The Nebraska softball team begins an eight-game homestand with five games this week at Bowlin Stadium. The Huskers’ longest homestand of the season opens with a pair of midweek matchups against UNO on Tuesday and Northern Iowa on Wednesday. Nebraska will then welcome the Iowa Hawkeyes to Lincoln over the weekend for a three-game Big Ten Conference series on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
NU will look for a season sweep of UNO on Tuesday at 5 p.m. before hosting UNI Wednesday at 5 p.m. Fans can get into both mid-week games for free by presenting their business card at the front gate. The games times for the weekend series with Iowa are 6 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets will be on sale beginning at 3:30 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday at the Bowlin Stadium ticket office, located at the main entrance to the stadium, behind home plate. Tickets can also be purchased online at Huskers.com or over the phone at 1-800-8-BIG-RED. Ticket prices start at $3 for youth and senior general admission seating, $5 for adult general admission and $7 for reserved seating. General admission seating at Bowlin Stadium does include one section of chairback seats.
Fans unable to make it out to the ballpark on Tuesday or Wednesday can follow both games online. Veteran softball play-by-play announcer Nate Rohr will call all of the action for a free radio broadcast on Huskers.com, while both the UNO and Northern Iowa games will feature a live video stream as part of a BTN Student U production. To view the games, fans must subscribe to BTN All-Access at btn.com.
Nebraska brings a 26-12 record into the midweek matchups. The Huskers have won seven of their last nine games. NU posted a 3-1 record last week, defeating Creighton before winning their second straight Big Ten road series with a 2-1 showing at Illinois.
The Husker offense has picked up its production dramatically over the past two weeks, averaging 8.8 runs per game during that stretch. Nebraska has produced at least 10 runs in four of its last eight games, after totaling only three games with double-digit runs through the season’s first 30 games. Fueled by the offensive production, Nebraska has posted three run-rule victories in its last six wins, exceeding its total of one run-rule win in its first 20 victories of the season.
Over the last two weeks, Nebraska is batting .351 as a team, an .083 improvement from its total over the first seven week of the season. The Huskers are also averaging 3.7 more runs per game over the last eight contests than they were during the first 30 games of the season.
Scouting the UNO Mavericks (20-13)
UNO has played only three games since losing to Nebraska on March 26. The Mavericks had 10 days off following the loss to the Huskers, before losing two of three games last weekend in a Summit League series with North Dakota State. Each of the three games with the Bison were decided by one run.
UNO boasts a strong offense, averaging 4.8 runs per game. The Mavs are batting .272 as a team and have slugged 38 homers in 33 games. Amber Lutmer is batting .372 this spring with 14 homers and 38 RBIs. She boasts an .840 slugging percentage and has walked 24 times to reach base at a .504 clip. Lutmer enters play this week ranked seventh nationally with 14 home runs. Behind Lutmer, Allie Mathewson owns a .357 average, and she leads the team with 18 extra-base hits, including eight doubles, two triples and eight homers. Mathewson, a Creighton transfer, has added 21 RBIs and six stolen bases. Sydney Hames is hitting .349 with eight doubles, a homer and 23 RBIs. Campbell Ditto has slugged eight home runs and driven in 22 to complement a .293 average.
In the circle, UNO owns a 3.04 ERA and is allowing 4.0 runs per game. Ace Dana Elsasser is enjoying another outstanding season, as she owns a 17-6 record with a 1.99 ERA. Elsasser has thrown 148.0 of UNO’s 221.1 innings this spring, striking out 122 and holding opponents to a .192 average with just 22 extra-base hits in 548 at bats. Her 1.39 career ERA ranked fourth nationally among all active Division I pitchers entering play this week. Kat Barrow has seen the most action behind Elsasser this spring, appearing in 10 games with eight starts, compiling a 1-5 record and a 4.77 ERA in 44.0 innings. Lizzie Noble (1-2, 4.20 ERA in 13.1 IP) and Cheyenne Baxter (1-0, 7.00 ERA in 16.0 IP) round out the Maverick staff.
