The 14th-seeded Nebraska softball team heads to Eugene, Ore., this weekend to battle No. 3 Oregon for a spot in the Women’s College World Series. The best-of-three NCAA Super Regional begins on Saturday at 7 p.m. (Central), with game two set for 2 p.m. (Central) on Sunday and a third if-necessary game slated to begin at 5 p.m. (Central) on Sunday. The winner advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City next week.
The Huskers earned a spot in their first-ever NCAA Super Regional by going 3-0 at their home regional last weekend. Nebraska defeated Northern Iowa, 4-0, in its opening game of the NCAA Tournament, before beating 13th-ranked Stanford twice. The Huskers earned a spot in the regional final by defeating the Cardinal 7-1 on Saturday. Nebraska then waited through three weather delays and fought back from an early two-run deficit to post a 10-5 victory over Stanford in Sunday’s regional finale. The regional title was Nebraska’s sixth in school history, but its first since the NCAA adopted the regional-super regional format beginning with the 2005 season.
Overall, Nebraska is a regional champion for the first time since 2002. That is also the last time the Huskers advanced to the Women’s College World Series, finishing in a tie for fifth place. Nebraska hopes to make it back to Oklahoma City this season, but standing in its way is a formidable foe in Oregon.
The Ducks won the Pac-12 championship this season and bring a 49-9 record into play this weekend. Oregon has been even better at home, posting a 19-0 record at Howe Field this season after finishing with a 3-0 record at its home regional last weekend. Overall, Oregon boasts a nation-leading 24-game home winning streak dating back to last season. The Ducks, who handed Nebraska its only run-rule loss of the season when the teams met on Feb. 23, also boast plenty of postseason experience, as they are competing in their fourth straight NCAA Super Regional.
Pitching is expected to be at the forefront this weekend. Oregon’s ace is Jessica Moore, the 2013 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, while Nebraska ace Tatum Edwards was the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. The Eugene Super Regional will also feature two of the nation’s top freshmen pitchers in Oregon’s Cheridan Hawkins, a second-team all-region selection who ranks second nationally among all freshmen in ERA, and NU’s Emily Lockman, a first-team all-region honoree who is fourth in ERA among all freshmen.
The Eugene Super Regional will be televised live on ESPNU with Adam Amin and former U.S. Olympian Jennie Finch calling the action. A free radio broadcast will also be available on Huskers.com.
Scouting the Oregon Ducks (49-9)
Oregon, the No. 3 national seed, earned the right to host a home NCAA Super Regional by posting a 3-0 record at its home regional last week, defeating BYU (5-2), North Carolina (3-0) and Wisconsin (3-0). The automatic qualifier from the Pac-12 Conference, the Ducks have won 10 of their last 12 games, including four straight. Oregon is 16-8 against ranked teams this season, and the Ducks are 19-0 at home this spring, including a 7-0 record vs. top-25 opponents. Oregon and Nebraska share six common opponents this season in Arizona, California, Michigan, Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin. Oregon posted a 10-2 record against that group, while Nebraska went 7-6. Oregon is 3-0 against Big Ten teams in 2013.
The Ducks are one of the nation’s most balanced teams. Oregon ranks 13th nationally in scoring (6.3 runs per game) and ninth in batting average (.332). The Ducks boast power and speed, ranking 13th nationally with 79 home runs while averaging nearly 1.5 stolen bases per game. Defensively, Oregon ranks fifth nationally with a 1.58 team ERA, and the Ducks are 49th nationally with a .968 fielding percentage. Individually, Oregon had a nation-leading five first-team all-region selections this spring in pitcher Jessica Moore, infielders Kaylan Howard and Courtney Ceo, designated player Alexa Peterson and outfielder Janie Takeda. The Ducks also tied for the most overall all-region selection of any team in the country as pitcher Cheridan Hawkins was a second-team all-region honoree.
Offensively, three Duck starters are hitting over .400. Peterson leads the team and ranks 12th nationally with a .453 average. She has added 12 doubles and 12 home runs to post an .844 slugging percentage that ranks 14th nationally. Peterson has also produced 39 RBIs and drawn 20 walks. Takeda is hitting .448 - good for 14th nationally - with 11 doubles, five home runs and 43 RBIs. She also leads the Ducks with 29 stolen bases in only 34 attempts. Ceo rounds out the group of .400 hitters with a .404 average that includes 22 stolen bases, 27 RBIs and a team-high 12 sacrifices. Samantha Pappas is batting .353 with 10 doubles, seven homers and 32 RBIs, while Howard is hitting .321 with 13 doubles, 12 home runs and a team-high 46 RBIs. Kailee Cuico leads Oregon with 14 home runs and 27 walks, while adding 43 RBIs to complement a .293 average.
