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Huskers Host Creighton Wednesday at Bowlin Stadium
Marjani Knighten produced four hits and five RBIs last week.
Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/NU Media Relations
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
04/01/2014
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The 20th-ranked Nebraska softball team hosts Creighton on Wednesday in the first of two meetings with the Bluejays this season, but the only matchup at Bowlin Stadium. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised live nationally on BTN and BTN2GO, with Eric Collins calling all of the action and Cheri Kempf adding expert analysis.

Fans are encouraged to come out and support the Huskers as they hope to build on an impressive series victory at No. 23 Northwestern last weekend. Reserved tickets are available for $7, while general admission tickets - which include one section of chairback seating - are available for $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and youth. As part of a “Weekday Work Perk” promotion, fans will receive one free general admission ticket by presenting their business card at the front gate.

Tickets can be purchased online at Huskers.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED or in person beginning 90 minutes prior to first pitch at the Bowlin Stadium ticket office, located at the main entrance to the stadium, behind home plate.

Fans who make it out to Bowlin Stadium on Wednesday will be treated to a showcase matchup in the circle, as the game is expected to feature two of the nation’s top senior pitchers in Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards, the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, and Creighton’s Becca Changstrom, the 2013 Missouri Valley Pitcher of the Year. Edwards ranks among the nation’s top 50 pitchers this season in ERA, strikeouts and shutouts while Changstrom, the Big East’s ERA leader, ranks among the top 15 pitchers this season in shutouts and strikeouts.

In her career, Edwards ranks 30th nationally among all active Division I pitchers with 58 victories and 24th with 19 career shutouts. Changstrom, a Lincoln native, owns the No. 9 spot among all active Division I pitchers with 84 complete games in her career, while ranking 12th in strikeouts (763), 14th in shutouts (24), 16th in starts (104), 17th in innings (688.2), 18th in wins (68), 20th in strikeouts per seven innings (7.8) and 28th in appearances (122). Changstrom also owns a 1.95 career ERA that ranks 36th nationally among all Division I pitchers, while Edwards’ 2.04 career ERA ranks 44th.

In addition to the premier pitching matchup, the Huskers also hope to treat the home crowd to some offense. Nebraska put up 35 runs in its four games last week, including 25 runs in its three-game series at No. 23 Northwestern. The Huskers slugged eight home runs in four games last week and have homered 16 times in their last eight games. NU also posted a .327 batting average last week.

Scouting the Creighton Bluejays (19-13)
Creighton had won 10 consecutive games and 15 of its last 16 before being swept at home in a three-game series with Georgetown last weekend. CU brings a 19-13 record into Wednesday’s matchup. Nebraska and Creighton share four common opponents this spring in Arizona State, Army, Boise State and San Jose State. Nebraska posted a 3-1 record against that group, with only a 1-0, eight-inning loss to the seventh-ranked Sun Devils. Creighton went 2-2 with losses to ASU and San Jose State.

Offensively, Creighton is hitting .229 as a team while averaging 3.3 runs per game. CU has slugged 21 home runs in their 32 games. Ellen Homan is the lone Bluejay batting above .300, as she owns a .365 average with a pair of doubles, three homers and 13 RBIs. Liz Dike is second on the team with a .270 average, and she is Creighton’s top slugger. Dike leads the team with four doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 27 RBIs this spring. She has walked only three times, while striking out 28 times. Alexis Cantu is the only other Bluejay hitting .250, as she owns a .253 average with two home runs, 12 RBIs and 17 walks. Blair Lowe is batting .240 with a team-high four stolen bases, while Blake Ringle, Bri Lingl and Kelsey Allender are each hitting .211.

In the circle, Creighton boasts a 2.39 ERA, and the Bluejays are allowing just 2.9 runs per game. Lincoln native Becca Changstrom is enjoying another strong season in her senior year. Changstrom is 11-7 this spring with a 1.74 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 125.0 innings. She has tossed six shutouts and picked up two saves, while holding opposing hitters to a .186 average. Changstrom has thrown nearly 60 percent of Creighton’s total innings, appearing in 22 of the Bluejays’ 32 games, including 19 starts and 16 complete games. Cantu has seen the most action behind Changstrom, posting a 4-4 record with a 2.12 ERA in 34.0 innings. Brittany Telecky is 1-1 on the year with a 6.23 ERA in 21.1 innings, while Mac Millspaugh has compiled a 2-1 record with a 3.75 ERA in 18.2 innings. Kassidy Kingsley (1-0, 0.00 ERA in 6.0 IP) rounds out the Bluejay staff.

Creighton is led by Brent Vigness, who is in his 21st season with the Bluejays. Vigness owns a 654-459-3 record at Creighton, and he has compiled a 802-520-4 record in 25 seasons as a college coach. Wednesday’s matchup pits two of the 24 active Division I coaches with 800 career victories, as Nebraska’s Rhonda Revelle has won 830 games in her 23 seasons as a collegiate head coach.

