The 19th-ranked Nebraska softball team begins postseason play this weekend at the NCAA Columbia Regional, hosted by the University of Missouri. The Huskers will open the regional Friday at 12:30 p.m. against Kansas, before the 15th-seeded Tigers host Bradley at 3 p.m.
Nebraska is seeking back-to-back trips to the Women’s College World Series, after the Huskers made it to Oklahoma City last season. The first step on that journey is winning a tough Columbia Regional, which is one of only four regionals to feature a pair of teams ranked in the top 20 of the two major polls (No. 13 Missouri and No. 18 Nebraska).
The Huskers will open play Friday against a strong Kansas squad that gave Nebraska everything it could handle in a 1-0 Husker victory on March 15. Bradley or Missouri awaits Nebraska on Saturday. Bradley erupted for 20 runs in three games en route to winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament last weekend. Missouri earned its No. 15 national seed by winning 11 games against ranked opponents this season. The Tigers have also been one of the nation’s top postseason teams the past few seasons. Missouri has won six consecutive NCAA Regionals, becoming one of only three schools in the country to advance to an NCAA Super Regional in each of the past six seasons.
Nebraska has faced the nation’s third-toughest non-conference schedule according to the NCAA RPI, and the Huskers hope that challenging schedule will help them this weekend. NU owns a 10-10 record against the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, including a 4-8 mark against the 16 national seeds and a 6-2 record against non-seeded teams. The Huskers also challenged themselves on the road this season, posting a 16-4 record in opposing stadiums. NU’s 16 road wins this season rank second in the country.
The Huskers also appear to be playing their best softball heading into the postseason. Despite an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska has won 14 of its last 16 games, outscoring its opponents 117-21 during that stretch. Since April 1, the Huskers are 17-4, and NU has outscored its opponents by an average of more than five runs per game during that time.
Nebraska is makings its 18th NCAA Tournament appearance in the past 20 seasons. Overall, the Huskers have appeared in 22 NCAA Tournaments, the 10th-most appearances in NCAA history. NU also ranks 10th in NCAA history with seven trips to the Women’s College World Series and 13th win 55 all-time NCAA Tournament wins. Rhonda Revelle owns a 39-35 record in 18 postseason appearances.
Nebraska was selected for postseason play for the 18th time in the past 20 seasons. Overall, the Huskers will be making their 22nd all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, a total that ranks 10th in NCAA history. NU owns a 55-45 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, posting the 13th-highest win total in NCAA history. After advancing to the program’s seventh Women’s College World Series in 2013, the Huskers are seeking back-to-back trips to the WCWS for the first time since 1987 and 1988. Nebraska’s seven all-time appearances at the Women’s College World Series rank 10th in NCAA history.
Scouting the Kansas Jayhawks (33-21)
Kansas brings a 33-21 record into the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks swept a three-game series from Iowa State last weekend. Before sweeping the Cyclones, KU had lost eight of its last nine and 11 of its last 13. Kansas was 5-11 in its final 16 regular-season games, but nine of those 16 games came against NCAA Tournament teams, including six road games vs. top-16 seeds.
Offensively, Kansas owns a .293 team batting average, and the Jayhawks are averaging 4.4 runs per game. Four Jayhawks are hitting above .300. Chaley Brickey leads KU with a .375 average that includes 10 doubles, 11 homers, 38 RBIs and 39 walks. Maddie Stein ranks second on the team with a .353 average and 12 doubles, while she leads the Jayhawks with 39 RBIs. Ashley Newman is hitting .333 this spring with a team-high 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts. Taylor Hatfield rounds out the .300 hitters with a .329 average that includes a team-high three triples to go along with three doubles and three home runs. Chanin Naudin has added a team-high 14 doubles, while Harli Ridling owns eight homers and 35 RBIs.
In the circle, Kansas boasts a 2.59 ERA while allowing an average of 2.8 runs per game. The Jayhawks also boast one of the nation’s top defenses, committing only 29 errors to rank third nationally with a .979 fielding percentage. Kelsey Kessler is the KU ace, appearing in 41 of the Jayhawks’ 54 games, including 33 starts. Kessler has compiled a 19-14 record with a 2.41 ERA in 206.1 innings. She has added seven shutouts and two saves, and opponents are hitting only .224 against her. Kessler also owns an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 6-to-1, striking out 244 and walking only 39. Alicia Pile has seen the most action behind Kessler, posting a 12-6 record with a 2.45 ERA in 122.2 innings, including six shutouts. Alex Jones (1-0, 2.50 ERA in 14.0 IP), Sophia Templin (1-0, 5.53 ERA in 6.1 IP) and Beth Wilson (0-1, 7.00 ERA in 8.0 IP) round out the KU staff.
