Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Set for B1G Challenge with Top-20 Minnesota

By NU Athletic Communications

LINCOLN –The Nebraska softball team (15-24, 4-8 Big Ten) will be put to the test this weekend as the Huskers welcome No. 12/18 Minnesota (29-10, 10-1 Big Ten) to Bowlin Stadium for a three-game series April 19-21. Game one is set for Friday at 5:30 p.m. CT. Game two is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. CT, while game three is Sunday at noon.

Last Time Out
Nebraska took two of three games against Purdue last weekend to win another Big Ten series this season. The Huskers lost the opener, before picking up two come-from-behind wins to claim the series. Peyton Glatter led the team against the Boilermakers going 4-for-7 (.571) at the plate. Tristen Edwards (.444), Samantha Owen (.400) and Madi Unzicker (.400) also hit at least .400 during the series. In the circle, Regan Mergele  earned one of the wins and a save. She pitched 6.0 scoreless innings of relief, finishing with a 0.00 ERA over the weekend. Mergele also had eight strikeouts in the series.

Scouting Minnesota
Minnesota enters the series with a 29-10 record, which includes a 10-1 record in Big Ten play. The Golden Gophers are ranked No. 12 in the USA Softball/ESPN Poll and are ranked 18th in the USA Today/NFCA Softball Poll. Minnesota’s lone conference loss came against Illinois in a 4-3 eight-inning game and since that game, the Gophers have won three straight. Most recently, Minnesota swept Michigan State in a doubleheader on Sunday, winning game one, 7-1, and game two, 9-5.

Reigning Big Ten Player of the Week MaKenna Partain leads Minnesota’s offensive efforts. The junior is hitting .398 with a .642 slugging percentage. Partain has a team-high 43 runs, 49 hits and 13 doubles. Against Michigan State, Partain piled up three doubles, a triple and a home run. She recorded four RBIs going 6-for-7 with a 2.000 slugging percentage and added two stolen bases.

Natalie DenHartog and Hope Brandner are also batting above .300. DenHartog is hitting .373 with a team-best .773 slugging percentage, while Brandner is hitting .360 with a .746 slugging percentage. The pair leads the teams in home runs and RBIs. Brandner has 12 home runs and 42 RBIs, while DenHartog has 11 homers and 43 RBIs. 

In the circle, All-America candidate and the most recent Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Amber Fiser leads the Gophers with 154.2 innings pitched, 27 appearances and 24 starts. Fiser has an 18-6 record and a 1.40 ERA. She has 199 strikeouts, which ranks second in the Big Ten. Last weekend, Fisher recorded her 500th career strikeout, becoming just the seventh Gopher to hit 500 career strikeouts or more. Fiser and the Gopher pitching staff have given up just 87 runs through 39 games, including 71 earned runs.

As a team, the Gophers are fielding .979 which leads the conference and ranks fifth in the NCAA.

Follow the Huskers
A live radio broadcast will be available on Huskers.com and the official Huskers App for all of Nebraska’s games this season. Nebraska will also appear on television twice this weekend. Games one and three will be televised on BTN and will also be available on BTN2Go and the BTN2Go mobile app. Game two will be streamed live on BTN Plus (subscription required). Fans can also follow the action on Twitter (@HuskerSoftball). 

Edwards Leads Nebraska at the Plate

Tristen Edwards returned this season as Nebraska’s top hitter and is leading the Huskers on offense again this season. She currently leads the team with a .340 average. She also ranks first on the team in hits (36), home runs (14), RBIs (35), walks (27) and slugging percentage (.802). Over the last 11 games dating back to March 30, Edwards is 12-for-29 (.414) with 13 runs, eight RBIs, four doubles, five home runs and 11 walks. She’s slugging 1.069 over that stretch with an on-base percentage of .595. With five home runs and 11 walks in 29 at bats over this stretch, Edwards has either been walked or hit a home run more that 55 percent of her plate appearances. Additionally, in this streatch Edwards has reached base every game.
Most recently, Edwards went 4-for-9 (.444), with six runs, two RBIs, two doubles, one home run and five walks last weekend against Purdue. In the Big Ten rankings, Edwards leads the conference in home runs (14), ranks fourth in walks (27) and second in slugging percentage (.802). Additionally, Edwards moved into the top 10 on Nebraska’s career all-time home runs list this season. She ranks ninth with 30.

Edwards made Husker history on April 2 against South Dakota State. The junior finished with two home runs, marking her fourth multi-home run games this season and the sixth in her career, putting herself elite company. The only other Huskers to have at least five multi-home run career games are Tatum Edwards and Jennifer Lizama. Both Tatum Edwards and Jennifer Lizama earned multiple All-America awards while at Nebraska. Additionally, her four multi-home run games this season are the most multi-home run games in a single season in school history. Previously, MJ Knighten and  Ali Viola held the record at three and both Knighten and Viola earned first-team All-America honors following those seasons. Finally, since stepping foot on campus in 2017, Edwards has six of the last seven multi-home run games. Kaylan Jablonski had the other in 2018 (three home runs at Cal State Fullerton).

