with a .378 average and is tied with Kylie Johnson for the team lead with 14 stolen bases. Jess Perkins is batting .313 and has produced team-high totals of five doubles, two homers and 22 RBIs, as she is the only Illinois player with more than eight RBIs. Remeny Perez rounds out the group of .300 hitters with an even .300 batting average, while she has tied Perkins for the team lead with five doubles and two home runs.
In the circle, Illinois returned its top two pitchers from last season in Pepper Gay and Jackie Guy. Gay has appeared in 18 of Illinois’ 25 games in 2013, including 14 starts. She has thrown the Illini’s lone shutout, while compiling a 6-9 record with a 3.86 ERA. Gay, who has held opposing hitters to a .202 average, has struck out 76 batters in 87.0 innings, but she has also walked 74 and hit 10 batters. Guy has seen limited action this season, posting a 0-0 record with a 4.30 ERA in 14.2 innings. Shelese Arnold has stepped up in her second season, posting a 4-6 record with a team-best 2.11 ERA in 66.1 innings. Arnold started two of Illinois’ three Big Ten games last weekend, losing both decisions while posting a 2.84 ERA. Gay was 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA last weekend.
Husker History vs. Illinois
Nebraska is 4-0 all-time against Illinois, including a three-game series sweep in the teams’ first meeting as Big Ten Conference opponents last spring at Bowlin Stadium. The Huskers outscored the Fighting Illini 20-2 in the three-game series last season. Overall, Nebraska has outscored Illinois 41-3 in the four all-time meetings, averaging 10.3 runs per game, while allowing 0.8 runs per contest. The Huskers have run-ruled the Illini twice in the four all-time meetings, winning 11-0 in six innings in the series opener last year. Nebraska also defeated Illinois 21-1 in five innings at the 2006 NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. That win marks the last time Nebraska has scored 20 runs in a game, while the Huskers set a school record with 20 RBIs in the victory. Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 4-0 in her career against Illinois, including a 4-0 record against 14th-year Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan. The teams will be playing at Eichelberger Field for the first time this weekend.
NU won the opener last year, 11-0 in six innings. Taylor Edwards and Brooke Thomason both homered in the victory, while Thomason’s blast was a walk-off grand slam that wrapped up the run-rule victory. Thomason drove in five runs in the win. In game two, Nebraska was out-hit 5-4, but the Huskers prevailed 4-1. NU drew seven walks in the win, while Courtney Breault and Mattie Fowler both homered. The Huskers completed the sweep with a 4-1 victory in game three. Nebraska’s offense managed only three hits in the third game, but Tatum Edwards produced a two-run double in the fourth inning to give the Huskers the lead for good.
Despite scoring 20 runs in the three-game series, the Huskers hit just .217 against Illinois last season. But Illinois hit just .106 against NU’s pitching staff, including a game-one no-hitter by Ashley Hagemann. Thomason finished 4-for-8 in the series with a home run and six RBIs. Nebraska drew 19 walks in the three games and seven of those batters who walked wound up scoring. In the circle, Tatum Edwards earned the win in game two of the series, allowing one run on five hits in 5.0 innings, before Hagemann came on and picked up the save.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes heading into this weekend:
- Nebraska owns an all-time record of 443-251 (.638) in the month of March. The Huskers have already clinched a winning month of March for the 18th straight season dating back to 1994. NU is 12-2 in March this season.
- 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 13 games with five freshmen.
- The freshmen have combined for 21 extra-base hits, the ninth-highest total by a freshman class in school history.
- Nebraska has allowed one run or less in 18 of its 29 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 29 games this season.
- Five Huskers have started all 29 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 13 of its 29 games this season.
- Nebraska is 20-1 when out-hitting its opponent this season.
- The Huskers are 21-0 when recording at least five hits.
- NU is 18-0 when it scores first and 11-0 when it scores in the first inning.
- Nebraska is 17-0 when it scores four-or-more runs.
- NU is 19-0 when leading after four innings, 13-0 when leading after five and 10-0 when leading after six.
- Nebraska has lost four straight Big Ten road games, and the Huskers have not led in any of the four games while trailing at the end of 26 of 28 innings during that stretch.
- NU is 6-2 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.
- The five opponents who have defeated NU this season have combined for a 121-32 record (.791). Five of the Huskers’ six losses have come to ranked opponents who have combined for a 108-19 record (.850).
- 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.
- Despite playing only two Big Ten games, Nebraska has struck out a conference-high 22 batters in league play.
- Nebraska was 11-for-23 (.478) with runners in scoring position against Northwestern last weekend, including 10-for-16 (.625) with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs.