In the circle, Moore won her school-record 100th career game in her last start to become one of only eight active pitchers with 100 wins. The 2013 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and 2012 third-team All-American, Moore is 27-4 this season with a 1.52 ERA in 188.2 innings. She ranks 18th nationally in ERA and opponents are hitting only .211 against her. Hawkins has made an immediate impact despite her freshman status. She is 18-5 this spring with a 1.62 ERA in 129.1 innings. She ranks fourth nationally in strikeouts per seven innings (10.8) and 26th in ERA while limiting opposing hitters to a .132 average. Overall, Hawkins owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 6-to-1. Karissa Hovinga (4-0, 1.69 ERA in 54.0 IP), a Papillion, Neb., native, rounds out the Duck staff.
Husker History with Oregon
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Oregon, 6-5. The Ducks have won two straight in the series. Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 6-3 in her career against Oregon, but she is 0-2 against Duck Head Coach Mike White. Nebraska will be playing its first-ever games in the state of Oregon this week. This weekend’s super regional will mark the second postseason meeting between Nebraska and Oregon. The first meeting was a 9-7 Husker victory in the 1998 Lincoln Regional Final, a win that punched Nebraska’s ticket to the Women’s College World Series.
Oregon handed Nebraska its only run-rule loss of 2013 when the teams met back on Feb. 23 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. Oregon scored twice in the first inning and added four more runs in the second and three more in the fourth to build a 9-0 lead en route to an 11-2 six-inning victory. Tatum Edwards allowed nine runs (five earned) in a losing effort, one shy of her career high. Janie Takeda and Kaylan Howard both homered for the Ducks, while Courtney Ceo and Kailee Cuico also had big days as the top four hitters in the Oregon lineup combined to go 6-for-15 with eight RBIs and eight runs scored.
Super Regional Storylines
As No. 14 seed Nebraska heads to Eugene, Ore., this weekend to battle third-seeded Oregon in its first-ever NCAA Super Regional appearance, several storylines are at the forefront.
Oregon Homecoming: Nebraska features two Oregon natives on its roster in freshman Hailey Decker, a two-time Oregon Player of the Year, and junior Kylee Muir. Decker is a Keizer native and Muir is a Portland native. Muir played for the Northwest Bullets, the same travel team as Oregon’s Alyssa Gillespie and Alexa Peterson. The super regional trip is also a homecoming for 21st-year Nebraska Head Coach Rhonda Revelle, a native of Eugene. Revelle spent nearly her entire childhood in Eugene, attending Awbrey Park Elementary School, Madison Junior High and North Eugene High School, before playing one season at Oregon and then transferring to Nebraska.
Freshman Phenoms: The Eugene Super Regional features two of the nation’s top freshmen pitchers in Nebraska’s Emily Lockman and Oregon’s Cheridan Hawkins. Lockman and Hawkins were two of only four freshmen pitchers nationally to earn a spot on an NFCA All-Region team. Lockman and James Madison’s Jailyn Ford were the only freshmen pitchers to earn first-team all-region honors, while Hawkins and Lehigh’s Emily Bausher both earned second-team accolades. Lockman is 14-5 this season with a 1.73 ERA, while Hawkins is 18-5 with a 1.62 ERA. Hawkins ranks second nationally among all freshmen pitchers in ERA and Lockman is fourth.
Pitching Pedigrees: The Eugene Super Regional features two of the nation’s premier pitching instructors in Nebraska Associate Head Coach Lori Sippel and Oregon Head Coach Mike White. Sippel is a member of the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame, in addition to being a 1996 Canadian Olympian pitcher and two-time second-team All-American at Nebraska. She has coached 19 pitchers to all-region honors in the past 19 years. White was an ISC Hall of Fame pitcher who pitched for Team USA in the 2000 World Championships and was the 2002 ASA Player of the Year. He has produced five all-region pitchers in his first four seasons including Jessica Moore, who became the program’s fourth All-America pitcher in 2012 and only the Ducks’ second Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year honor this spring. White’s pitching staff ranks fifth nationally in ERA this season, while Sippel’s staff ranks 10th.