Husker History vs. Creighton
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Creighton, 81-37, and the Huskers have won eight of the last nine meetings dating back to 2009. NU’s 81 victories over Creighton are unofficially the fifth-most victories over one opponent in NCAA Division I history. Wednesday’s matchup will mark the 119th game in the series, as the Huskers have faced Creighton more than any other opponent in school history. NU leads the series in Lincoln, 39-15, including an 11-5 advantage since Bowlin Stadium opened in 2002. Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 53-14 in her career against Creighton, including a 50-12 record against Bluejay Head Coach Brent Vigness.

The teams met twice last season, with the Huskers sweeping the season series for the third time in four years. Nebraska has swept the season series from Creighton 11 times in the 34 years the teams have played, with each of those 11 sweeps coming in Revelle’s first 21 seasons in Lincoln. Creighton has swept the season series only twice (2005 and 2008), with both sweeps coming with Vigness in charge of the Bluejay program. CU’s first season sweep in 2005 came after Nebraska had won 15 straight games in the series.

In the first meeting last season in Omaha, Nebraska rallied from an early deficit then held on for a 4-3 win. Alexis Cantu slugged a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning, before Mattie Fowler and Hailey Decker hit back-to-back home runs to tie the game in the top of the second. Brooke Thomason then had RBIs in the fifth and seventh innings to give NU a two-run lead. Tatum Edwards secured the victory by working out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the seventh inning after Creighton had scored to trim the lead to 4-3.

The second meeting in Lincoln was less dramatic, as Nebraska earned a 6-0 victory behind a two-hit shutout from Emily Lockman. Lockman did not allow a runner past second base and only two balls left the infield all game. Offensively, all six of Nebraska’s runs came off home runs. Mattie Fowler hit a solo home run in the second inning and Thomason slammed a solo homer in the fourth. A sixth-inning grand slam from Courtney Breault capped the scoring and put the game out of reach.

Several Huskers have enjoyed individual success in their careers against Creighton. Decker, Fowler and Tatum and Taylor Edwards have combined for six home runs in the six meetings with the Bluejays over the past three seasons. Taylor Edwards has driven in six career runs against Creighton, although all six came in 2011, as the All-American is just 1-for-11 against Creighton the past two seasons. Decker and Alicia Armstrong are both 2-for-6 in their careers against the Bluejays, while Kiki Stokes is 2-for-5.

For Creighton, Becca Changstrom has thrown a complete game in five of the six meetings the past three seasons, compiling a 1-4 record with a 3.94 ERA in 32.0 innings. The Huskers have hit eight home runs against her, while striking out 24 times and drawing 16 walks. Offensively, all current Bluejay batters own a collective .130 average (9-for-69) against Nebraska. Alexis Cantu (2-for-7) and Ellen Homan (4-for-18) are the only active Creighton hitters with more than one career hit against the Huskers.

Quick Hitters
The information below provides a quick look at a few brief notes heading into Nebraska’s midweek matchup with Creighton on Wednesday at Bowlin Stadium.

  • 46 of the 92 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored with two outs (50 percent).
  • Eight of the 10 teams to beat NU this season are ranked in the top 25 this week, including six top-10 teams.
  • The Huskers are 20-1 this season when scoring first.
  • Nebraska is 11-0 when recording 10 hits this season.
  • The Huskers are 13-0 when scoring at least five runs this year, but are 0-8 when allowing five or more runs.
  • Nebraska is 7-9 against ranked teams in 2014, with 11 of the 16 games against teams currently in the top 15.
  • Alicia Armstrong is five for her last seven at the plate with two doubles and five RBIs.
  • Armstrong owns five multi-hit efforts in the last 12 games after totaling just one in the first 21 games.
  • Hailey Decker has recorded four straight multi-hit games and five such efforts in her last six games.
  • Decker owns six multi-RBI performances in her last 11 games.
  • Decker has homered in three of her last four games and four of her last six games.
  • Decker has produced six extra-base hits in her last six games and 10 in her last 11 games.
  • Decker is 17-for-37 (.459) with six doubles, four homers and 17 RBIs over her last 11 games.
  • Decker has scored nine runs in her last four games.
  • The Edwards twins have homered in the same game 10 times in their careers, including once this season.
  • Tatum Edwards has produced 10 hits in her last eight games after totaling 15 hits in her first 24 games.
  • Tatum has produced an RBI in six of her last eight games after driving in a run in only five of her first 24 games.
  • Taylor Edwards needs three 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).
  • Taylor has homered in seven of her last 15 games, a streak that includes only 35 at bats due to 17 walks and 4 HBP.
  • MJ Knighten owns 10 RBIs over her last 10 games, after totaling nine RBIs in her first 24 games.
  • In her career, Taylor Edwards own 197 hits, 179 RBIs and 150 runs. She has joined Ali Viola as the only players in school history to produce 150 career hits, RBIs and runs.

Decker Named Big Ten Player of the Week
Sophomore second baseman Hailey Decker celebrated her 20th birthday Monday by being named the Big Ten Player of the Week. The weekly honor is the first of Decker’s career.

Decker was chosen as the Big Ten’s top offensive performer after an outstanding four games last week. Her bat played a big role in Nebraska posting a 3-1 record that included a midweek road win at UNO and a road series victory at No. 23 Northwestern over the weekend.

