The 14th-ranked Nebraska softball team hosts the 2013 Big Ten Tournament at Bowlin Stadium this week. The tournament features all 12 Big Ten teams competing in a single-elimination format, with the top four seeds receiving a first-round bye. Play begins with four games on Thursday, with seeds Nos. 5-12 competing. The winners will advance to face the top four seeds on Friday. The two semifinals are set for 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship game at Noon on Sunday.
Nebraska earned the No. 2 seed for the tournament by finishing the regular season with a 39-12 overall record and a 16-6 mark in Big Ten Conference play. The Huskers will open the tournament at 7 p.m. on Friday against the winner of Thursday’s first-round matchup between No. 7 seed Michigan State and 10th-seeded Purdue. A win would move the Huskers into Saturday’s second semifinal at 4:30 p.m.
Tickets are available for the tournament, and fans are encouraged to save money and guarantee great seats for the entire event by purchasing an all-session ticket. All-session tickets are only available through Wednesday, with single-day tickets going on sale on Thursday. Prices range from $20-30 for all-session tickets and from $5-10 for single-day tickets. Tickets are available online at Huskers.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED, in person at the Nebraska Ticket Office from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays, or at the Bowlin Stadium Ticket Office beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.
Fans unable out to make it out to Bowlin Stadium can follow all 11 games of the Big Ten Tournament. All four games on both Thursday and Friday will be streamed live for free on Huskers.com, with Nebraska softball play-by-play announcer Nate Rohr adding a radio call for every game. Saturday’s semifinals will both be televised live by the Big Ten Network, along with Sunday’s championship game. Kevin Kugler will call all of the action for BTN, while former Michigan All-American Jennie Ritter will provide analysis.
The Big Ten is playing a conference tournament for the first time since 2008. Previously, the Big Ten held a postseason tournament 15 times, including 14 straight seasons from 1995 to 2008. Michigan, the 2013 Big Ten regular-season champion for the sixth straight year, has won eight conference tournament titles, the most of any school. Iowa and Northwestern have each won a pair of tournament championships, with Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State all earning one title.
Nebraska has also had success in conference tournaments, winning nine total titles.
Scouting the Michigan State Spartans (24-24 Overall, 9-10 Big Ten)
Michigan State claimed the No. 7 seed for the Big Ten Tournament by winning twice at Wisconsin last weekend, a series victory that enabled Nebraska to clinch the No. 2 seed. Michigan State ended the regular season with a 24-24 overall record, and a 9-10 mark in Big Ten play. The Huskers and Spartans shared five common conference opponents this season in Illinois, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Nebraska posted a 10-5 record against that group, while Michigan State went 6-8.
The Spartans are batting .265 as a team, and they rank last in the Big Ten with 16 home runs and 168 runs scored. MSU features one of the Big Ten’s best hitters in first-team all-conference honoree Kylene Hopkins. Hopkins ranks eighth in the league with a .401 batting average. She has also drawn 24 walks to post a .491 on-base percentage, while adding five doubles, two triples and 11 RBIs. Jayme O’Bryant, a second-team All-Big Ten selection, is batting .327, and she leads Michigan State with 12 doubles, seven homers, 40 RBIs and a .565 slugging percentage. Alyssa McBride is the final Spartan hitting above .300, posting a .305 average. Sarah Bowlin has added seven doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs.
In the circle, transfer Kelly Smith has made an immediate impact for an MSU staff that is allowing 4.3 runs per game. Smith has started 30 of her team’s 48 games, compiling a 17-15 record with a 2.87 ERA in 200.0 innings. Opponents are hitting only .236 against her and have struck out 221 times. Dani Goranson has seen the most action behind Smith, posting a 6-8 record with a 3.91 ERA in 102.0 innings. Cassee Layne (0-1, 10.50 ERA in 6.0 IP) and Blair, Neb., native Carly Nielsen (1-0, 17.00 ERA in 7.0 IP) round out the Spartan staff.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 4-0. The teams did not face each other this season, while the Huskers swept a weather-shortened two-game series from the Spartans at Bowlin Stadium last spring.