UNO is coached by Jeanne Scarpello, who is in her 15th season and owns a 619-201-1 record. The Mavericks’ all-time winningest coach, Scarpello entered this spring with the No. 22 all-time winning percentage in NCAA history across all divisions. Among active coaches, Scarpello owned the No. 6 winning percentage, and her mark was the best among any coach currently at a Division I institution. Scarpello and UNO are in their third season as a Division I program, beginning the transition from Division II to Division I in 2012. She has guided the Mavs to an 80-38 record in Division I, including a 36-7 mark in 2013.
Husker History vs. UNO
Nebraska leads the all-time series with UNO, 16-10. The Huskers and Mavericks have met twice a season for three straight years, which corresponds with UNO’s transition to Division I. NU has won each of the five meetings with both schools as Division I programs. Each of the first three games in that span were one-run Husker victories, although Nebraska has won the past two meetings by a combined score of 14-0. Overall, Nebraska has won seven straight in the series and 11 of the last 12. Prior to 2012, the teams had only met once in the NCAA era, which began in 1982. NU owns an 8-5 series edge in Lincoln, including a 3-0 record at Bowlin Stadium. Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 5-0 against UNO and 5-0 against Maverick Head Coach Jeanne Scarpello.
In the first meeting this season, Nebraska exploded for 10 runs in a 10-0 run-rule victory at Westside Field at Westbrook in Omaha. Tatum Edwards enjoyed an outstanding performance, giving Nebraska a 2-0 lead with a two-run homer in the top of the third inning. That ignited the Husker offense, as NU plated three more runs in the fourth and five runs in the fifth. Hailey Decker produced a two-run single in the fourth, followed by a Tatum Edwards RBI single. Then in the fifth, back-to-back doubles from MJ Knighten and Kiki Stokes gave Nebraska a 6-0 lead before Decker blasted her first career grand slam to wrap up the scoring. Decker finished 2-for-4 with a career-high six RBIs in the win, the highest total by a Husker this season. Tatum Edwards was 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs, while she fired a one-hit shutout with a season-high 10 strikeouts in the circle. Taylor Edwards walked in each of her four plate appearances. The four walks tied a school record, and her second walk of the game was the 125th of her career, as she passed Jennifer Lizama as the Huskers’ all-time walk leader.
Scouting the Northern Iowa Panthers (21-9)
Northern Iowa brings a 21-9 record into Wednesday’s game. The Panthers have won four straight and seven of their last eight. UNI has fared well against “major” conference teams this season, defeating North Carolina, Purdue and Texas.
The Panthers are batting .279 as a team. UNI is averaging 5.4 runs per game with 36 home runs in 30 games. Three starters are hitting above .300, led by Rikki Alcaraz. Alcaraz owns a .344 average with 11 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 20 RBIs. Gina Brown is hitting .318 with a pair of homers, 10 RBIs and a team-high 17 walks, while Samantha Olson is batting .316 and is a perfect 13-for-13 in stolen bases this spring. As a team, Northern Iowa has stolen 36 bases in only 45 attempts.
Defensively, UNI is allowing an average of 3.8 runs per game. The Panthers’ pitching staff boasts a 2.93 ERA, while the defense is averaging nearly 1.5 errors per game. Jamie Fisher is the staff ace, having thrown more than 60 percent of the team’s total innings. Fisher is 12-6 on the year with a 2.19 ERA in 127.2 innings. She has struck out 99 and allowed 11 home runs, while limiting opposing hitters to a .224 average. Chelsea Ross has also seen extensive action this spring, compiling an 8-3 record with a 4.11 ERA in 76.2 innings. She is averaging nearly one strikeout per inning. Alyssa Buchanan (0-0, 4.20 ERA in 3.1 IP) rounds out the Panther staff.
