The Nebraska softball team heads to Minneapolis this weekend for its first Big Ten Conference road series. The Huskers will face host Minnesota in a three-game weekend series, beginning with a Saturday doubleheader at Noon and a Sunday finale at Noon.
Nebraska enters play this weekend atop the Big Ten standings with a perfect 3-0 record in conference action. The Huskers, who have won nine straight games, are 20-12 overall. Minnesota plays its first home games of the season this weekend, and the Golden Gophers enter play with a 19-9 overall record and a 1-2 mark in Big Ten play after losing two of three at Illinois last weekend.
Fans have a variety of ways to follow Nebraska in Minnesota this week. Free live stats and live audio will be available on Huskers.com and a free live video broadcast of Saturday’s doubleheader will be available to subscribers of Gopher All-Access. Sunday’s game will be televised live to a national audience on the Big Ten Network. Marney Gellner will call the action for BTN, while former Michigan All-American Jennie Ritter will add color commentary.
The Huskers are riding a season-best nine-game winning streak. A win in Saturday’s first game would give Nebraska a 10-game win streak for only the second time in the past five seasons. After sweeping Northwestern in a three-game conference series at Bowlin Stadium last weekend, Nebraska has also won eight consecutive games against Big Ten opponents dating back to 2009.
For those streaks to continue, the Huskers will have to perform well in all phases of the game. Minnesota presents an all-around challenge, as the Gophers lead the league in home runs offensively and strikeouts, ERA and fielding percentage defensively.
The Huskers have also excelled offensively and defensively during their nine-game win streak. Nebraska is batting .346 as a team during the streak, while slugging .513 and averaging 6.8 runs per game. In the circle, the Huskers have thrown four shutouts, posted a 1.23 ERA and allowed an average of 1.8 runs per game during the winning streak.
Individually, junior Gabby Banda is batting .586 (17-for-29) over the last nine games with three doubles. Classmate Brooke Thomason is hitting .440 with three home runs and 15 RBIs, while sophomore Taylor Edwards has driven in 11 runs during that span. In the circle, senior Ashley Hagemann is 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA and three shutouts during the streak, while sophomore Tatum Edwards has started the last two games and has not allowed an earned run, posting a shutout on Wednesday.
Scouting the Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-9, 1-2 Big Ten)
Minnesota plays its first home games of the season this weekend against Nebraska. The Gophers bring a 19-9 overall record into play this weekend, including a 1-2 mark in Big Ten Conference play after losing two of three at Illinois last weekend. Overall, Minnesota has lost four of its last six games. The Huskers and Gophers share only one common opponent this season, Idaho State. Nebraska rallied from a four-run deficit to defeat the Bengals, 12-4 in five innings in the third game of the season, while Minnesota defeated ISU, 10-2 in five innings on March 17.
The Gophers possess a powerful offense and an outstanding defense. Minnesota leads the Big Ten with 32 home runs this season, seven more than any other team has hit. In addition to the power, the Gophers have shown patience at the plate, as they have drawn 119 walks this season, trailing only Nebraska’s league-leading 123 walks. In the circle, Minnesota owns the league’s lowest ERA (1.48), while also leading the conference in strikeouts (229), shutouts (10) and opponent batting average (.164). Defensively, the Gophers have committed only 20 errors this season. They have committed 11 fewer errors than any other Big Ten team and lead the conference with a .975 fielding percentage.
Individually, a pair of Gophers are batting above .300 this season. Kaitlyn Richardson ranks third among all Big Ten hitters with a .423 average this season. One of the conference’s top hitters, Richardson has also added nine doubles, seven home runs, 21 walks and 27 RBIs. She ranks second in the league in doubles, home runs, slugging percentage (.808) and on-base percentage (.534) and is third in walks and seventh in RBIs. Tyler Walker is the only other Gopher hitting above .300, as she is batting .348. Walker has added six home runs and 21 RBIs, while leading Minnesota with 27 runs scored and 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts. She ranks second in the Big Ten in runs scored, fifth in home runs and eighth in walks. Kari Dorle has added six home runs, 20 walks and 26 RBIs of her own, ranking fourth in the league in walks and fifth in homers. Overall, nine Gophers have homered this season, including six players with at least three home runs each.
In the circle, Minnesota boasts arguably the league’s top pitcher in sophomore Sara Moulton. Moulton has started 21 of the Gophers’ 28 games this season, while throwing nearly 72 percent of the team’s innings. Moulton is 14-7 on the year with a 0.76 ERA in 129.1 innings. She has struck out 188 and walked only 31 this year, while opponents are hitting a paltry .138 against her and have produced only nine extra-base hits in 448 at bats. Moulton leads the Big Ten in several categories, including ERA, opponent average and strikeouts. She ranks second to Nebraska’s Ashley Hagemann in appearances, starts and innings pitched, and Moulton also ranks second in wins. Behind Moulton, Alissa Koch has been the Gophers’ No. 2 pitcher, compiling a 5-2 record with a 3.10 ERA. She has made seven starts this season and thrown 40.2 innings. Kelsey Kimminau rounds out Minnesota’s staff, having made six relief appearances and posting a 0-0 record with a 4.20 ERA in 10.0 innings.
