The 18th-ranked Nebraska softball team takes on its 10th ranked opponent of the season this weekend, when the Huskers travel to No. 23 Northwestern for a three-game Big Ten Conference series.
In a change from the original schedule, the teams will play Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Ballpark at Rosemont, the home of the Chicago Bandits of the National ProFaspitch League. The teams will meet on Saturday at the Ballpark at Rosemont at 4 p.m. Saturday’s game could turn into a doubleheader, which would mean the teams wouldn’t play on Sunday. If there is a Sunday game, its time is to-be-determined.
The Huskers enter play this weekend with a 21-10 overall record, including a 1-2 mark in conference play after Nebraska lost two of three games to 16th-ranked Minnesota last weekend. Consecutive weekends facing ranked competition is nothing new to Nebraska, as the Huskers will have played 16 of their 34 games against top-25 opponents after this weekend. NU owns a 5-8 record against ranked teams this season. Each of Nebraska’s first 13 games against ranked opponents have come against top-20 teams, including seven matchups against teams ranked in the top 10 this week.
The tough schedule helped Nebraska come in at No. 9 in the first NCAA RPI ranking of the spring, released on Monday. The Huskers have played the nation’s second-toughest schedule according to the RPI. Entering this week, NU had played 19 of its 30 games against opponents ranked in the RPI’s top 50. Nebraska owns nine victories over RPI top-50 opponents this spring, while only one of its 10 losses has come to a team ranked outside the top 50.
The Huskers have also achieved their lofty RPI ranking thanks to a challenging road schedule that continues this weekend. Nebraska is 8-1 on the road this season, including six road victories over top-50 opponents. NU’s six road victories over top-50 opponents are the most of any team in the country, while Minnesota is the only other team in the nation with at least five road wins over top-50 teams.
The weekend trip to Chicago wraps up a four-game road trip for Nebraska, as overall the Huskers are in a stretch that sees them play seven of eight games on the road. NU opened its current road trip on Wednesday with an impressive performance in a 10-0, five-inning win at UNO. Senior Tatum Edwards fired a one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts against the Mavericks, while producing an RBI single and a two-run homer at the plate. Sophomore Hailey Decker had a two-run single and her first career grand slam in the win, producing a career-high six RBIs. Senior Taylor Edwards walked in each of her four trips to the plate, tying the NU record for walks in a game while becoming the Huskers’ career walk leader.
Scouting the Northwestern Wildcats (18-6, 2-1 Big Ten)
The 23rd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats run-ruled Northern Illinois, 13-2, on Wednesday and have won eight of their last 10 games. Northwestern owns an 18-6 record after Wednesday’s win against NIU. The Wildcats opened Big Ten play by going 2-1 against Wisconsin last weekend in a home series played in Rosemont, Ill., at the home stadium of the Chicago Bandits. Nebraska and Northwestern share three common opponents in Northern Illinois, Oklahoma and Kansas. The Huskers went 3-1 against that group, while the Wildcats posted a 2-1 record.
Northwestern is led powered by one of the nation’s top offenses. The Wildcats are hitting .344 as a team and averaging 7.2 runs per game. Northwestern leads the Big Ten in scoring and batting average, while ranking eighth and ninth nationally in those respective categories. The Wildcats also boast a potent combination of power and speed, slugging 20 home runs and stealing 38 bases in 42 attempts.
Seven Wildcats are hitting better than .300 with all seven batting at least .340. Emily Allard, who missed last season with an injury, leads the way with a .395 average and 15 stolen bases in 15 tries. Andrea Filler is batting .397 with four doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs. Marisa Bast owns a .380 average that includes four home runs and 32 RBIs. She is tied for the team lead in homers and leads the conference in RBIs while ranking ninth nationally in RBIs per game. Andrea DiPrima is hitting .361 with a team-high six doubles, while Brianna LeBeau is batting .353 and is tied for the team lead with four home runs. Mari Majam owns a .352 average with a team-high 15 walks, while Paige Tonz rounds out the .300 hitters with a .340 average.
In the circle, Northwestern boasts a 3.18 ERA and is allowing 3.5 runs per game. The staff has held opposing hitters to a .228 average and just five home runs in 579 at bats. The Wildcats also average more than seven strikeouts per game, but the staff has struggled with walks, ranking 11th in the league with 101 walks, an average of nearly five walks per game.
Amy Letourneau was the staff ace last season and was set to serve that role again this spring, before suffering a season-ending injury after throwing only 20.0 innings and posting a 3-1 record with a 1.40 ERA. In Letourneau’s absence, Kristen Wood and Sammy Albanese have split the innings. Wood is 9-2 on the year with a 3.59 ERA in 74.0 innings. She has made a team-high 16 appearances and earned a team-high 11 starts, holding opposing hitters to a .213 average. Opponents are hitting .302 against Albanese, but she has worked around the hits to post a 3.61 ERA. Albanese has yet to allow a home run this season, and she owns a 5-3 record in 40.2 innings. Nicole Bond (1-0, 2.42 ERA in 17.1 innings) rounds out the Wildcat staff.
Northwestern is led by 13th-year head coach Kate Drohan, who owns a 434-234-1 record in Evanston.