Kansas leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 54-53. The Huskers have won five straight in the series and seven of the last eight. The teams met earlier this season on March 15, with Nebraska earning a 1-0 victory. Tatum Edwards threw a three-hit shutout, while a Kylee Muir sacrifice fly accounted for the game’s only run.
Scouting the Bradley Braves (27-30)
Bradley is the lone team in the Columbia Regional who earned an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, as the Braves went 3-0 to capture the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship last weekend. BU has won six of its last nine games.
Offensively, Bradley boasts a .287 team batting average, and the Braves average 4.5 runs per game. Marina Groenewegen, the older sister of Minnesota’s Sara Groenewegen, is one of three Braves hitting above .300. Marina owns a .325 average with team-high totals of eight homers and 34 RBIs. Brianne Josephs is batting .318 and Madeline Lynch-Crumrine owns a .303 average with five homers and 24 RBIs. Four other Braves are hitting at least .290. Alex Chandler is batting .299 with a team-high 11 doubles. Alyson Clemente is hitting .296 and has produced 34 RBIs.
Defensively, Bradley owns a 3.52 ERA and a .950 fielding percentage while allowing 4.3 runs per game. Lynch-Crumrine and Jaelen Hull have split the innings for the Braves this spring. Lynch-Crumrine is 18-16 with a 2.89 ERA in 210.2 innings. She has posted four shutouts and one save. Hull is 7-12 with a 4.25 ERA in 122.0 innings. Lexi Cremeens (0-2, 3.65 ERA in 7.2 IP), Amanda Barna (2-0, 5.11 ERA in 12.1 IP) and Alyson Spinas-Valainis (0-0, 5.13 ERA in 15.0 IP) round out the Bradley staff.
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against Bradley, winning 4-2 in 2001 and 3-0 in 2006.
Scouting the Missouri Tigers (41-16)
Missouri earned the No. 15 national seed for the NCAA Tournament, and the Tigers are hosting an NCAA Regional for the sixth straight season. Missouri owns 11 wins over ranked teams this season and 19 victories over 2014 NCAA Tournament teams. The Tigers have lost three consecutive games - all to ranked teams - after winning four straight, including two vs. top-10 foes.
Offensively, Missouri boasts a .307 batting average that ranks 43rd nationally. The Tigers average 5.5 runs per game and boast a potent combination of power and speed. MU has slugged 48 home runs, and the Tigers rank 11th nationally with 100 stolen bases.
Taylor Gadbois leads Missouri with a .422 average that ranks 34th nationally. She ranks sixth nationally with 45 stolen bases and has only been thrown out five times. Behind Gadbois, four Tigers are hitting better than .340. Corrin Genovese owns a .387 average with five doubles, five homers and 26 RBIs. Genovese is the nation’s sixth-toughest player to strike out, as she has struck out only three times in 126 plate appearances. Emily Crane is batting .381 with nine doubles, four homers, 36 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Sami Fagan owns a .354 average with nine doubles, 12 stolen bases and 41 RBIs, while Angela Randazzo is hitting .342 with nine doubles, six homers and 37 RBIs. Mackenzie Sykes is the top slugger, as she leads Missouri with 10 doubles, eight homers and 51 RBIs. Natalie Fleming has started fewer than half of Missouri’s games, but she is batting .289 with six homers in 76 at bats.
In the circle, Missouri owns a 2.51 ERA while allowing an average of 3.2 runs per game. The Tigers rely on the freshman duo of Tori Finucane and Casey Stangel. Finucane, the SEC Freshman of the Year, is 21-6 with a 1.73 ERA in a team-high 190.1 innings. She has tossed six shutouts among her 19 complete games. While Finucane is the Tigers’ leader in innings, Stangel has made a team-high 34 appearances in the circle. Stangel has compiled a 14-9 record with a 3.21 ERA in 144.0 innings. Alora Marble (6-1, 3.58 ERA in 45.0 IP), one of only two seniors on Missouri’s roster, rounds out the Tiger staff.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Missouri, 53-35. The teams have split the last eight meetings, with neither team winning two consecutive games in the series since Nebraska in 2007 and 2008.
Nebraska’s NCAA Tournament History
Nebraska boasts a rich postseason tradition. The Huskers made the inaugural Women’s College World Series in Omaha in 1982 and made their seventh trip to the WCWS last season. Nebraska’s complete postseason history can be found on page 19 of these game notes. NU’s postseason highlights include:
- Making 22 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances, a total that ranks 10th in NCAA Division I history.
- Winning 55 NCAA Tournament games, a total that ranks 13th in NCAA Division I history.
