The 18th-ranked Nebraska softball team wraps up a stretch of 11 consecutive Big Ten Conference games with a three-game series against Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., this weekend. The teams open their series at 3 p.m. (Central) on Friday, before facing off at Noon (Central) on Saturday and 10 a.m. (Central) on Sunday. A free live radio broadcast will be available for all three games on Huskers.com.
The Huskers have posted a 6-2 record through the first eight games of their 11-game stretch of conference matchups. The success has come against three of the Big Ten’s top teams. Nebraska began the stretch by posting a 2-1 record at Iowa, which at No. 22 is the third-highest ranked team in the NCAA RPI rankings, behind Michigan (No. 10) and Nebraska (No. 15). The Huskers then won 2-of-3 games at home against Wisconsin last weekend, the fourth-highest ranked Big Ten team with a No. 25 RPI ranking. On Tuesday, Nebraska swept a mid-week doubleheader from Minnesota, the 33rd-ranked team in the RPI and the fifth-highest Big Ten squad.
The sweep of the Golden Gophers also helped Nebraska move into second place in the Big Ten Conference standings. The Huskers entered the doubleheader one-half game behind Minnesota in third place in the league standings. But junior Taylor Edwards helped Nebraska move ahead of Minnesota by hitting a double and a home run in the game one victory. Edwards scored the Huskers’ first two runs to tie the game, before freshman Dawna Tyson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning to force in the winning run in Nebraska’s 3-2 victory.
The Huskers then created some space between themselves and Minnesota with the sweep. Game two was the Tatum Edwards’ show, as the junior fired a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts in the circle, while producing all of the scoring with a sixth-inning grand slam in Nebraska’s 4-0 win. With the doubleheader sweep, Nebraska improved to 32-9 on the season and moved to 10-3 in conference play. The Huskers trail league-leading Michigan (13-0) by three games, but Nebraska hosts the Wolverines at Bowlin Stadium next weekend. NU is a game-and-a-half ahead of Minnesota in second place.
Nebraska hopes to maintain pace with Michigan in the conference standings and perhaps gain ground on the Wolverines this weekend. The Huskers are hitting the road for the third time in the past four weekends of conference play. NU has won each of its three Big Ten road series this season, earning a 2-1 series victory each time. Purdue enters this weekend in eighth place in the league standings with a 7-7 Big Ten record. The Boilermakers have won four of their last five Big Ten Conference games.
Scouting the Purdue Boilermakers (20-23 Overall, 7-7 Big Ten)
Purdue enters this weekend’s series with a 20-23 record. The Boilermakers are in eighth place in the Big Ten Conference standings with a 7-7 league record. Purdue has won four of its last five conference games, all by at least four runs. Since a Big Ten-opening sweep at undefeated Michigan, Purdue has gone 7-4, with the four losses in that stretch coming by a combined eight runs, including two one-run losses and a two-run loss in extra innings.
Purdue is batting .274 as a team and averaging 4.2 runs per game, but in conference play, the Boilermakers are hitting .283 and averaging 5.4 runs per game. Andie Varsho leads the team and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with a .436 batting average. She has added 10 doubles, two triples and three home runs while producing 34 RBIs. Varsho also leads in the league with 25 stolen bases. Ashley Burkhardt and Lindsey Rains also rank in the top five in the conference with 17 and 21 stolen bases, respectively, as the Boilermakers lead the Big Ten and rank fifth nationally with 100 stolen bases. In addition to being prolific base stealers, Burkhardt is batting .329 and has struck out only seven times in 152 at bats this season. Rains is hitting .290 and has produced 18 RBIs. Three other Boilermakers are hitting above .250, while Danielle Fletcher - who homered in the first meeting with Nebraska this season - is Purdue’s top power threat, slugging six home runs and producing 27 RBIs.