Simmons Back in the Lineup

Alyvia Simmons returned as one of Nebraska’s top hitters this season, but she suffered a minor injury in the middle of the season that limited her playing time. However, Simmons has bounced back quickly and is performing quite well since getting back in the starting lineup. Simmons started the first 10 games, but was unable to start several games during the middle of the season. However, she’s been back in the starting lineup for 20 of the last 21 games and is hitting .328 in that stretch, an improvement from her .295 season average. Last week, against Creighton and Purdue, Simmons went 5-for-15 (.333).  Additionally, Simmons has four doubles this season, bringing her career total to 38. She now ranks in the top 10 on Nebraska’s all-time career list (T-8th). 

Wallace Making an Impact

Freshman utility player Courtney Wallace has proved to be a valuable weapon for Nebraska at multiple positions. The Omaha, Neb., native has made 29 starts and has played in all but four games for Nebraska. Wallace has made starts at four different positions this season, including pitcher (nine starts), third base (five starts), designated player (11 starts) and left field (four starts). Wallace is one of two Huskers to make starts at more than two positions this season and is the only one to make starts at four different positions. At the plate, Wallace is hitting .216 this season, but since the Illinois series (11 games, 10 starts) Wallace has been hitting .273 and slugging .545 - an improvement from her .420 season average. Overall, Wallace has 19 hits this season and 10 have been extra-base hits. Wallace has four doubles, four triples and two homers. Her team-high four triples lead the conferecne and are one short of tying the Nebraska freshman single-season record. She needs six to tie the all-class record.

Madi Unzicker Getting on Base

From Feb. 8 to March 16, senior infielder Madi Unzicker reached base for 19 straight which was the longest by a Husker since All-Amercian MJ Knighten got on base 21 straight times in 2017. One reason Unzicker has been so successful is because she isn’t afraid to use her body to get on base....literally. Unzicker has been hit eight times this season, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten. She now ranks in the top 10 on Nebraska’s all-time hit by pitch list.  Unzicker can also hit her way on base. She has a .261 average, but in Big Ten play, she’s hitting .290. Most recently, against Purdue, Unzicker went 4-for-10 (.400) with one run, four RBIs and a double.

Mergele Magic

Senior right-handed pitcher Regan Mergele is having an impressive senior season. Mergele has made 19 appearances and 10 starts so far this season. She’s pitched 56.1 innings, one complete game and has one solo shutout. She leads the Huskers with an ERA of 3.73 and also has 51 strikeouts. In the opening weekend, Mergele earned her first-two career saves against Lamar (game two) and Omaha. Mergele went 1-0 at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. She pitched her first complete game as a Husker in game two against NC State. She shutout the Wolfpack, going 7.0 innings, with two hits and a career-best nine strikeouts. She also pitched 1.0 innings of relief against in game one against NC State, retiring the first three batters she saw, which included  two strikeouts.

Most recently against Purdue, Mergele pitched 6.0 innings of relief over the final two games. She gave up a combined four hits and didn’t allow a run. She also had eight combined strikeouts. She earned the win in game two. Mergele came in the game in the fourth inning with Nebraska trailing 5-2. Mergele gave up just one hit and one walk through the final four innings to help Nebraska win 7-2. 
In the series finale, Mergele came in the game in the sixth as Nebraska held to a 5-4 lead. She pitched 2.0 scoreless innings. Nebraska won 9-4 and Mergele earned her third save of the season. She has all three of Nebraska’s saves this season.

Glatter Has B1G Success

Freshman outfielder Peyton Glatter leads regular Husker performers at the plate in Big Ten play. The Omaha, Neb., native is hitting 9-for-26 (.346) with three runs, three doubles and two RBIs. She’s made eight starts and played in nine of Nebraska’s 12 conference games so far this season. Most recently against Purdue, Glatter played in the final two games agains the Boilermakers. She went 4-for-7 (.571) with three runs, one RBI and one double. In game three she had a career-best three runs and three hits. In the Illinois series, Glatter went 5-for-9 (.556) with an RBI and a double. She also hit a walk-off RBI single in game three to help the Huskers take the series, 2-1.

Owen Helping the Husker Offense

During Nebraska’s offensive slump, Samantha Owen provided a spark. Prior to the Illinois series, Nebraska scored just three runs in eight games and all three came from Owen’s bat. Owen went 2-for-6 with one run against No. 25 Michigan a few weeks back which included a two-run homer in game two that scored NU’s only runs in the series. In the Drake doubleheader, Owen scored the only run with a solo home run in game one. She also had one of two Husker hits in game two against the Bulldogs. Most recently in the Purdue series, Owen went 4-for-10 (.400) with two runs, three RBIs, three doubles and two walks.

Catching Fire

Senior catcher Bri Cassidy has been impressive in her senior season. Cassidy has started every game behind the plate so far this season and is hitting .280, which ranks in the top five on the team. She also has more hits, runs and doubles this season than her first three seasons combined.

Stealing the Show

Nebraska has 60 stolen bases this season which ranks second in the Big Ten. Most recently, Nebraska had six stolen bases in the series finale against Purdue. It was the first time the Huskers had at least six stolen bases in a single game since March 2, 2007, against Southern Utah. Individually, Alyvia Simmons leads the team with 12 stolen bases which ranks 10th in the Big Ten.

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