Bouncing back: Nebraska and Oregon met once during the regular season, with the Ducks handing the Huskers an 11-2 six-inning, run-rule defeat on Feb. 23 at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. The loss is the only run-rule loss Nebraska has suffered this season. The Huskers hope to bounce back from that loss, something they have done well this season. NU has lost only four games by more than three runs this season, and the Huskers bounced back each time when they received another shot at that opponent. No. 1 Oklahoma beat the Huskers 10-3 on March 2, only to see Nebraska snap the Sooners’ season-opening 17-game win streak with a 1-0 victory in game two of a doubleheader. Three weeks later, NU lost game one of a doubleheader against North Dakota State 13-0, before bouncing back and run-ruling the Bison 11-0 in five innings in game two. Nebraska lost 6-2 in its series opener at Iowa on April 5 and bounced back for an 11-1 run-rule victory the next day. Most recently, the Huskers fell 5-2 to Wisconsin on April 13 and came back the next day to post an 11-2 run-rule win.
Snapping streaks: After snapping a seven-game NCAA Tournament losing streak to Pac-12 Conference teams with a pair of victories against No. 13 Stanford at home last weekend, the Huskers will look to snap a 10-game road losing streak to Pac-12 opponents this weekend. The Huskers are 2-18 all-time in road games against teams that were members of the Pac-12 Conference at the time of the game, including an 0-7 road record in the NCAA Tournament. Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is just 1-11 in road games against Pac-12 squads, including an 0-7 mark in the postseason. NU’s last road win in a Pac-12 stadium came on March 21, 1993 in a 2-1 win at California in Revelle’s seventh game as Nebraska’s head coach.
Home or away?: Nebraska has been excellent on the road this season, setting a school record with 15 road victories. The Huskers rank 10th nationally this spring with 15 road wins. But as good as Nebraska has been on the road, Oregon has been even better at home. After winning three games at last week’s NCAA Eugene Regional, the Ducks are 19-0 at home this spring, and they own the nation’s longest home winning streak at 24 consecutive victories dating back to 2012. Oregon is one of only three teams to be undefeated at home this season along with Michigan (19-0) and Appalachian State (18-0).
Experience edge?: While Nebraska is playing in the first NCAA Super Regional in school history (the NCAA did not adopt the regional-super regional format until the 2005 season), Oregon is playing in a super regional for the fourth straight season. Oregon went 0-4 in its first two super regional appearances before winning the Austin Super Regional last season. Nebraska hopes for a quicker learning curve this weekend.
Conference challenge: The Eugene Super Regional pits the Pac-12 Conference against the Big Ten Conference. The Pac-12 is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top two conferences on an annual basis, while the Big Ten enjoyed a strong spring, sending four teams to the NCAA Tournament, including No. 8 national seed Michigan and 14th-seeded Nebraska. The Big Ten Conference is 4-1 against the Pac-12 in this year’s NCAA Tournament, including two Husker wins over Stanford. The Pac-12’s lone win over the Big Ten was Oregon’s 3-0 shutout of Wisconsin in the Eugene Regional final.
Excelling against the field: The Eugene Super Regional is the only one of the eight super regionals to feature two teams with at least a .500 record this season against the super regional field. The other seven super regionals feature at least one team with a losing record against the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament.
Starting Strong: Nebraska has allowed a first-inning run in eight of its last 16 road games, and the Huskers allowed four first-inning runs against Oregon in 2012 and two first-inning runs in this year’s meeting.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few brief notes heading into the NCAA Super Regional:
- Nebraska is making its first NCAA Super Regional appearance in school history.
- The Huskers won their first NCAA Regional title since 2002 last weekend.
- Nebraska will be seeking its seventh Women’s College World Series berth this weekend.
- Nebraska’s 43 wins this season are its most since 2006 (44). NU has not won 45 games in a season since 2004.
- NU’s non-conference schedule was the toughest in the nation according to the NCAA RPI.
- NU’s roster features seven freshmen, tying for the most freshmen in Coach Revelle’s 21 seasons (also 2008).
- NU’s starting lineup has featured at least three freshmen in every game, including 16 games with five freshmen.