In the circle, Purdue boasts a 3.02 staff ERA, while allowing an average of 3.4 runs per game. The Boilermakers have primarily relied on the duo of Lilly Fecho and Lexy Moore, often relying on both pitchers to appear in the same game. Fecho, the reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, is 8-13 with a 2.69 ERA in 130.1 innings. Moore is 8-9 with a 3.62 ERA in 112.0 innings and opponents are hitting .274 against her. Alex Whittemore (2-0, 2.10 ERA in 26.2 IP) and Erika Petruzzi (2-1, 3.00 ERA in 16.1 IP) round out the Purdue staff. In Big Ten play, the staff boasts a 3.90 ERA and is allowing 4.8 runs per game. Fecho has allowed seven of her 12 home runs in conference action, and she is the only Boilermaker with an ERA under 4.00 in league play.
Husker History vs. Purdue
Purdue leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 2-1. The Boilermakers won the first two meetings in 1996 (4-2) and 1999 (6-2), before the Huskers defeated Purdue 4-3 in non-conference play this season at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucson, Ariz., on Feb. 17. This weekend’s series will mark the first time the teams have met as Big Ten Conference opponents, as the Huskers and Boilermakers did not play each other last season. The series will also mark the first home games for either team, as each of the first three meetings were played at a neutral site. Nebraska Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 1-2 in her career against Purdue and 1-0 against eighth-year Boilermaker Head Coach Kim Maher.
The teams’ first meeting this season marked the 10th game of the year for both teams. Nebraska overcame a sloppy performance to rally for the victory. The Huskers won despite trailing 3-0, committing four errors and being out-hit, 8-5. Freshman right-hander Emily Lockman earned the start and allowed three runs (one earned) in 4.0 innings of work. She left the game with Nebraska trailing 3-0, before the Huskers scored twice in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-run home run from senior Brooke Thomason. Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards entered the game in the top of the fifth and held Purdue scoreless while scattering four hits over the final 3.0 innings.
With Edwards keeping the Boilermakers off the scoreboard, Nebraska tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth thanks to an RBI single from Alicia Armstrong. The Huskers took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth when freshman Hailey Decker delivered a sacrifice fly. Nebraska then survived a tense seventh inning to hang on for the win and match the best 10-game start in school history at 9-1. The Boilermakers loaded the bases with one out on an error, an infield single and a hit batter. But Nebraska escaped the jam, recording a force out at home for the second out before a ground out preserved the victory.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes heading into this weekend:
- Nebraska owns an all-time record of 485-235 (.673) in the month of April. NU is 7-2 in April this season.
- NU was ranked 15th in the fourth NCAA RPI ranking released Monday. The Huskers were the second-highest ranked Big Ten team behind No. 10 Michigan, while overall the conference had five teams ranked in the top 33.
- NU’s roster features seven freshmen, tying for the most freshmen in Coach Revelle’s 21 seasons (also 2008).
- Five freshmen started the season opener, the most in Coach Revelle’s tenure and believed to be the most ever.
- NU’s starting lineup has featured at least three freshmen in every game, including 16 games with five freshmen.
- The freshmen have combined for 26 extra-base hits, the ninth-highest total by a freshman class in school history.
- Nebraska has allowed one run or less in 22 of its 41 games this season, including 13 shutouts. In 55 games last season, NU allowed one run or less just 16 times, posting 13 shutouts.
- Five Huskers have started all 41 games at the same position this spring (Taylor Edwards - C, Hailey Decker - 2B, Gabby Banda - 3B, Kiki Stokes - CF, Brooke Thomason - RF).
- Nebraska is 27-1 when out-hitting its opponent this season.
- The Huskers are 29-3 when recording at least five hits.
- NU is 23-0 when it scores first and 14-0 when it scores in the first inning.
- Nebraska is 17-0 when it scores five-or-more runs.
- NU is 22-0 when leading after four innings.
- The Huskers are 3-0 in extra-innings this season and have won six straight extra-inning games.
- In the circle, 41 of the 102 hits Tatum Edwards has allowed this season have been infield singles (40 percent).