A native of Keizer, Ore., Decker went 9-for-15 (.600) with one double, three homers, nine runs scored and 10 RBIs last week. She averaged more than two hits, two runs and two RBIs per game, while posting a 1.267 slugging percentage and a .625 on-base percentage. Decker also stole a base and was perfect defensively at second base. She produced at least two hits in all four games, tied one school record and established career highs in hits, runs and RBIs.

Decker’s big week started with a 2-for-4 performance at UNO that included her first career grand slam and a career-high six RBIs, the highest total by a Husker this season. She then accounted for Nebraska’s only two runs as part of a 2-for-3 day that included a double and a two-run homer in the Huskers’ lone loss at Northwestern. The next day, Decker helped Nebraska defeat Northwestern by tying the school record with four runs scored. She also matched her career high with three hits and stole a base. In the series finale, Decker hit a game-tying home run as part of a 2-for-3 day that included a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Fueled in part by the big week, Decker has increased her season average to .348, and she leads Nebraska with 11 doubles and 27 RBIs. Her 7-for-11 performance against Northwestern that included one double, two homers, four RBIs and seven runs scored helped boost her conference average to .474. She also leads NU with two doubles, three homers, seven RBIs, nine runs, a 1.053 slugging percentage and a .524 on-base percentage in league games.

Husker Power on Display the Past Two Weeks
After averaging 4.3 runs per game over the first six weeks of the season, Nebraska has averaged 6.8 runs per game over the past two weeks. Despite the increased run production, the Huskers’ season batting average has actually decreased by one point during that time. The reason for the increased run production despite a lower average has been a recent power surge.

Dating back to a March 19 matchup with Iowa State that opened the seventh week of the season, the Huskers have slugged 16 home runs in eight games, an average of two home runs per game. Over the first six weeks of the season, Nebraska had hit just 18 home runs in 26 games, an average of 0.7 home runs per game. The Huskers have homered in seven of their eight games the past two weeks, including four homers against Iowa State and at No. 23 Northwestern in the series finale, while homering twice in the final two games of a series with No. 16 Minnesota and in a road game at UNO. Nebraska’s four home runs against Iowa State matched the Huskers’ total from their previous eight games combined. While NU has hit 16 home runs in its last eight games, it had hit just four home runs in its previous eight games.

Individually, senior Tatum Edwards and sophomore Hailey Decker have homered four times in the past eight games, while senior Taylor Edwards has three home runs during that stretch. Freshman MJ Knighten and Kat Woolman have each hit two home runs in the past eight games, after combining for just one home run over the season’s first 26 contests. Junior Kylee Muir has homered once during the eight-game power surge.

Taylor Edwards has hit a home run in seven of her last 15 games dating back to March 7, while Decker has homered in three of her last four games and four of her last six.

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 paid big dividends last week. Led by the new lineup, the Huskers scored 35 runs in four games last week, averaging nearly nine runs per game. Nebraska posted double-digit runs in three of its four games, matching its total from the first 30 games. NU hit .059 better with the new lineup, while improving its slugging percentage .221 and its on-base percentage .156.

Senior Taylor Edwards moved up to the leadoff spot in the lineup for the first time this spring, and she was followed by sophomore Hailey Decker hitting out of the No. 2 spot for the first time in her career. Senior Tatum Edwards moved up to the third spot in the order, while sophomore Alicia Armstrong batted cleanup for the first time in her career. After experimenting with freshman MJ Knighten at leadoff the previous weekend, Head Coach Rhonda Revelle 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.

The top five hitters combined for a .456 average, a .945 slugging percentage and .579 on-base percentage last week. The group produced 81 percent of Nebraska’s hits, 80 percent of the runs scored, 86 percent of the doubles, 88 percent of the home runs and 79 percent of the RBIs. But the bottom of the lineup also contributed, as freshman Kat Woolman smacked a three-run homer and junior Kylee Muir drew three walks and drove in a pair.

Taylor Edwards Chasing .400
Senior Taylor Edwards is hitting .429 this season and has posted a season batting average above .400 following all but one game this season (the season opener). She is bidding to become only the third Husker to post a .400 season batting average and the first since three-time All-American Ali Viola hit .424 in her senior season of 1998. Edwards carries a .400 batting average into the month of April for the second time in her career. She was hitting .447 entering April of her freshman season in 2011, before finishing with a .356 average.

Taylor Edwards Taken Eighth Overall in 2014 NPF Draft
Senior Taylor Edwards was taken in the second round of the 2014 National Pro Fastpitch Draft on Monday in Nashville. She was selected with the eighth overall pick by the Pennsylvania Rebellion. Edwards is the first Husker to be drafted since Ashley DeBuhr was selected eighth overall in the 2006 NPF Draft.

The Rebellion are an expansion franchise that will play their first season in the NPF this summer. The team chose Edwards with their second of six picks in the draft. Edwards, the first catcher taken in the NPF Draft, was one of three players from the Big Ten Conference chosen among the 20 players drafted Monday.

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