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Nebraska hosts Northwestern in its first Big Ten games this Friday and Saturday.
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
          Release: 03/21/2012
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Huskers Host Northwestern in First Big Ten Series

The Nebraska softball team hosts Northwestern in a historic three-game series on Friday and Saturday at Bowlin Stadium. Friday’s game starts at 5 p.m. and marks the Huskers’ first Big Ten Conference game. The series then concludes with a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.

The Husker baseball team also hosts its first-ever Big Ten series against Illinois this weekend at Hawks Field. The Nebraska Athletic Department has several fan-friendly promotions to celebrate the historic weekend. The first 1,000 fans to attend both games will receive Big Red in the Big Ten rally towels. There will also be a special fireworks presentation after the baseball game on Friday.

Fans with a ticket to that day’s baseball game will receive $1 admission into the softball game on Friday and Saturday. Kids can also run the bases at Bowlin Stadium following Saturday’s second game. Fans can purchase tickets for this weekend’s historic series online at Huskers.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED or in person at the Bowlin Stadium ticket office, located at the main entrance to the stadium, behind home plate. Fans in attendance this weekend will also see the Huskers debut a brand new video scoreboard.

Those fans unable to make it out to Bowlin Stadium this weekend can follow all of the action online. A free radio broadcast of all three games will be available on Huskers.com, with Nate Rohr providing the play-by-play and Ben McLaughlin adding color commentary on Friday. HuskersNSide subscribers can also watch a live video stream of Friday’s opener. Free live stats will also be available on Huskers.com.

Nebraska brings a five-game winning streak into Friday’s contest, tying for its longest win streak of the season. Overall, the Huskers have won six of their last seven games since a season-long four-game losing streak earlier this month.

Leading the way for Nebraska’s recent success has been senior right-hander Ashley Hagemann. Hagemann has started the Huskers’ last 15 games in the circle, compiling a 1.83 ERA during that stretch. She has been even better in the month of March, posting a 1.25 ERA in 12 starts. Hagemann has allowed one earned run or less and five or fewer hits in seven consecutive starts and posted three straight double-digit strikeout performances.

Offensively, junior Gabby Banda has helped power the Huskers to their five-game win streak. Banda is 11-for-17 (.647) during the win streak and leads the team during that stretch with five runs, 11 hits, two doubles, one home run, a .941 slugging percentage and a .611 on-base percentage.

Scouting the Northwestern Wildcats (11-14)
Northwestern enters the opening weekend of Big Ten Conference play with an 11-14 overall record. Like Nebraska, the Wildcats have faced a challenging schedule. Northwestern has played 14 of its first 25 games against opponents who were either ranked at the time of the game or are currently ranked. The Wildcats are 2-12 in those 14 games, but are 9-2 in games against unranked teams this season.

Nebraska and Northwestern share several common opponents this season. Both teams have faced Colorado State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Texas A&M and Washington this season. The Huskers own a 2-7 record against that group with wins over Colorado State and Missouri. The Wildcats posted a 3-4 record against those opponents, earning victories over Colorado State, Missouri and Texas A&M.
Northwestern is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 season, when the Wildcats finished next-to-last in the Big Ten with a 5-13 record in conference play. Northwestern is a young team featuring 13 freshmen and sophomores on its 19-player roster. The Wildcats have only two seniors on their roster.

The Wildcats have been known for possessing a strong offense in recent years and despite a tough schedule, Northwestern again boasts a powerful offense this season. The Wildcats are batting .283 as a team and are averaging nearly one home run per game while scoring an average of 5.2 runs per contest. A pair of Wildcats are hitting better than .400 this season. Sophomore Marisa Bast, a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a freshman last season, leads the team with a .432 average, six home runs, two triples, 27 RBIs and a .770 slugging percentage this season, while tying for the team lead with 19 runs scored and three doubles. Junior Emily Allard, one of the 25 finalists for the USA Softball Player-of-the-Year Award in 2011 and the nation’s leading base stealer, is batting .406 this year. She has a knack for putting the ball in play, as she has struck out only eight times in 98 plate appearances this season, while not drawing a single walk or hit-by-pitch. She is also 16-of-18 on stolen bases, as Northwestern is 36-of-38 in that category as a team.

Rounding out the trio of Northwestern’s top hitters is senior Adrienne Monka, a 2011 first-team All-American who led the country in walks and on-base percentage last season. One of the nation’s most-feared hitters, Monka averaged 1.53 walks per game last season - the second-highest total in NCAA history - and reached base in an astonishing 25 consecutive plate appearances at one point. This season, Monka is batting .323 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. She leads Northwestern with a .528 on-base percentage, as she has walked 20 times and been hit by seven pitches in only 91 plate appearances.