- The Huskers lead the Big Ten with a .347 team batting average with runners in scoring position this season.
- In the circle, 26 of the 67 hits Tatum Edwards has allowed this season have been infield singles (39 percent).
- Tatum Edwards has allowed only six runs over her last 43.0 innings and all six runs have scored with two outs.
- Offensively, 13 of Tatum Edwards’ 16 hits have gone for extra bases, including six doubles and seven homers.
- Tatum Edwards enters this week with 95 career RBIs, five shy of 100.
- Taylor Edwards is five RBIs from entering Nebraska’s all-time top five.
- Gabby Banda is two hit-by-pitches from moving into Nebraska’s all-time top five.
- Banda is one double shy of cracking Nebraska’s all-time top 10.
- Banda is one walk from moving into Nebraska’s all-time top 10.
- Banda has started 164 consecutive games for the Huskers.
- Brooke Thomason is batting .472 (25-for-53) with runners on base and .500 (19-for-38) with runners in scoring position.
- Brooke Thomason (31) and Taylor Edwards (30) have each hit 30 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.
Taylor Edwards Sets Walk Record
Junior Taylor Edwards walked twice on Wednesday against UNO, increasing her career total to 93 walks. Edwards, who also doubled and homered against the Mavericks, 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 32 walks from passing Lizama’s overall school-record total of 124 career walks.
Husker Offense Explodes Against Northwestern
Nebraska scored 19 runs in a doubleheader sweep of Northwestern last Friday, in the only two games of a weather-shortened series with the Wildcats. After falling behind 4-0 early in game one, the Huskers outscored Northwestern 19-1 the rest of the doubleheader. NU totaled five runs in game one and 14 runs in game two.
The 14 runs Nebraska scored in game two tied its season high and marked the second-highest run total the Huskers have ever scored in a conference game. It was one shy of matching the school record set on April 6, 1996 in a 15-11 Big 12 Conference victory over Kansas. The 14 runs scored against Northwestern were the most runs Nebraska has ever scored in a conference game of fewer than seven innings.
The Huskers produced their 14 runs in only four turns at bat, as the game ended after the top of the fifth inning. Nebraska pounded out 11 hits, while five Huskers produced multi-hit games and four produced multi-RBI efforts. Nebraska scored eight runs in the first inning - its biggest inning of the year - and six runs in the third.
Tatum Edwards Riding Seven-Game Win Streak
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards has been excellent in the circle since allowing a career-high nine earned runs in a loss at No. 1 Oklahoma on March 2. Edwards has appeared in eight games since that loss, posting seven victories and one save in those appearances, which include six starts. Edwards’ current seven-game win streak is the longest by a Husker since she won her first nine career decisions stretching the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Edwards has thrown four shutouts in her six starts during the win streak. She has allowed an earned run in only one of her last eight appearances, including a streak of 33.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run that was snapped last Friday against Northwestern. During the win streak, Edwards has allowed only six total runs (four earned) and all six runs have scored with two outs. While going 7-0 over her last eight appearances, Edwards has posted a 0.65 ERA in 43.0 innings with 52 strikeouts. Opponents have hit only .137 against Edwards during her win streak, recording just 20 hits and four extra-base hits in 146 at bats.
A native of Murrieta, Calif., Edwards struck out a career-high 13 batters in a career-high 8.0 innings against Northwestern last Friday. Overall, in her six starts during the seven-game win streak, Edwards has tossed a one-hitter, a two-hitter, a three-hitter, two four-hitters and a five-hitter. She added a save against UNO on Wednesday.
Edwards has also helped herself offensively during the win streak. Although she has only been in the batting order for only six of her seven decisions during the win streak, Edwards has put up individual statistics that top those of all the opposing hitters she has faced during her streak. During her seven-game win streak, Edwards has scored seven runs and produced two doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs in 17 at bats, while opposing hitters have combined to score only six runs with two doubles, no home runs and six RBIs in 135 at bats.
Huskers Boast Two of Big Ten’s Best Pitchers
Led by the combination of junior right-hander Tatum Edwards and freshman right-hander Emily Lockman, Nebraska boasts one of the best pitching staffs in the Big Ten Conference and two of the league’s top pitchers. The Huskers lead the Big Ten in shutouts and opponent batting average, while ranking second in ERA and third in wins. NU has allowed one run or less in 18 of its 29 games in 2013.