- Offensively, 15 of Tatum Edwards’ 21 hits have gone for extra bases, including seven doubles and eight homers.
- Tatum Edwards enters this weekend with 99 career RBIs, one shy of 100.
- Gabby Banda is one double shy of cracking Nebraska’s all-time top 10.
- Banda has started 176 consecutive games for the Huskers.
- Taylor Edwards has hit 33 career home runs and Brooke Thomason 31 home runs, giving Nebraska a lineup that features two players with 30 career home runs for only the second time in school history (also 1998). NU has never had a lineup with three players with 30 career homers and Tatum Edwards owns 29 career home runs.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game nine times in their careers, including twice in 2013.
Thomason & Taylor Edwards Rank Among Nation’s Active Career Leaders
Senior Brooke Thomason and junior Taylor Edwards have put up outstanding offensive statistics in their careers, helping Thomason rank in the top 10 in school history in seven offensive categories and Edwards rank in the top 10 in Husker history in four offensive categories. The duo have not only posted totals among the best in Nebraska history, but they have also produced statistics that rank highly among all active Division I softball players.
Of the approximately 5,000 current Division I softball players, Thomason has produced statistics that rank among the top one percent (50 players) of all players in five categories. Entering this week, she ranked 20th among all active players with 156 career RBIs, 31st with 40 doubles, 45th with 87 walks and 50th with 194 hits and a .329 batting average.
Edwards has also produced numbers that rank among the top one percent of all current college softball players in three categories, an impressive feat considering her junior status. Entering this week, Edwards ranked 21st among all active players with 101 career walks and 25th with 145 RBIs, while also ranking 50th with 32 home runs. Edwards ranked second among all current players not in their senior season in walks, and she was fourth in RBIs and tied for ninth in home runs.
Taylor Edwards Joins 100-100-100 Club
Junior Taylor Edwards went 4-for-8 with a double, a home run, four RBIs and three runs scored against Wisconsin last weekend. Her two runs scored in Sunday’s 11-2 win gave her 101 career runs scored, making her the 10th Husker to produce 100 career hits, runs scored and RBIs. Edwards joined three-time All-American Ali Viola and Crystal Carwile as the only players in school history to reach each milestone prior to their senior season.
Nebraska is 11-4 on the road this season, with a win at No. 1 Oklahoma that snapped the Sooners’ 17-game, season-opening win streak. Two of NU’s road losses have come to ranked teams (No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 16 Arizona). The Huskers’ 11 road victories are tied for the third-most in school history. This year’s group could challenge the school record of 14 road victories. One win this weekend would tie for the second-most road wins in school history while a sweep would tie the Nebraska record for most road victories in a season. Included in this year’s success was a streak of six consecutive road victories, the fourth-longest streak in school history. Nebraska was just 7-12 on the road last year, including a 4-8 road record in Big Ten Conference play. The Huskers are 4-2 in conference road games this spring.
Lockman Posting Impressive Freshman Totals
Freshman right-hander Emily Lockman is 12-3 this spring with a 1.52 ERA. Lockman leads the Big Ten in ERA, and she ranked second among all freshmen nationally in ERA and 26th overall entering this week. Lockman’s 1.52 ERA would currently rank as the third-lowest mark by a freshman in Nebraska history, trailing only two-time All-American Lori Sippel, Lockman’s pitching coach, and 2004 All-American Peaches James. Lockman also ranked in a tie for 13th nationally among all freshmen pitchers with 11 wins entering this week, while her current .800 winning percentage would be the third-best mark by a freshman in school history.
Taylor Edwards Enjoying Best Conference Season of Her Career
Junior Taylor Edwards is putting up big numbers in Big Ten Conference play this season, posting a .424 batting average, an .879 slugging percentage and a .627 on-base percentage through Nebraska’s first 13 conference games. She leads the Big Ten with six doubles in league games, while ranking third in hit-by-pitches (5), fourth in walks (13), fifth in on-base percentage and RBIs (15), seventh in homers (3) and eighth in total bases (29).
