Fresh off earning a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, the 18th-ranked Nebraska softball team looks to add a tournament title to its resume this weekend, as the Huskers begin postseason play at the Big Ten Tournament on the Northwestern campus in Evanston, Ill.
Nebraska is seeking to become the first Big Ten team to sweep both the regular season and tournament titles in the same season since Northwestern in 2008. Overall, a Big Ten team has swept both titles on seven occasions. The Huskers have captured both the conference regular-season and tournament championships eight times in program history, most recently sweeping the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles in 2004.
The pair of 2004 championships marked Nebraska’s most recent conference titles until a dramatic final day of the regular season last Sunday gave NU a share of the 2014 Big Ten title. The Huskers completed a three-game sweep of Indiana by rallying for an 8-3 victory, then watched Wisconsin upset No. 6 Michigan, a win that gave Nebraska a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
A conference title was seemingly out of reach just a few weeks ago. The Huskers opened league play with three losses in their first four games, and Nebraska’s Big Ten record stood at 3-4 following a loss at Illinois in game one of an April 5 doubleheader. But 29 days later, the Huskers celebrated the 19th conference title in school history.
Michigan opened Big Ten play with a 14-1 record, but the Wolverines went 4-4 down the stretch. Nebraska won 15 of its final 16 conference games, but the Huskers never pulled even with the Wolverines at top the standings until the final out of the final game of the 2014 Big Ten Conference season.
While the tiebreaker gave Michigan the top seed, Nebraska is the No. 2 seed for the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season. The Huskers hosted last year’s tournament and defeated Purdue in the quarterfinals, before losing a 1-0 decision to Minnesota in the semifinals. Nebraska has enjoyed success at conference tournaments, as the Huskers have captured nine conference tournament titles in school history. In the last 16 seasons Nebraska has competed at a conference tournament, the Huskers have won three titles and advanced to the championship game seven times.
The Huskers will open the 2014 Big Ten Tournament on Friday at 1:30 p.m. against either Ohio State or Purdue. The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Scouting the Ohio State Buckeyes (28-24, 13-10 Big Ten)
Ohio State earned the No. 7 seed for the Big Ten Tournament and will face 10th-seeded Penn State on Thursday. The Buckeyes have won eight of their last nine games since being swept in a three-game series at Nebraska April 18 and 19.
Ohio State averages 4.6 runs per game. The Buckeyes are batting .290 as a team with four hitters batting above .300. Evelyn Carrillo leads the way with a .380 average that includes 10 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs. Taylor Watkins is batting .361 and is tied for the team lead with seven home runs. Caitlin Conrad owns a .325 average with a team-high 35 RBIs. Cammi Prantl is batting .325 with a team-high 14 doubles.
In the circle, Ohio State owns a 3.91 ERA and is allowing an average of 4.7 runs per game. With ace Alex DiDomenico sidelined, OSU has primarily relied on Olivia O’Reilly. O’Reilly has appeared in 37 of Ohio State’s 52 games, posting a 15-8 record with a 3.01 ERA in 146.1 innings. Shelby Hursh has seen the most action behind O’Reilly, compiling a 5-8 record with a 4.39 ERA over 28 appearances and 87.2 innings. Melanie Nichols has also seen extensive action, posting a 4-5 record with a 5.25 ERA in 48.0 innings. Kasie Kelly (0-0, 6.30 ERA in 3.1 IP) and Audrey Plant (1-0, 9.41 ERA in 9.2 IP) round out the Buckeye staff.
Nebraska swept a three-game series from Ohio State in April, winning by a combined score of 30-1 in three run-rule victories. The Buckeyes scored in the top of the first inning of game one, then were shut out the rest of the series, never getting another base runner past second base. Emily Lockman tossed a five-hit shutout in game two, while Tatum Edwards fired a three-hit shutout in game three. Tatum also tossed a three-hitter in game one, allowing one run. Offensively, Nebraska was 32-for-75 (.427) in the series with six doubles and six homers. Alicia Armstrong went 5-for-8 (.625) in the series with four RBIs, while Taylor Edwards was 4-for-7 (.571) with a double, two homers and four RBIs. Kiki Stokes, Kat Woolman, Kylee Muir and Tatum Edwards also homered in the series, with Muir and Tatum Edwards each producing five RBIs. Nebraska is 8-4 all-time against Ohio State.