Thanks to a personal seven-game win streak, Edwards is 14-4 with a 1.76 ERA in 99.2 innings. She has already established career highs this season in wins, innings, shutouts (6), complete games (12) strikeouts (90) and saves (1). Edwards boasts the sixth-best ERA in the Big Ten, while ranking second in shutouts, third in saves, fourth in wins and opponent average (.190) and fifth in strikeouts. She has also allowed the fewest home runs of any Big Ten pitcher who has pitched a minimum of 2.0 innings per game. Edwards has not allowed a run in 10 of her 19 appearances in 2013 while not allowing an earned run in 13 games.
In 14 appearances against non-ranked teams this spring, Edwards is 13-0 with one save and a 0.89 ERA in 71.0 innings. She has thrown a shutout in five of her 10 starts against unranked opponents, limiting opposing hitters to a .175 batting average while striking out 72 and walking 26. Edwards has also made quality starts against ranked opponents, tossing a four-hit shutout against No. 23 Florida State, allowing no earned runs in a 1-0 loss at No. 16 Arizona and tossing a two-hitter and allowing only two runs in her first of two starts against No. 1 Oklahoma. Taking out starts against No. 10 Oregon and her second start against the top-ranked Sooners - games where she allowed 14 of her 25 earned runs this season - Edwards is 14-2 with a 0.85 ERA.
Lockman has also impressed this spring. The two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Lockman is 9-2 with a 1.28 ERA in 82.1 innings. She ranks second in the Big Ten in ERA, sixth in wins and eighth in opponent batting average (.225). Lockman has allowed one earned run or less in 11 of her 14 starts this season, while allowing more than two earned runs only once. She tossed the first no-hitter by a Husker freshman since 2003 in her fourth career start. Lockman has also excelled in her two starts against ranked opponents. Lockman tossed a four-hitter but was on the losing end of a 1-0 decision to eighth-ranked Cal on Feb. 24. Her next start came at No. 1 Oklahoma, when she snapped the Sooners’ 17-game season-opening win streak with a seven-hit shutout. She is one of only two pitchers to defeat OU this season, and the only pitcher to shut out the powerful Sooner lineup.
A key to the duo’s success has been keeping the ball down. Of the 146 hits NU has allowed, only 28 have gone for extra-bases, including just eight homers. Opponents are only averaging an extra-base hit every 24.8 at bats, including 13 games where NU has not allowed a single extra-base hit.
Led by Edwards and Lockman, Nebraska’s staff has shown great improvement from last year. NU has owned a season ERA below 2.00 following 27 of its 29 games this season, including twice where the Huskers’ season ERA was below 1.00. Last year, the lowest Nebraska’s season ERA stood after any one game was 2.79. NU also owns six more wins through 29 games than it did a year ago, while boasting a 1.53 lower ERA. NU has five more shutouts this year than it did at the same point last year, while allowing 46 fewer extra-base hits.
Fowler A Clutch Co-Captain
Sophomore Mattie Fowler has been a clutch hitter through her first season-and-a-half as a Husker. Fowler, a co-captain, has especially come through in the clutch in late innings and against Big Ten teams. She owns eight game-winning RBIs in her career, including three in the seventh inning or later and five against Big Ten teams. Fowler is a career .321 hitter with runners in scoring position, including a team-best .478 mark this spring.
Nebraska has played six extra-inning games in Fowler’s career, winning all six games. In 2012, the Huskers won three games in the eighth inning. Fowler drove in the game-winning run in two of those victories and scored the game-winning run in the third win. This season, Fowler has scored the game-winning run in one of the Huskers’ three extra-inning victories, while also producing a game-winning, walk-off hit in the bottom of the seventh inning against UNO.
Her ability to come through in the clutch was on display again last week, as she helped Nebraska to a 4-1 week. In the first game of the week against UNO, Fowler produced all three RBIs in the Huskers’ 3-2 come-from-behind win. With Nebraska trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Fowler delivered a walk-off, two-out, two-run single to lift the Huskers to victory. Three days later, Fowler tied Nebraska’s game with Northwestern with a clutch two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning. She then worked a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth inning and came around to score the game-winning run in the Huskers’ 5-4 win.
Fowler on Fire
After missing last fall and being limited early this season following offseason knee surgery, sophomore Mattie Fowler has gotten her timing back at the plate, producing impressive results while starting the last 12 games at first base. During the stretch of 12 consecutive starts, Fowler is batting .400 (14-for-35) with two homers, seven runs scored and nine RBIs. She has also drawn three walks and posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
Fowler has hit safely in 10 of her last 12 games, including four multi-hit efforts in her last nine games. As she has gotten her timing back, her run production has also increased. Fowler drove in seven runs in five games last week, after producing five RBIs in her first 15 games of the year. Fowler, who homered five times as a freshman in 2012, also saw her power return last week, slugging her first two home runs of the season. While batting .429 (6-for-14) last week, Fowler set season highs in hits, runs scored, RBIs and walks.