- The freshmen have combined for 34 extra-base hits, the eighth-highest total by a freshman class in NU history.
- Nebraska has allowed one run or less in 29 of its 56 games this season, including 16 shutouts.
- The Huskers scored 21 runs in three games last weekend, after totaling just 10 runs in their previous five games.
- Nebraska has won seven straight extra-inning games dating back to 2012. NU is 4-0 in extra innings this spring.
- NU has walked 203 times this season, one shy of the school record set last season.
- The Huskers need five more runs to post just the fourth 300-run season in NU history and the first since 2000.
- Gabby Banda needs one walk to break a four-way tie and own the school record outright for walks in a season (41).
- Courtney Breault enters the super regional with 98 career RBIs.
- Banda has hit safely in a season-best eight straight games (9-for-20 during the streak).
- Tatum Edwards needs one more win to post only the fourth 30-win season in school history.
- Tatum Edwards has won seven straight decisions and seven straight starts.
- Tatum Edwards is 17-for-43 (.395) with four doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs over her last 13 starts.
- Taylor Edwards has four RBIs in her last two games, after producing only one RBI in her previous 10 games.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game nine times in their careers, including twice in 2013.
Banda Ties Nebraska Season Walk Record
Senior Gabby Banda walked three times in three games last weekend at the NCAA Lincoln Regional. Her walk against No. 13 Stanford in the regional final was her 40th of the season, tying Nebraska’s season walk record. She is the fourth Husker to draw 40 walks in a season, including Taylor Edwards last season. Banda will own the record outright with one more walk. Batting in front of a pair of 50-RBI producers, Banda has excelled at reaching base for the middle of the Husker lineup. In addition to her 40 walks - which rank fourth in the Big Ten and 32nd nationally - Banda has been hit by eight pitches, helping her post a .457 on-base percentage in front of two of the nation’s top 75 RBI producers this spring.
Sweet 16 in 2013 For Nebraska Women’s Athletics
By winning the NCAA Lincoln Regional last weekend, Nebraska advanced to the NCAA Super Regional as one of 16 teams remaining in the 2013 NCAA Softball Tournament. The softball team has joined the Husker volleyball (Elite Eight) and women’s basketball (Sweet 16) squads in advancing to the round of 16 in their respective NCAA Tournaments. Nebraska and Kentucky were the only schools in the country to advance to the round of 16 in women’s volleyball, women’s basketball and softball in the 2012-13 school year.
Overall, seven of Nebraska’s 12 female sports finished in the top 16 in their respective NCAA Tournament, capped by the Husker bowling team’s fourth NCAA title. The Nebraska women’s tennis team made the first NCAA Round of 16 appearance in school history, while women’s gymnastics and women’s rifle rounded out to the group of top-16 finishers.
Offensive Adjustments Pay Off Late in Game
Nebraska’s offense has excelled at making adjustments the second, third and fourth time through the order. Those adjustments have helped the Huskers win 11 games in their final at bat, as the offensive production has increased later in the game. Overall, 46 percent of Nebraska’s runs this season have scored in the fifth inning or later. Nebraska has outscored its opponents 135-52 from the fifth inning on this season. That held true last week at the NCAA Lincoln Regional, when the Huskers scored 18 of their 21 runs in the fifth inning or later.
Statistically, Nebraska is hitting .278 as a team with a .418 slugging percentage over the first four frames combined. But from the fifth inning on, the Huskers are hitting .312 with a .504 slugging percentage. Nebraska’s highest batting average in any of the first four innings is a .290 mark in the first. But the Huskers are hitting .305 in the fifth inning, .351 in the sixth, .333 in the eighth inning, .500 in the ninth and .750 in the 10th.
Nebraska Leads Nation in Turning Double Plays
Nebraska has recorded a nation-leading 43 double plays this season. Nebraska’s 43 double plays are a school record, and the Huskers are one of only four teams nationally to turn even 30 double plays this spring. Of the 43 double plays, 26 have been ground ball double plays and 17 have been line-drive or pop-up double plays.
Twice this season, the Huskers have put together a streak of eight consecutive games turning at least one double play. Nebraska had its most recent streak snapped last Friday against Northern Iowa, but the Huskers have still turned 13 double plays in their last 11 games. Nebraska has also posted nine games where the Huskers have turned at least two double plays, including tying the school record with three double plays against No. 9 Michigan on April 28.