Northern Iowa is led by Ryan Jacobs, who earned his 200th win in the Panthers’ last game. Jacobs owns a 200-151 record in seven seasons at UNI and seven seasons as a collegiate head coach. He led Northern Iowa to just the second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history last season, when the Panthers captured their first NCAA Tournament victory with an elimination victory over Tulsa in the Lincoln Regional at Bowlin Stadium.
Husker History vs. Northern Iowa
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa, 18-4. The programs are meeting in the regular season for the first time since 2010. UNI has won each of the last two regular-season matchup, but Nebraska shut out the Panthers, 4-0, in an opening-round matchup in the 2013 NCAA Lincoln Regional at Bowlin Stadium. UNI has won two of the last three meetings, while Nebraska has won 11 of the past 14 matchups. NU owns an 11-4 edge in the series in Lincoln, including a 4-3 advantage at Bowlin Stadium. Husker head coach Rhonda Revelle is 14-4 in her career against Northern Iowa, including a 4-3 record against Panther Head Coach Ryan Jacobs.
The teams met last year in the NCAA Tournament at Bowlin Stadium, with the Huskers earning a 4-0 win. Tatum Edwards tossed a two-hit shutout and struck out 11 in the victory. She also drove in one run at the plate, while Brooke Thomason produced a pair of RBIs and Jordan Bettiol drove in one. Jamie Fisher earned the start for UNI and shut out the Huskers over the first four frames, before finishing with four runs allowed (three earned) in a complete-game effort.
The information below provides a quick look at a few brief notes heading into Nebraska’s midweek matchups with UNO on Tuesday and Northern Iowa on Wednesday.
- 58 of the 112 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored with two outs (52 percent).
- Eight of the 11 teams to beat NU this season were ranked in the top 25 last week, including six top-10 teams.
- The Huskers are 22-1 this season when scoring first.
- Nebraska is 13-1 when recording 10 hits this season.
- The Huskers are 16-0 when scoring at least five runs this year, but are 0-9 when allowing five or more runs.
- Alicia Armstrong has hit safely in six straight games, going 13-for-22 (.591) with six doubles in that stretch.
- Armstrong has six doubles in her last five games after recording only one double in her first 32 games.
- Armstrong has five multi-hit efforts in the last six games, after totaling just four in the first 32 games.
- Hailey Decker has homered in four of her last eight games and five of her last 10 games.
- Decker owns seven multi-RBI performances in her last 15 games.
- Decker has produced nine extra-base hits in her last nine games, including four doubles and five homers.
- Decker has recorded four multi-hit efforts in the last five games and five such efforts in the last seven games.
- Decker has scored 12 runs in her last eight games.
- Decker owns 20 hits, 13 extra-base hits and 20 RBIs over her last 15 games.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game 10 times in their careers, including once this season.
- Tatum Edwards has produced 15 hits in her last 12 games after totaling 15 hits in her first 24 games.
- Tatum owns 12 RBIs in her last 12 games after producing just nine RBIs through her first 24 games.
- Taylor Edwards needs two hits to become the ninth Husker to record 200 career hits.
- Taylor is one home run from tying Jennifer Lizama for second on NU’s all-time home run chart (47).
- In her career, Taylor Edwards own 198 hits, 180 RBIs and 153 runs. She has joined Ali Viola as the only players in school history to produce 150 career hits, RBIs and runs.
- MJ Knighten owns 10 RBIs over her last 11 games, after totaling nine RBIs in her first 24 games.
- Knighten is 11-for-22 with one double, two homers and 11 RBIs over her last eight games.
- Knighten has produced five multi-RBI efforts in the last six games, after totaling four in her first 32 games.
Knighten Named Big Ten Freshman of the Week
Third baseman Marjani Knighten was named the Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week on Monday. The weekly accolade was the first of Knighten’s career, while she became the fourth Husker to be honored this season.