In the circle, Northwestern owns a 3.90 team ERA and allows an average of 4.7 runs per game. The staff has struggled with its control, walking 123 batters and striking out 119. The Wildcats rank last in the Big Ten in walks allowed. Northwestern has utilized a total of four pitchers this season, but has primarily relied on three. Sammy Albanese, Meghan Lamberth and Amy Letourneau have each appeared in at least 12 games this season. Lamberth has made a team-high 19 appearances and 11 starts, while throwing 78.0 innings. She is 5-6 on the year with a 3.05 ERA. Letourneau has made 14 appearances and eight starts, compiling a 5-6 record with a 5.89 ERA. Albanese owns a team-low 2.36 ERA, and she has a 1-2 record in her 12 appearances and five starts.

Series History
Northwestern leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 7-4, as the Wildcats and Purdue are the only Big Ten teams with a winning all-time record against the Huskers. Northwestern has won six straight in the series and all six meetings between the programs during Rhonda Revelle’s tenure as Husker head coach. Revelle is 0-6 against the Wildcats and 0-2 against Northwestern Head Coach Kate Drohan. The teams have met only twice in the past 16 seasons, with the Wildcats rallying for a 9-8 win in 2008 and coming from behind again to post a 5-4 victory in 2009. Friday’s game will mark the first home game for either team in series history. The previous 11 meetings were all at a neutral site.

Quick Hitters
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers play their first conference games as a member of the Big Ten this weekend.
  • Nebraska owns an all-time record of 427-247 (.634) in the month of March. The Huskers have posted a winning month of March for 16 straight seasons dating back to 1994. NU is 7-5 to open March this season.
  • Fourteen of NU’s 28 games this season have come against teams ranked or receiving votes in the polls.
  • The Huskers have committed 36 errors and allowed 26 unearned runs through 28 games this season. In 55 games last year, Nebraska committed 43 errors and allowed only five unearned runs.
  • Thirty-seven of the 100 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored on home runs.
  • Thirty-four of the 100 runners who have scored against NU this season reached base by a walk or hit-by-pitch.
  • Overall, batters who have walked or been hit by a pitch score an average of 1.2 runs per game this season.
  • Not a single player has started every game at the same position this season. The closest are Brooke Thomason, who has started 27 of NU’s 28 games at right field and Ashley Guile, who has started 27 of 28 games at first base.
  • Gabby Banda enters Friday's game with 98 career hits.
  • Nikki Haget enters Friday’s game needing one run scored to move into eighth place on the Nebraska career chart and two runs scored to move into seventh.
  • Ashley Hagemann enters Tuesday’s game with 696.1 career innings pitched. She is just 3.2 innings shy of becoming the fifth Husker to throw 700.0 career innings.
  • Hagemann is also only seven strikeouts away from moving into fourth place on NU’s all-time strikeout chart.
  • Tatum Edwards owns 19 career homers. With her next home run, she would join Brooke Thomason (22) and Taylor Edwards (21) to give NU three players with 20 career home runs for only the second time in school history (1998).
  • Nebraska defeated UNO, 2-1, on Tuesday, winning for only the second time in 10 games this season when scoring less than three runs.

Hagemann Masterful in the Month of March
After a disappointing start to her senior season, Ashley Hagemann has rebounded in the month of March. Hagemann posted a 3.72 ERA in the month of February and she allowed an average of more than five runs per game when unearned runs are included. But Hagemann has bounced back in March. She has started all 12 of Nebraska’s games this month, throwing 10 complete games and four shutouts. She owns a 1.25 ERA this month and opponents are hitting only .176 against her and have struck out an average of 8.8 times per game. In a nearly identical workload, Hagemann has allowed 31 fewer total runs in March, 25 fewer unearned runs and 15 fewer walks. Hagemann has allowed two earned runs or less in all but one of her 12 starts this month. In February, Hagemann allowed two earned runs or less only once in 10 starts.

Husker History in Conference Openers
Nebraska is 20-15 all-time in conference openers, although the Huskers have struggled of late. Nebraska defeated No. 7 Oklahoma, 4-1, in Norman in last year’s Big 12 opener, as the Huskers snapped a six-game losing streak in conference openers. Overall, Nebraska has lost seven of its last nine conference openers, being held to two runs or less in every loss, including four shutouts. The Big Ten Conference opener against Northwestern marks the first time since 2003 that Nebraska has hosted its conference opener. The matchup with the Wildcats also marks the first time since 2008 - and only the second time since 2004 - that Nebraska has not opened its conference season against a top-20 opponent.

Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 9-10 in her 19 conference openers. Nebraska posted an 8-8 record in its 16 seasons as a member of the Big 12 Conference (1996 to 2011) and a 12-7 mark as a member of the Big Eight Conference (1977 to 1995). Winning the conference opener has been a good indicator of success for Nebraska in recent years. In the eight seasons where Nebraska won its first Big 12 Conference game, the Huskers finished fourth or higher in the conference standings seven times, winning three regular-season league titles.

Double Up
Nebraska has hit 49 doubles through only 28 games this season. That total ranks ninth nationally and is higher than the season total from any of the first 18 seasons of Nebraska softball (1977 to 1993). The Huskers are currently on pace to hit 98 doubles this season, a number that would top the previous school record of 94 set in 1995. Nebraska has hit at least one double in 22 of 28 games this season, including six games with three or more doubles. The Huskers’ 49 doubles lead the Big Ten Conference and are 12 more than any other team’s total.

Individually, two Huskers have already set career highs in doubles this season. Sophomore Taylor Edwards leads NU with nine doubles this season after hitting seven doubles in her All-America freshman campaign. Edwards’ nine doubles are only one shy of matching Gabby Banda’s 2011 team-leading total of 10. Senior Madison Drake has seven doubles this season after producing a total of two doubles through her first three seasons. Only eight Big Ten players have hit seven doubles this season and four of those players are Huskers. Taylor Edwards leads the Big Ten with her nine doubles.

Hagemann Named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week
Senior right-hander Ashley Hagemann was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week on Monday. Hagemann is the second Husker softball player to earn a weekly award this season, as classmate Ashley Guile was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Feb. 13. For Hagemann, it was the third weekly honor of her career, as she earned Big 12 Pitcher-of-the-Week accolades once in both 2009 and 2011.

Hagemann was honored for throwing a pair of shutouts last week against South Dakota. In game one, Hagemann fired a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. She then threw a two-hit shutout and struck out 12 in five-inning complete game win in game two. In the doubleheader against the Coyotes, Hagemann did not allow a run in 12.0 innings, surrendered only three hits and did not allow a runner past second base.

The Producers
Through 28 games, five Huskers have already produced more than 20 RBIs. This year’s group has already become only the ninth team in school history to have five players produce 20 RBIs in the same season. The 2011 and 2012 Huskers are the only teams to accomplish that feat since the NCAA limited teams to a maximum of 56 regular-season games beginning with the 2007 season. Five Huskers are on pace for more than 40 RBIs this season. In program history, no team has ever had more than four players produce 40 RBIs in the same season and only the 1996 Huskers have had five players produce even 30 RBIs in the same season.

Sophomore Tatum Edwards leads Nebraska with 26 RBIs this season, while her twin sister Taylor is next with 25, junior Gabby Banda has driven in 22, senior Ashley Guile owns 21 RBIs and junior Brooke Thomason has produced 20 RBIs. Five of the Big Ten’s 10 leading RBI producers this season are Huskers.

Hagemann Thriving in Workhorse Role
Senior right-hander Ashley Hagemann was expected to throw the majority of Nebraska’s innings this season, but a nagging elbow injury to sophomore Tatum Edwards has forced Hagemann into even more extensive action than she was expecting. Hagemann has pitched in 26 of Nebraska’s 28 games, making 18 starts and throwing 79 percent of the Huskers’ total innings. She leads the Big Ten in innings, starts and appearances.

Hagemann has handled the workload well while starting each of Nebraska’s last 15 games. During that stretch, Hagemann has tossed 13 complete games and thrown 88.0 of Nebraska’s 95.0 innings (93 percent). Hagemann has been dominant during that stretch, compiling a 1.83 ERA. She is only 7-7 during that stretch, but has held opponents to a .185 batting average, thrown four shutouts and struck out 102 batters.

Hagemann has been even better over the past two weeks since a 1-4 weekend at the Texas A&M Invitational, when she received only five total runs of support in five games. Since that tournament, Hagemann has posted a 5-1 record with a 0.54 ERA in seven starts. Opponents have hit only .151 against her during that stretch while striking out an average of 10.1 times per game. Over the past two weeks, Hagemann has held every opponent to one earned run or less, including four scoreless appearances. She has also held every opponent to five or fewer hits during that stretch, including a one-hitter, a two-hitter and a three-hitter.
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