Scouting the Penn State Nittany Lions (14-34, 5-18 Big Ten)
Penn State earned the No. 10 seed for the Big Ten Tournament with a 5-18 conference record. The Nittany Lions bring a 14-34 overall record into Thursday’s game with Ohio State. PSU has lost 11 consecutive games after winning eight of its previous nine.
The Nittany Lions are batting .248 as a team and are averaging 3.3 runs per game. PSU has hit just 13 home runs as a team. Lexi Knief leads the team with a .382 average as one of four Nittany Lions batting better than .300. Knief ranks second in the Big Ten with six triples. Shelby Miller owns a .316 average, while Kasie Hatfield is hitting .309 with a team-high 13 doubles. Karlie Habitz is batting .301 with team-high totals of four homers and 34 RBIs.
In the circle, Penn State owns a 5.38 ERA while allowing 5.8 runs per game. Marlaina Laubach has made an immediate impact as a freshman, posting a 9-17 record with a team-low 3.55 ERA. She leads the staff with 29 appearances, 23 starts, 74 strikeouts and 142.0 innings this spring. Macy Jones has seen the most action behind Laubach, posting a 1-11 record with a 5.35 ERA in 73.1 innings. Christy Von Pusch is 2-2 on the year with a 7.45 ERA in 51.2 innings, while Marissa Diescher is 2-4 with 9.41 ERA in 38.2 innings.
Nebraska and Penn State did not meet this year. The Huskers won two-of-three games at Penn State last season. In that series, Tatum Edwards tossed a three-hitter and allowed only one run in a game-one victory before tossing a one-hit shutout in game three. Taylor Edwards had four hits in the series, including a home run.
Below is a look at brief team notes and statistics of interest heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
- NU has scored 179 runs since changing its lineup 24 games ago (averaging 7.5 runs per game).
- NU has posted eight shutouts in its last 12 games.
- Nebraska leads the Big Ten home runs (60) and doubles (79) this season.
- NU led the league in doubles (45), homer (35), total bases (364) and slugging (.595) in conference-only games.
- 67 of the 129 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored with two outs (52 percent).
- The Huskers are 31-1 this season when scoring first.
- The Huskers are 26-0 when scoring at least five runs this year, but are 0-10 when allowing five or more runs.
- Nebraska was one of 21 teams nationally with 40 wins entering play this week.
- NU’s 40-win regular season was its first since 2006 and just the seventh in school history.
- The Huskers’ 16 road victories rank second nationally.
- NU’s overall strength of schedule ranked 22nd in this week’s RPI, with the non-conference schedule ranked third.
- Hailey Decker leads the Big Ten with 17 doubles this season, a total that ranks 12th nationally.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game 13 times in their careers, including four times this season.
- Tatum Edwards ranks 17th nationally in shutouts (8) and 23rd in victories (22).
- Tatum owns 68 career wins and 45 career home runs, as she is the nation’s only player with 60 wins and 40 homers.
- Taylor Edwards leads the Big Ten with 17 home runs, a total that ranks 10th nationally.
Below are highlights of select Huskers who are enjoying a recent stretch of strong play.
- Hailey Decker is 20-for-40 (.500) with four doubles, three homers, 13 RBIs and 13 runs over her last 13 games.
- Decker has totaled five multi-hit efforts in her past six games and eight in her last 13 games.
- Tatum Edwards has homered in seven of her last 13 games and has 12 homers in her last 28 games.
- Tatum has produced eight homers and 28 RBIs over her last 14 games.
- Tatum has produced an RBI in 11 of the last 14 games, including seven multi-RBI efforts.
- Tatum needs two RBIs to become the sixth Husker to produce a 50-RBI season.
- Tatum has thrown a shutout in four of her last six starts.
- Tatum needs two wins to become the seventh Husker and 27th active player nationally to post 70 career victories.
- Tatum needs three victories to become the first Husker ever to post back-to-back 25-win seasons.
- Taylor Edwards has homered in six of her last 13 games and seven of her last 15 games.
- With 17 home runs in 2014, Taylor has produced two of the three highest season home run totals in NU history.
- Taylor needs one home run to own Nebraska’s all-time home run record by herself (54 homers).
- MJ Knighten has totaled 19 RBIs over her last 22 games, after totaling 14 RBIs in her first 32 games.
- Emily Lockman has thrown a shutout in four of her last five starts.
- Lockman has allowed only two earned runs over her last seven appearances, posting a 0.36 ERA in that stretch.