Scouting the Purdue Boilermakers (22-31 Overall, 8-15 Big Ten)
Purdue brings a 22-31 overall record into the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers fell to the No. 10 seed after losing their final six conference games following a 6-5 win over Nebraska on April 21. Despite finishing conference play with a 1-8 record, three of Purdue’s eight losses in that stretch came in extra innings.
Offensively, Purdue boasts one of the fastest lineups in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers, whose normal lineup features seven left-handed hitters, lead the Big Ten and rank third nationally with 119 stolen bases. The offense is led by Andie Varsho, a first-team All-Big Ten selection batting .411 this spring, a mark that ranks sixth in the conference. Varsho has also added 10 doubles, four home runs, 36 RBIs and a Big Ten-best 28 stolen bases. Ashley Burkhardt is batting .316 with 20 stolen bases, while Maia Monchek, a second-team All-Big Ten pick, is hitting .300 with 14 RBIs. Danielle Fletcher leads Purdue with six home runs, while adding 30 RBIs.
In the circle, Purdue has primarily relied on the combination of right-hander Lexy Moore and left-hander Lilly Fecho to post a 3.31 staff ERA. Fecho has appeared in 38 games and made 20 starts, posting an 8-16 record with a 2.95 ERA in 154.1 innings. Opponents are hitting .267 against her with 46 extra-base hits. Moore is 10-14 on the year with a 3.79 ERA in 158.2 innings, including a team-high 27 starts. Alex Whittemore (2-0, 2.75 ERA in 28.0 IP) and Erika Petruzzi (2-1, 3.00 ERA in 16.1 IP) round out the Purdue staff.
The all-time series between Nebraska and Purdue is tied 3-3. The Huskers are 3-1 against the Boilermakers this season, including a non-conference win in February and two wins at Purdue in Big Ten Conference play.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few brief notes heading into the Big Ten Tournament:
- 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 16 games with five freshmen.
- The freshmen have combined for 33 extra-base hits, the eighth-highest total by a freshman class in school history.
- Nebraska has allowed one run or less in 26 of its 51 games this season, including 15 shutouts. In 55 games last season, NU allowed one run or less just 16 times, posting 13 shutouts.
- Nebraska has won seven straight extra-inning games dating back to 2012. NU is 4-0 in extra innings this spring.
- In the circle, 47 of the 125 hits Tatum Edwards has allowed this season have been infield singles (38 percent).
- Offensively, 18 of Tatum Edwards’ 31 hits have gone for extra bases, including eight doubles and 10 homers.
- Gabby Banda has started 186 consecutive games for the Huskers.
- Banda’s 37 walks this season are just three shy of tying Nebraska’s season record (40).
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game nine times in their careers, including twice in 2013.
Tatum Edwards Named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year
Junior Tatum Edwards was selected as the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in a vote of the league’s 12 head coaches this week. Edwards is the first Husker to earn a player-of-the-year award since All-American Peaches James was named the Big 12 Player of the Year in 2004. Edwards was 11-4 with a 1.98 ERA in Big Ten Conference play, helping Nebraska to a second-place conference finish.
A native of Murrieta, Calif., Edwards was the only Big Ten pitcher to post an ERA below 2.25 in conference play. She also threw a league-high 95.1 innings during the conference season, while posting the lowest opponent batting average (.177) and recording the second-most wins and strikeouts (93) of any Big Ten pitcher.
Overall, Edwards is 25-8 this spring with a 1.84 ERA in 194.0 innings. She leads the Big Ten with a .183 opponent batting average, while ranking second in wins, third in ERA and fifth in strikeouts (181). Her breakout junior season came after she entered this year with a 16-5 career record and a 2.69 ERA in 130.0 career innings.