Minnesota is led by second-year head coach Jessica Allister. Allister led the Gophers to a 31-24 record in her first season, and she has the Gophers off to a 19-9 start this season. Minnesota marks Allister’s first head coaching job, after she spent the previous six seasons as an assistant at Oregon, Stanford and Georgia.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Minnesota, 13-5. The Huskers have won eight straight in the series and 13 of the last 15 overall, after the Gophers won the first three meetings in series history. Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 8-0 in her career against Minnesota, but she has never faced the Gophers’ second-year head coach Jessica Allister. Minnesota has been held to two runs or less in each of the last eight meetings, including five shutouts. Nebraska won the only meeting in Minneapolis, 3-0, in 1991. The Huskers won a pair of games against Minnesota on back-to-back days in the most recent meetings between the two schools in 2007. In addition to its eight-game winning streak against Minnesota, Nebraska has also won eight consecutive games against Big Ten opponents dating back to a loss to Northwestern in 2009.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers travel to Minnesota to play their first Big Ten Conference road series in school history.
Huskers Riding Win Streaks
- Nebraska is 11-5 this month and has clinched a winning month of March for the 18th straight season.
- Nebraska is 2-3 on the road this season. The Huskers won their first two road games, but have lost three straight.
- Saturday marks NU’s first regular-season road game against a Big Ten team since a 3-0 win at Minnesota in 1991.
- Nebraska has won eight consecutive games against Big Ten teams dating back to a 2009 loss to Northwestern.
- Fourteen of NU’s 32 games this season have come against teams ranked or receiving votes in the polls.
- The Huskers have committed 41 errors and allowed 31 unearned runs through 32 games this season. In 55 games last year, Nebraska committed 43 errors and allowed only five unearned runs.
- Thirty-nine of the 113 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored on home runs (35 percent).
- Thirty-nine of the 113 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 31 of NU’s 32 games at right field and Ashley Guile, who has started 31 of 32 games at first base.
- Tatum Edwards owns 19 career homers. With her next home run, she would join Brooke Thomason (24) and Taylor Edwards (21) to give NU three players with 20 career home runs for only the second time in school history (1998).
- Brooke Thomason owns 24 career home runs, one shy of cracking Nebraska’s all-time top 10.
- Ashley Hagemann needs 14 strikeouts to move into third place on Nebraska’s all-time chart.
- Rhonda Revelle enters this weekend’s series with 749 wins in her Husker career.
Nebraska has won nine consecutive games since opening this month with a 2-5 record. NU’s nine-game win streak is the program’s second-longest over the past five seasons, trailing only a 10-game win streak in 2011.
The Huskers have also won three consecutive conference games this season and seven straight league games dating back to last season. Nebraska’s 3-0 start to Big Ten play this season is its best start to a conference season since opening the 2004 Big 12 schedule 12-0. The Huskers’ current seven-game conference winning streak is its longest since winning eight straight Big 12 games to close the 2006 conference schedule.
Huskers Producing RBIs in Record Fashion
Nebraska’s potent offense the past two seasons has led to some impressive individual RBI totals. This season, five Huskers have already produced more than 20 RBIs and every member of that group reached the mark in 27 or fewer games. This year’s group is 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 not only 30 RBIs, but 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. Overall, five of the Big Ten’s top 10 RBI producers are Huskers.
The impressive RBI totals have helped two Huskers eclipse 100 career RBIs this season, while another is nearing the mark. Senior Ashley Guile owns 114 career RBIs, while junior Brooke Thomason has driven in 102 runs in her career and sophomore Taylor Edwards has produced 96 RBIs. With four more RBIs from Edwards, Nebraska will have three players in the lineup with 100 career RBIs for the first time in school history.
Thomason’s Walk-Off Grand Slam First by a Husker in a Decade
With Nebraska trailing 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning against Northwestern last Friday, junior Brooke Thomason belted a walk-off grand slam to power the Huskers to a 9-6, come-from-behind victory. The home run was the second of the day for Thomason, whose solo shot pulled Nebraska to within 6-4 in the bottom of the sixth. Thomason’s walk-off home run was the first by a Husker since Nicole Trimboli also had a walk-off grand slam to give Nebraska a 6-2 win over Texas A&M on May 4, 2002 at the Big 12 Tournament.
Thomason is tied for the Big Ten Conference lead with two home runs in league play. Overall, 12 of Thomason’s 25 career home runs have come during conference play. A native of Overland Park, Kan., Thomason homered five times in Big 12 play in both 2010 and 2011, as she owns 12 home runs in 39 career conference games.
Banda Hit Barrage
Junior Gabby Banda has produced a three-hit game in five of her last eight games and six over her last 11. Banda has produced eight three-hit games this year after never recording more than two hits in any of her 111 career games entering this season. Overall, Banda has produced 12 multi-hit games this year after totaling only nine such games over her first two seasons combined.
Taylor Edwards Nearing 100 RBIs in Record Time
Sophomore Taylor Edwards enters this weekend with 96 RBIs in only 87 career games. She is bidding to become only the second Husker to drive in 100 runs in fewer than 100 career games and has a good chance at reaching the mark faster than any player in school history. Three-time All-American Ali Viola holds the current top mark, as she produced her 100th RBI in her 92nd career game.