- Advancing to the Women’s College World Series seven times, a total that ranks 10th in NCAA Division I history.
- Compiling a 55-45 (.550) all-time NCAA Tournament record, including a 45-30 (.600) record in regional play.
- NU is 2-1 against Missouri in the NCAA Tournament, defeating the Tigers to advance to the 1982 WCWS.
Below is a look at brief team notes and statistics of interest heading into the NCAA Tournament.
- Nebraska has scored 184 runs since changing its lineup 25 games ago (averaging 7.4 runs per game).
- NU has posted eight shutouts in its last 13 games.
- 72 of the 136 runs Nebraska has allowed this season have scored with two outs (53 percent).
- Nebraska is 31-2 this season when scoring first, but NU lost its last game despite scoring first.
- The Huskers are 26-1 when scoring at least five runs this year, but are 0-11 when allowing five or more runs.
- NU lost for the first time this season when scoring five runs with a 7-5 setback to Ohio State in its last game.
- Nebraska’s 40-win regular season was its first since 2006 and just the seventh in school history.
- Nebraska is 7-9 against ranked teams this season.
- The Huskers have not faced a top-25 opponent since a 10-1 run-rule win at No. 23 Northwestern on March 30.
- Nebraska outscored its opponents 103-12 over the final 13 games of the regular season.
- The Huskers have won 14 of their last 16 games.
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game 13 times in their careers, including four times this season.
- Tatum Edwards ranks 22nd nationally in shutouts (8) and 31st in victories (22).
- Tatum owns 68 career wins and 46 career home runs, as she is the nation’s only player with 60 wins and 40 homers.
- Taylor Edwards leads the Big Ten with 17 home runs, a total that ranks 14th nationally.
Below are highlights of select Huskers who are enjoying a recent stretch of strong play.
- Hailey Decker is 21-for-44 (.477) with four doubles, three homers, 13 RBIs and 14 runs over her last 14 games.
- Decker has totaled five multi-hit efforts in her past seven games and eight in her last 14 games.
- Tatum Edwards has homered in eight of her last 14 games and has 13 homers in her last 29 games.
- Tatum has produced nine homers and 30 RBIs over her last 15 games.
- Tatum has produced an RBI in 12 of the last 15 games, including eight multi-RBI efforts.
- Tatum leads NU with 50 RBIs, as she has become the sixth Husker to produce a 50-RBI season.
- Tatum has thrown a shutout in four of her last six starts.
- Tatum needs two wins to become the seventh Husker and 28th active player nationally to post 70 career victories.
- Tatum needs three victories to become the first Husker ever to post back-to-back 25-win seasons.
- Taylor Edwards has homered in six of her last 14 games and seven of her last 16 games.
- Taylor needs one home run to own Nebraska’s all-time home run record by herself (54 homers).
- MJ Knighten has totaled 20 RBIs over her last 23 games, after totaling 14 RBIs in her first 32 games.
- Emily Lockman has thrown a shutout in four of her last six starts.
- Lockman has won eight consecutive decisions, posting a 1.24 ERA in 55.1 innings during that stretch.
- Kylee Muir has recorded five extra-base hits in her last four games, including a double in four straight games.
- Muir owns 10 doubles in her last 19 games after totaling one double in her first 28 games.
- Kiki Stokes has produced four multi-hit efforts in her last seven games, going 9-for-22 (.409) in that stretch.
Huskers Earn Share Of Big Ten Regular-Season Title
Nebraska won 15 of its final 16 conference games to catch Michigan on the final day of the regular season and earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Both the Huskers and Wolverines finished league play with an 18-5 record. The 18 wins were the most conference victories in school history, while Nebraska earned its first conference title since sweeping the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles in 2004. The regular-season title was the ninth in school history and the 19th overall title combining regular-season and tournament crowns.
Huskers Nearing Season Home Run Record, Challenging Other Records
Nebraska hit one home run in its last game against Ohio State at the Big Ten Tournament, giving the Huskers 61 home runs this season. NU has hit 60 home runs in a season for just the second time in school history. Nebraska is just one home run shy of tying the 1998 team for the most home runs in school history (62).
In addition to pursuing the program’s all-time home run record, Nebraska currently owns the best slugging percentage (.494) and on-base percentage (.393) in school history. The Huskers have also totaled a school-record 151 extra-base hits this season, breaking the previous record of 150 set in 1995. NU owns 81 doubles this season, tied for the second-highest total in school history. The Huskers are also rank fourth in batting average (.301), runs scored (315) and RBIs (288). The 2014 Huskers have become just the fifth team in school history to score 300 runs and just the third to reach the mark in the regular season (first since 1996). NU has scored 300 runs in back-to-back seasons for the second time in school history.