Also a first-team All-Big Ten selection, Edwards has been an all-conference honoree each of her first three seasons. She was a second-team All-Big 12 selection in 2011 and a third-team All-Big Ten pick in 2012.
Seven Huskers Earn All-Big Ten Recognition
Led by junior Tatum Edwards, the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, Nebraska had seven players earn first- or second-team All-Big Ten recognition this spring. Tatum Edwards was also a first-team all-conference honoree in addition to being named the league’s pitcher of the year. Her twin sister Taylor was Nebraska’s only other first-team selection. Overall, NU’s seven selections tied with Michigan for the most of any Big Ten team.
Tatum went 11-4 with a 1.98 ERA in conference play, leading the Big Ten in innings (95.1) and opponent batting average (.177), while ranking second in wins and strikeouts (93). Taylor caught all of Tatum’s games and was one of three catchers selected to the 18-player first team. Taylor batted .373 in conference play, producing nine doubles, five home runs and 22 RBIs, while slugging .780 and reaching base at a .553 clip. Both Edwards sisters earned first-team all-conference recognition for the first time in their careers, while Tatum was an all-conference selection for the third time in her career and Taylor earned her second all-conference accolade. Tatum and Taylor were both unanimous selections, two of only five players to be unanimous selections.
Seniors Courtney Breault and Brooke Thomason, sophomore Jordan Bettiol and freshmen Alicia Armstrong and Emily Lockman each earned second-team honors. Breault and Thomason were second-team All-Big Ten selections for the second straight year, while Thomason picked up the third all-conference accolade of her career. Bettiol, Armstrong and Lockman each earned the first all-conference award of their careers.
Breault batted .310 in conference play, producing three home runs and 12 RBIs, while slugging .548. Thomason ranked second on the team with 16 RBIs in Big Ten action, while drawing 13 walks and producing three doubles and one home run. Bettiol broke out during conference play, emerging over the second-half of the league schedule to lead Nebraska with a .400 batting average. She also added two stolen bases while posting a .526 on-base percentage. Armstrong hit .380 during the conference slate, producing five extra-base hits and nine RBIs. In the circle, Lockman was 5-2 in Big Ten play with a 2.57 ERA in 51.2 innings. She posted the fourth-lowest ERA of any Big Ten pitcher during the conference season.
Three Huskers Named to Big Ten All-Defensive Team
Senior Gabby Banda, junior Taylor Edwards and freshman Alicia Armstrong were each honored as the best fielder at their position by earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive team. Banda was the team’s third baseman, while Edwards was the catcher and Armstrong was the shortstop.
Banda committed only two errors in 79 chances at third base during Big Ten play, posting a .975 fielding percentage. Armstrong committed just three errors at shortstop, posting a .964 fielding percentage that led all Big Ten shortstops. Banda and Armstrong also played key roles in helping Nebraska turn 20 double plays in only 22 Big Ten games, with Armstrong having a hand in 11 double plays and Banda being a part of seven double plays. Behind the plate, Edwards committed only one error while throwing out more base stealers in conference play than any other Big Ten catcher.
Armstrong and Edwards were two of five players to earn All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Defensive team honors.
Tatum Edwards Leads Big Ten in ERA In League Games
Junior Tatum Edwards posted a conference-low 1.98 ERA while throwing a league-high 95.1 innings in Big Ten play this season. She was the only Big Ten pitcher to post an ERA below 2.00 during the conference slate, finishing well ahead of Wisconsin’s Cassandra Darrah, who ranked second with a 2.25 ERA.
In the 21 seasons Rhonda Revelle has been head coach of the Huskers dating back to 1993, Edwards is just the second Nebraska pitcher to lead the conference in ERA in league play. The only other Husker to accomplish that feat was Peaches James as a freshman in 2001. James went on to become an All-American for the Huskers.