Husker History vs. Northwestern
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 9-7. The Huskers have won all five meetings as conference foes, sweeping a three-game series from the Wildcats at Bowlin Stadium in 2012 and then sweeping a weather-shortened two-game series from Northwestern last season. Despite being in its third year as a member of the Big Ten Conference, Nebraska is making its first trip to Northwestern this weekend. Prior to Nebraska joining the Big Ten, Northwestern had won six straight in the series. Nebraska Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 5-6 in her career against Northwestern, including a 5-2 mark against Northwestern Head Coach Kate Drohan.
Weather shortened last year’s season series to a single doubleheader between the Huskers and Wildcats. Nebraska edged out a one-run, extra-inning victory in game one, before tying the school record for most runs in a conference game with a 14-1, five-inning win in the nightcap. In game one, a four-run second inning for Northwestern looked as though it would hold up, before Nebraska scored twice in the fourth and sixth innings, tying the game on Mattie Fowler’s two-run homer. NU then earned a win in the eighth, when Taylor Edwards was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in the winning run.
In game two, Nebraska scored eight runs in the first inning and added six more runs in the third, producing 14 runs on 11 hits in only four turns at the plate. The Huskers did not have a home run in the win, but five Huskers produced two hits and four players drove in two runs.
Tatum Edwards is 2-0 in her career with a 1.87 ERA against Northwestern, and she is 6-for-15 (.400) at the plate with three doubles and five RBIs. Stokes is 2-for-5 in two career games against the Wildcats with three runs scored and two RBIs.
The information below provides a quick look at a few brief notes heading into Nebraska’s weekend series at 23rd-ranked Northwestern.
- 39 of the 78 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored with two outs (50 percent).
- Seven of the nine teams to beat NU this season are ranked in the top 20 this week, including six top-10 teams.
- The Huskers are 19-1 this season when scoring first.
- The Huskers are 11-0 when scoring at least five runs this year, but are 0-7 when allowing five or more runs.
- Nebraska is 5-8 against ranked teams in 2014, with 11 of the 13 games against teams currently in the top 15.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game 10 times in their careers, including once this season.
- Taylor Edwards needs one hit to move into a tie for ninth place on Nebraska’s all-time hits chart.
- Taylor Edwards needs five hits to become the ninth Husker to record 200 career hits.
- Taylor Edwards is two home runs from tying Jennifer Lizama for second on NU’s all-time home run chart (47).
Husker Power On Display Last Week
Nebraska hit eight home runs in four games last week, averaging two home runs per game. The Huskers entered last week with 18 home runs through their first 26 games. Nebraska had hit only four home runs in its last eight games before slugging a season-high four home runs against Iowa State last Wednesday, including three home runs in one inning. The Huskers then hit two home runs in each game of Sunday’s doubleheader with No. 16 Minnesota. Nebraska hit four total home runs against a Minnesota pitching staff that had allowed only five home runs in its first 25 games. Freshman Kat Woolman and senior Taylor Edwards hit the first two home runs Gopher ace Sara Moulton allowed this season to account for Nebraska’s final two runs in the Huskers’ 3-2 win in the series finale.
Taylor and Tatum Edwards each hit two home runs last week, while Woolman, junior Kylee Muir, sophomore Hailey Decker and freshman MJ Knighten all homered once. Woolman’s home run was the first of her career, as she became the 10th Husker to homer this season. The only other times a Nebraska team had 10 players homer in the same season were in 2009 and 2013.
NU continued its power surge by hitting two home runs at UNO on Wednesday. Tatum Edwards hit a two-run homer for her third home run in the past five games. Decker slugged a grand slam to record her second homer in three games. The two homers came off Dana Elsasser, who had allowed only four homers all season.
Taylor Edwards’ Nebraska Career Record Watch
Senior Taylor Edwards is nearing the end of one of the greatest careers by a Husker hitter. She is leaving her mark along the way, etching her name alongside Nebraska’s all-time greats while challenging several school record. Edwards already owns the Husker career walk and hit-by-pitch records, and she is challenging Nebraska’s all-time marks in RBIs and home runs, ranking in the top three in each category. Edwards enters this weekend needing eight home runs and 35 RBIs to tie each NU career record.
Including her two career records, Edwards owns 14 school records. She holds two season records (grand slams and hit-by-pitches), five game records (RBIs, runs scored, walks, hit-by-pitches and grand slams) and a pair of miscellaneous records (consecutive games with a home run and longest hitting streak to open a season). Edwards, who also owns a share of the NCAA record for consecutive games with a home run (6) and grand slams in a game (2), set NU class records for home runs by a freshman, walks by a sophomore and RBIs by a junior.
Edwards is also a member of several elite Husker clubs. She is one of only 11 players in school history to produce 100 career runs, hits and RBIs and one of only three members of that group to reach each milestone prior to her senior season. Edwards is also one of only six Huskers to produce 30 career home runs and 30 career doubles and one of only two players to reach both milestones prior to her senior season. Also one of only two players in school history with two 50-RBI seasons, Edwards needs one home run to become the third Husker to produce three seasons with double-digit home runs.