- Lockman has won eight consecutive decisions, posting a 0.78 ERA in 53.2 inning during that stretch.
- Kylee Muir has recorded four extra-base hits in her last three games, including a double in three straight games.
- Muir owns nine doubles in her last 18 games after totaling one double in her first 28 games.
- Kiki Stokes has produced four multi-hit efforts in her last six games, going 9-for-18 (.500) in that stretch.
Six Huskers Earn All-Big Ten Awards
Three Huskers earned first-team All-Big Ten honors on Wednesday, while a trio of underclassmen took home second-team accolades. Senior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards were named to the first team for the second straight year, while sophomore Hailey Decker was also a first-team selection, earning the first All-Big Ten honor of her career. Sophomores Alicia Armstrong and Emily Lockman were named all-conference for the second straight year, while freshman MJ Knighten also earned a spot on the second team.
Tatum Edwards earned all-conference accolades for the fourth time in her career. Edwards led all Big Ten pitchers with 11 victories in league play, while she led all Big Ten hitters with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in conference action. Her 10 homers ranked second in Big Ten history, and her 33 RBIs ranked third. She played a large part in Nebraska winning 15 of its final 16 conference games to capture a share of the Big Ten title. Edwards went 9-1 with a 1.71 ERA over the final 16 conference games, while producing eight homers and 28 RBIs at the plate.
Taylor Edwards was the lone catcher on the All-Big Ten first team, as she earned all-conference accolades for the third time in her career. Edwards hit eight homers in league play, ranking second among all Big Ten hitters, trailing only her sister Tatum. Taylor is the Big Ten’s overall home run leader with 17 homers this spring.
Decker posted the Big Ten’s third-best batting average in conference play, hitting .443. She tied for the league lead with 35 hits in conference play, while ranking second with 27 runs and 61 total bases, fourth with six homers and 23 RBIs and fifth with eight doubles and a .772 slugging percentage.
Last season, Lockman was the first Husker freshman pitcher to be an all-conference selection since 2001. She was named to the second team again this spring after posting a 7-1 record with a 1.98 ERA and a league-high four shutouts in league play. Armstrong battled through a back injury to hit .375 in conference action. She produced nine doubles in 23 Big Ten games, ranking second in the league in that category. Armstrong also owned the second-best fielding percentage (.941) of any shortstop nominated for All-Big Ten honors. Knighten hit .364 in league play with one double, two triples, three homers and 19 RBIs. Her two triples ranked third among all Big Ten hitters.
Revelle Named Big Ten Coach of the Year
Rhonda Revelle was selected as the 2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year in a vote of her peers, the conference announced on Wednesday. The honor was the fourth of Revelle’s career, as she was voted the Big 12 Coach of the Year in both 1998 and 2001 and the Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1995. Revelle was also honored last spring as part of the 2013 Midwest Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
A National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame member, Revelle led a young 2014 Husker team to the program’s first conference title in a decade. Nebraska’s roster consists of 75 percent freshmen and sophomores, and Revelle helped the young group win 15 of its final 16 conference games to earn a share of the Big Ten title.
Edwards Twins Named to Big Ten All-Defensive Team
Senior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards each earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive team, the conference announced on Wednesday. Taylor was chosen as the league’s top defensive catcher for the second straight season, while Tatum was named the Big Ten’s top defensive pitcher for the first time.
Taylor committed only one error in conference play and recorded the most caught stealings (12) of any Big Ten catcher, while also throwing out the highest percent of would-be base stealers (57 percent). Tatum also committed only one error in 29 chances in the circle.
A Statistical Look at Nebraska’s Run to a Share of the Big Ten Title
Although it needed some help, Nebraska earned a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a fantastic finish to league play. After opening the Big Ten schedule at 3-4, the Huskers won 15 of their final 16 games to finish with an 18-5 conference record, sharing the conference title with Michigan. During the stretch run, the Huskers outscored their opponents by 108 runs in the 16 games (129-21). The Huskers hit .363 and averaged 8.1 runs per game during the strong finish, slugging 34 doubles and 24 homers in the 16 games. In the circle, Nebraska posted eight shutouts in the 16 games en route to a 1.36 ERA.
Individually, sophomore Hailey Decker hit .446 with five doubles, three homers and 16 RBIs during the strong finish. Freshman MJ Knighten batted .404 with 12 RBIs, while junior Kylee Muir hit .400 with eight doubles, two homers and 19 RBIs. Senior Tatum Edwards compiled a .367 average over the final 16 conference games and slugged eight homers and 28 RBIs. Her twin sister Taylor added six homers and 18 RBIs.