Edwards’ production is much improved from her first two conference seasons, when she drew 39 walks in 41 games as teams elected to frequently pitch around her. Edwards has produced six doubles in 13 conference games this season, after totaling just three doubles in her first 41 career conference games. Her 14 hits, 15 RBIs, five hit-by-pitches and 29 total bases are already the highest totals of her conference career.
Taylor Edwards Post Double-Digit Doubles & Home Runs
Junior Taylor Edwards doubled and homered in game one of Tuesday’s doubleheader against Minnesota, marking her 11th double and 10th home run of the season. She is only the eighth player in school history to produce 10 doubles and 10 home runs in the same season and the first since Heidi Foland and Brooke Thomason both accomplished the feat in 2006. Edwards has a chance to become the first Husker to ever produce 15 doubles and 15 home runs in the same season, needing four more doubles and five more home runs to reach both marks.
From a career standpoint, Edwards owns 30 career doubles and 33 career home runs after Tuesday’s doubleheader. She is only the fifth Husker to produce 30 doubles and 30 home runs in a career, joining senior Brooke Thomason, who became a member of the 30-30 club earlier this year.
Thomason & Taylor Edwards Join 30-30 Club
Senior Brooke Thomason and junior Taylor Edwards each eclipsed 30 career doubles and 30 career home runs this spring, becoming the fourth and fifth members, respectively, of Nebraska’s 30-30 club. Thomason became the fourth player in school history to produce 30 career doubles and 30 career home runs with a home run against Oregon on Feb. 23. Taylor Edwards became the fifth member of the club when she slugged her 30th career double and 33rd career home run in the same game in game one of a doubleheader against Minnesota on April 16. Edwards and three-time All-American Ali Viola are the only players in school history to join the 30-30 club prior to their senior season. Taylor’s twin sister Tatum has an excellent shot to become the sixth member of the 30-30 club before her career is over. Tatum enters this weekend with 24 career doubles and 29 career home runs.
Huskers Enjoying ‘Grand’ Year
Nebraska has enjoyed hitting with the bases loaded this season, posting a .365 team batting average, a .595 slugging percentage and a .453 on-base percentage with the bases loaded. The Huskers have found numerous ways to drive in runs with the bases loaded, including eight bases-loaded walks and four bases-loaded hit-by-pitches. But NU has also shown the ability to clear the bases with a grand slam, slugging four grand slams this spring. Nebraska’s four grand slams in 2013 mark the most by any Husker team since at least 2000, when complete records become available. Junior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards have combined for three grand slams. Taylor hit two grand slams in the same game against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 9, becoming the fourth player in NCAA history to hit two grand slams in the same game. Tatum hit her grand slam against Minnesota on April 16, while senior Brooke Thomason hit her third career grand slam on Feb. 16 against Utah State.
Armstrong Riding Nine-Game Hit Streak, Excelling in Big Ten Play
Junior Alicia Armstrong has hit safely in nine straight games, dating back to an 0-for-2 day against Illinois on March 31. The streak is the longest of her career and the longest by a Husker this season. If she can collect a hit at Purdue on Friday, Armstrong would be the first Husker to post a 10-game hitting streak since Nikki Haget hit safely in 12 straight games during the 2011 season. Armstrong is 15-for-30 during her hitting streak, raising her season batting average from a mark of .321 at the beginning of the streak to its current team-high mark of .369.
Armstrong has not only excelled over her last nine games, but she has been excellent during Big Ten Conference play. Armstrong has hit safely in 11 of Nebraska’s 13 conference games this spring. She is batting a team-high .462 in conference play, a mark that ranks eighth in the league. Her recent hot streak has elevated Armstrong from ninth in the batting order to the leadoff spot. Armstrong has hit leadoff the past three games, going 6-for-11 during that stretch with three RBIs, two runs scored and one stolen base.