Fueled by the league-leading ERA, Edwards was named the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. She is the first Husker to win a conference pitcher-of-the-year award, although James, also a hitter and pitcher, won the 2004 Big 12 Player-of-the-Year honor in large part due to her work in the circle. Prior to joining the Big Ten and Big 12 Conference, the Big Eight Conference did not designate a pitcher of the year, based on available records.
Tatum Edwards Wins Final Two Big Ten Pitcher-of-the-Week Awards
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards has been named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week the past two weeks, winning the final two awards of the season. She has won a total of four Big Ten Pitcher-of-the-Week honors in her career, after also earning two awards last season.
Two weeks ago, Edwards was honored for winning two games against No. 9 Michigan. Edwards fired a two-hitter in a 6-1 victory in the series opener, holding the Wolverines to a season-low two hits and season-low one run. Her complete-game victory snapped Michigan’s nation-leading 22-game win streak and also halted the Wolverines’ 21-game winning streak in conference play. Edwards’ second win came after tossing 3.0 scoreless innings of no-hit relief. Her efforts helped NU win a conference series from a top-10 opponent for the first time since 2001.
Last week at Penn State, Edwards went 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA. She tossed a three-hitter and allowed only one run in the series opener, then clinched the No. 2 seed for Nebraska at the Big Ten Tournament by firing a one-hit shutout in the series finale. Edwards allowed only four hits in 14.0 innings, holding opponents to an .098 average.
Nebraska History at the Conference Tournament
Nebraska has played in a total of 28 conference tournaments in school history, with this week’s Big Ten Tournament being its first tournament in its current league and its 29th overall. The Huskers have won nine conference tournaments in their history, including six Big Eight Tournaments and three Big 12 Tournaments. Overall, Nebraska has advanced to the championship game in 14 of the 28 conference tournaments in which it has participated, adding five runner-up finishes to its nine tournament titles.
The Huskers won Big Eight Tournament titles in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988, while adding a runner-up finish in 1990. Nebraska took home Big 12 Tournament titles in 1998, 2000 and 2004, while finishing as the runner-up in 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2008. The Huskers finished in a tie for fifth at the 2010 Big 12 Tournament, the last conference tournament in which Nebraska has participated.
Nebraska owns 39 victories this season, and the Huskers will be seeking their 40th win at the Big Ten Tournament. The Huskers have posted 10 40-win seasons in school history, including 41 wins in 2011. More recently, a 40-win season this spring would be only Nebraska’s second in the past seven seasons. The Huskers are currently tied for 11th place in school history with 39 wins this season.
Junior Taylor Edwards leads Nebraska with 48 RBIs this season, while senior Brooke Thomason is second with 45 RBIs. Both players RBI totals are among the best in school history. Edwards has produced the most RBIs ever by a Husker junior, while she is tied for eighth place on Nebraska’s season RBI chart. Thomason is three RBIs shy of moving into that same tie for eighth place, and she needs 12 RBIs to tie All-American Ali Viol’s record for the most RBIs by a Husker senior.
Together, Edwards and Thomason are looking to produce only the seventh and eighth 50-RBI seasons in school history. If both players reach the mark this season, they will join the 1996 tandem of Viola and Jenny Smith as the only Husker teammates to each produce 50 RBIs in the same season. Three more RBIs would also make Edwards only the second Husker ever to produce two 50-RBI seasons in a career.
Taylor Edwards Breaks NU Junior-Class RBI Record
Taylor Edwards owns 48 RBIs this season, a total that ranks 54th nationally and third in the Big Ten Conference. Edwards’ 48 RBIs are the most ever by a Husker junior, eclipsing the mark set last season by Brooke Thomason. Edwards, who ranks fourth in school history with 153 RBIs, is just two RBIs shy of joining three-time All-American Ali Viola as the only Huskers to produce multiple 50-RBI seasons in a career. Previously, Edwards trailed only Viola as the top run-producing freshman in school history, driving in 67 runs in 2011.
Overall, Edwards ranks 27th nationally among all active Division I players with her 153 career RBIs, a total that ranks third among all non-seniors.