Nebraska has won five games in its final at bat this season, including four times in an eight-game stretch from March 9 to March 22. The Huskers’ first win in the final at bat came in the fourth game of the season on Feb. 10. Nebraska trailed Illinois-Chicago 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, before scoring twice in its final at bat, highlighted by sophomore Jordan Bettiol’s walk-off, RBI double.
The Huskers would not need another late-inning victory until nearly a month later. At Wichita State on March 9, the game was tied 1-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning before the Huskers scored twice, highlighted by freshman Kiki Stokes’ go-ahead, two-out, inside-the-park home run. That began the stretch of four final-at bat victories in eight games for the Huskers. Six days after the win at Wichita State, Stokes delivered again, belting a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning that gave Nebraska a 4-1 win over New Mexico State. Four days later against UNO, sophomore Mattie Fowler delivered a walk-off, two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift Nebraska to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. Three days after that win, junior Taylor Edwards was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring home the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning of a 5-4 win over Northwestern.
Three of the games Nebraska has won in its final at bat have been extra-inning contests. The Huskers are 3-0 in extra-innings this season and have won six straight extra-inning games dating back to 2012, when Nebraska was also 3-0 in extra innings.
Ready to Hit the Road
For the second time this season, Nebraska has had a scheduled school-record-tying eight-game road trip shortened due to inclement weather. NU’s Wednesday game with UNO was originally scheduled to be played in Omaha, which would have given the Huskers eight straight road games. Earlier this month, the Huskers were scheduled to play an eight-game road trip, but lost two games to weather, finishing 5-1 with wins over No. 1 Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (twice) and Wichita State (twice).
The Huskers are 6-2 in true road games this season, including a win at No. 1 Oklahoma that snapped the Sooners’ 17-game, season-opening win streak. Both of Nebraska’s road losses have come to top-20 teams (No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 16 Arizona). The Huskers, who have won five straight road games to match the program’s longest streak in a decade, were just 7-12 on the road last season. Nebraska is only one win away from matching last year’s road-win total, while the Huskers look for a winning road record for just the third time in seven years.
Nebraska’s current seven-game road trip includes its first Big Ten road games at Illinois this weekend and at Iowa next weekend. The Huskers finished third in the Big Ten last season, missing a chance to finish higher in the final standings due to a 4-8 road record. Nebraska has lost four straight Big Ten road games, and the Huskers have not led in any of the four games, while trailing at the end of 26 of 28 innings during that stretch.
Give Me Five
Husker hitting coach Diane Miller asks her hitters to “give her five,” meaning score five runs per game. The theory being that NU will win most games if it can score five runs. Nebraska is averaging more than five runs per game this season, but where the Husker offense has really excelled at giving Miller “five” has been during Big Ten Conference play.
Nebraska scored at least five runs in both games of its victory over Northwestern last weekend, needing all five runs in a 5-4 victory in game one of the series. In their first 25 Big Ten games dating back to last season, the Huskers have averaged 5.4 runs per game. Nebraska has scored at least five runs in 13 of its 25 Big Ten games, owning a 10-3 record when scoring five runs and a 6-6 mark when failing to score five runs.
Overall this season, NU is 14-0 when scoring five-or-more runs and 9-6 when scoring fewer than five runs.
Tatum Edwards Showcasing Power
In addition to impressive pitching statistics this year, junior Tatum Edwards has also showcased her power at the plate. Edwards has only been in the lineup for 21 of Nebraska’s 29 games, after missing only two games in the batting order over her first two years combined. Despite fewer at bats, Edwards has showcased the power that help her earn All-Big 12 honors as a freshman in 2011 and All-Big Ten accolades as a sophomore last year.
In only 21 games and 19 starts in the lineup, Edwards has produced six doubles and seven home runs. She leads the Huskers in home runs and extra-base hits and is second in doubles. The extra-base hits have helped Edwards post a team-leading .729 slugging percentage that is 90 points higher than any other Husker. Thirteen of Edwards’ 16 hits this season have gone for extra bases, as she averages one extra-base hit every 4.5 at bats. Edwards has produced three two-hit games this year and in all three games, both hits went for extra bases. She owns two-homer games against New Mexico State and North Dakota State this spring, in addition to hitting two doubles in her last game against Northwestern.