Sophomore right-hander Emily Lockman went 6-0 down the stretch with a 0.84 ERA. She tossed four shutouts and allowed more than one run just once in her final eight appearances. Tatum Edwards posted a 9-1 record over the Huskers’ final 16 conference games with four shutouts and a 1.74 ERA in 56.1 innings.
Tatum Edwards Produced Near-Record Numbers in Big Ten Play
Senior Tatum Edwards produced some near-record totals in Nebraska’s 23 Big Ten Conference games this season. In addition to a .367 average, Edwards slugged 10 home runs and drove in 33 in league play. Edwards hit two more home runs than any other Big Ten player in conference play - her twin sister Taylor was second with eight homers - and Tatum produced seven more RBIs than any other Big Ten player. More impressively, Edwards’ 10 home runs tied for the second-most homers in a conference season in Big Ten history. Her 33 RBIs tied for the third-highest conference total in league history.
Edwards also excelled in the circle during league play. Although she didn’t near any conference pitching records, Edwards led all Big Ten pitchers with 11 victories in conference play, while tying for the league lead with four shutouts.
Tatum Edwards One of 10 Pitchers Nationally With 50 Wins Since 2013
Senior Tatum Edwards is 22-10 this season, as the right-hander ranks in a tie for 23rd nationally in victories. Last season, Edwards posted a 30-10 record, ranking in a tie for 12th nationally in wins. With a 52-20 record over the past two seasons, Edwards ranks in a tie for fifth nationally for most victories over the past two seasons.
Edwards is just the third Husker pitcher in the last decade to post back-to-back 20-win seasons. With at least three games remaining this season, Edwards’ 52 victories already ranks as the fourth-highest two-year win total in school history.
Taylor Edwards Ties Husker Home Run Record
Senior Taylor Edwards hit the 53rd home run of her career last Saturday against Indiana, tying Ali Viola’s school record. With her next home run, Edwards would become Nebraska’s all-time home run leader. Her next home run would also give her 18 homers this season, tying her career high. Edwards also hit 18 home runs as a freshman in 2011. She is the only Husker to produce two seasons with more than 15 home runs, while she already owns two of the top three single-season home run totals in school history.
One day after her record-tying home run, Edwards delivered an RBI single to notch her 200th career RBI. She became the sixth player in Big Ten history to produce 200 career RBIs and just the fourth active player nationally to reach the mark. One of only two Huskers to total 200 RBIs, Edwards is 13 RBIs shy of Viola’s school record (213).
Lockman Pitching Well in April & May
Sophomore Emily Lockman has been dominant in the circle since the calendar turned to April. After going 11-4 with a 2.59 ERA in the first two months of the year, Lockman is 7-0 with a 0.69 ERA in April and May. Lockman has made 11 appearances in April and May, and she has only allowed an earned run in three of those 11 appearances. Lockman has allowed more than one earned one just once in those 11 appearances.
Over the last 15 games, Lockman has been even better. During that stretch, Lockman is 6-0 with 0.36 ERA. She has tossed a shutout in four of her last five starts, while allowing only one run over her last 31.0 innings (0.23 ERA). Lockman ranks in a tie for 29th nationally with seven shutouts this spring, and she tied for the Big Ten lead with four shutouts in conference play.
A Corona, Calif., native, Lockman has won eight consecutive decisions. She has not lost since a defeat to No. 16 Minnesota on March 23. In her eight-game win streak, Lockman boasts a 0.78 ERA in 53.2 innings.
Husker Offense Threatening Several School Records
Fueled by an outstanding month of April, the Husker offense is set to challenge several team season records. Currently, the Huskers own the best slugging percentage (.497) and on-base percentage (.395) in school history. Nebraska also boasts the second-most home runs (60) and extra-base hits (148) in school history, needing two homers and two extra-base hits to tie the school record. The Huskers also boastthe third-best batting average (.302), the third-most doubles (79), the fourth-most RBIs (24) and the fifth-most runs (310).
The Huskers are just the second team in school history to hit 60 home runs in a season. Nebraska has also become just the fifth team in school history to score 300 runs and just the third to reach the markin the regular season (first since 1996). NU has scored 300 runs in back-to-back seasons for the second time in school history.