Knighten produced impressive statistics while leading Nebraska to a 3-1 record last week. Knighten hit safely in all four games to extend her career-long hitting streak to eight games. She batted .538 on the week with one double, one home runs, six RBIs and three runs scored. After going 1-for-3 in a win over Creighton, Knighten finished 6-for-10 in a three-game series at Illinois. She produced at least one hit, one run and one RBI in all three games, including a pair of multi-hit efforts and three multi-RBI performances. Knighten hit a two-run homer in the opener, tied her career high with three hits in game two and had a pair of run-scoring singles in the finale.
Armstrong Ties NCAA & Nebraska Record
Sophomore Alicia Armstrong tied a school record with three doubles in Nebraska’s 11-3 victory over Illinois last Sunday. Armstrong doubled in each of her final three at bats against the Fighting Illini, becoming the third Husker to hit three doubles in a game. The other two Huskers to accomplish that feat are Kim Ogee (vs. Texas Tech on April 13, 2003) and Jamie Fuente (vs. Syracuse, March 15, 2001). The three doubles also tied the NCAA record, shared by many other players, including a pair of hitters who accomplished the feat in 2013.
Armstrong has doubled in four of her last seven at bats and owns six doubles in her last six contests.
Decker Producing Impressive Totals
Sophomore Hailey Decker is Nebraska’s leader in doubles (13), RBIs (30), extra-base hits (20) and multi-RBI games (9). Decker has matched or exceeded her freshman total in each of those categories, an impressive accomplishment considering her 2013 marks ranked among the best freshman totals in school history. Decker ranked third on NU’s all-time freshman chart with 13 doubles last spring and was eighth with six homers and 29 RBIs. This season, Decker has already matched her doubles total while hitting one more home run and producing one more RBI than she did a year ago. It took Decker just 37 games this spring to match her 2013 doubles total and only 38 games to surpass her home run, extra-base hit and RBI totals from her freshman season.
Nebraska received big production from the bottom of its lineup last week, which was a big reason why the Huskers averaged 7.3 runs per game in their four games last week. Nebraska scored 29 runs last week and hit .373 despite senior Taylor Edwards and sophomore Hailey Decker - the Huskers’ top two statistical hitters - combining for a .172 average (5-for-29) with only four RBIs and six runs scored.
After being somewhat reliant on Edwards and Decker to drive the offense over the first nine week of the season, the emergence of the middle and particularly the bottom of the order was encouraging. Sophomore Kiki Stokes, junior Kylee Muir, freshman Kat Woolman and sophomore Dawna Tyson have batted sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Husker order since Nebraska changed its lineup two weeks ago.
That quartet of Husker hitters combined to post a .390 average, .500 on-base percentage and .561 slugging percentage last week. Over the first nine weeks of the year, the group combined for a .194 average, .299 on-base percentage and .304 slugging percentage.
Tough at the Top, Lineup Change Improves Production
Nebraska hit just .171 and scored only nine runs in a series loss to No. 16 Minnesota to open Big Ten Conference play March 21-23. The disappointing offensive showing led to a lineup switch that has paid dividends the past two weeks. The Huskers have scored 65 runs in eight games with the new lineup, averaging more than eight runs per game. Nebraska has posted double-digit runs in four of its last eight games, exceeding its total from the first 30 games. NU has hit .083 better with the new lineup, while improving its slugging percentage .175 and its on-base percentage .108.
Senior Taylor Edwards moved up to the leadoff spot in the lineup for the first time this spring with the switch, and she is followed by sophomore Hailey Decker hitting out of the No. 2 spot for the first time in her career. Senior Tatum Edwards has moved up to the third spot in the order, while sophomore Alicia Armstrong is batting cleanup for the first time in her career. After experimenting with freshman MJ Knighten at leadoff the prior to the switch, Head Coach Rhonda Revelle has moved Knighten to fifth in the order. By stacking Nebraska’s top five statistical hitters, the lineup may have become top heavy but it also became more productive.