The 16th-ranked Nebraska softball team looks to continue a successful season this week, when the Huskers host the NCAA Lincoln Regional at Bowlin Stadium. Nebraska earned the No. 14 national seed for the NCAA Tournament, and the Huskers were selected as a regional host for the first time since 2007.
Nebraska will host a tough regional that features three teams ranked in at least one of the two major top-25 polls. Stanford is the highest ranked team in the regional at No. 13 - three spots ahead of Nebraska - while Tulsa is ranked 25th. The Lincoln and College Station regionals are also the only two regionals to feature three teams ranked in the top 30 of this week’s NCAA RPI.
Stanford, an at-large selection from the Pac-12 Conference, and Tulsa, an at-large selection from Conference USA, open the regional at 4 p.m. on Friday. The Huskers then face Northern Iowa, the automatic qualifier from the Missouri Valley Conference, at 7 p.m. The double-elimination regional continues on Saturday with the Friday winners playing at 1 p.m. and the losers playing at 4 p.m. The evening matchup at 7 will feature two one-loss teams competing for a spot in the regional final. The regional final is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, with a second game slated for 3:30 p.m. if necessary.
Tickets are available over the phone at 1-800-8-BIG-RED, online at Huskers.com, or in person at the Nebraska Athletic Ticket Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and at the Bowlin Stadium ticket office on game day, beginning 60 minutes prior to the first pitch of the day. Fans unable to make it out to the ballpark can take advantage of a free video stream of all games, courtesy of Huskers.com.
It has been a memorable season for the Huskers, one they hope to continue by advancing to an NCAA Super Regional for the first time in school history. With a 40-13 record, the Huskers own 40 victories heading into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. The successful regular season helped NU earn a No. 1 seed for the first time since the NCAA switched to four-team regionals beginning with the 2005 season. Overall, the Huskers have earned a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2002, when top-seeded NU won the eight-team Iowa City Regional to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
The successful season also allowed Nebraska to host an NCAA Regional at Bowlin Stadium for the fifth time in the 12-year history of the facility, but for the first time since 2007. Nebraska has never won a regional at Bowlin Stadium, but overall, the Huskers have been regional champions four times in the eight occasions they have hosted an NCAA Regional in school history.
Scouting the Northern Iowa Panthers (26-24)
Northern Iowa won three straight games last weekend to win the Missouri Valley Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth. The Panthers have won five straight games and 12 of their last 15. Included in the run to the MVC tournament title was a 1-0 semifinal victory over host Creighton. The Bluejays are one of one of eight common opponents for Nebraska and Northern Iowa this season, along with Drake, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota State, Oklahoma State and Wichita State. NU posted a 12-4 record against that group, while UNI went 4-9. The Panthers are 0-5 against Big Ten Teams in 2013.
Offensively, Northern Iowa is batting .256 while averaging 3.5 runs per game. Kristin Lock is one of two Panthers hitting above .300, leading the team with a .305 average. She also leads UNI with 14 stolen bases, while adding seven doubles, two homers and 18 RBIs. Micalla Rettinger owns a .303 average with six doubles, four homers and 18 RBIs. Caitlin Wnek is hitting .299 and paces UNI with 14 doubles. Nicole Fisher leads the team with eight home runs and a .570 slugging percentage, while Gina Brown has driven in a team-high 25 runs and Haley Kriener has added 22 RBIs.
In the circle, Jamie Fisher leads a Northern Iowa staff that boasts a 2.96 ERA while allowing an average of 4.0 runs per game. Fisher has started 35 of UNI’s 50 games, while throwing more than 70 percent of the Panthers’ total innings. She is 21-13 on the year with a 1.92 ERA. Opponents are hitting only .211 against her. Abbie VanVleet has seen the most action behind Fisher, compiling a 3-6 record with a 4.54 ERA in 49.1 innings. Ellie Doughty (2-5, 5.55 ERA in 29.0 IP) and Mackenzie Flawas (0-0, 7.47 ERA in 19.2 IP) round out the UNI staff.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa, 17-4, but the Panthers have won the last two meetings. UNI won at Bowlin Stadium in 2009 and 20010, and the Panthers are 3-3 all-time at Bowlin Stadium.
Scouting the Stanford Cardinal (37-19)
Stanford is one of eight Pac-12 schools participating in the NCAA Tournament, including seven at-large selections. The 13th-ranked Cardinal posted a 37-19 record in the regular season, including a 13-11 record in a Pac-12 Conference that has six teams ranked in the top 25. Overall, the Cardinal are well prepared for the postseason, having faced 18 ranked teams in their last 29 games. Nebraska and Stanford share nine common opponents this season in Arizona, California, Florida State, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin. Nebraska posted a 12-7 record against that group, while Stanford went 8-6.
Stanford is batting .302 as a team while averaging an impressive 5.6 runs per game. Kayla Bonstrom, a high school teammate of Huskers Sammi Noland and Mattie Fowler, is having a terrific freshman season. She is batting a team-high .414 with team-high totals of 11 doubles and 51 RBIs. Four other starters are hitting above .300 including Hanna Winter (.354), Leah White (.324), 2012 All-American Jenna Rich (.306) and Cassandra Roulund (.304). White and Roulund have each produced 10 doubles, while Rich owns a team-high 12 home runs and has produced 51 RBIs.
In the circle, Stanford boasts a 2.70 ERA while allowing 3.1 runs per game. Teagan Gerhart, Norco (Calif.) High School’s ace before Husker freshman Emily Lockman, has compiled a 19-11 record with a 2.53 ERA in 196.2 innings. Freshman Kelsey Steven is 15-7 on the year with a 2.85 ERA in 130.0 innings, and opponents are hitting only .198 against her. Nyree White (3-1, 3.02 ERA in 41.2 IP) rounds out the Cardinal staff.
Stanford leads the all-time series, 5-4. The Cardinal eliminated NU with a 4-1 victory in the 2011 Stanford Regional. Stanford has won two of the last three meetings and is 2-0 against the Huskers in the NCAA Tournament.
Scouting the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (42-14-1)
Tulsa earned an at-large invitation into the NCAA Tournament after posting a 42-14-1 record. The 25th-ranked Golden Hurricane had a 10-game winning streak snapped by Houston in the Conference USA Tournament semifinals. Nebraska and Tulsa share six common opponents in Creighton, Florida State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue and Utah State. NU posted an 11-3 record against that group, while Tulsa went 7-3.
Offensively, Tulsa is batting .298 as a team and averaging 5.1 runs per game. Jill Barrett boasts a team-best .412 average, while she has tied Lacey Middlebrooks for the team lead with 11 doubles. Barrett (31 RBIs) is also one of four players with 30 RBIs for the Golden Hurricane. Samantha Cobb is batting .339 and leads Tulsa with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. Caitlin Everett is hitting .333, while Haley Henshaw is batting .327 with 44 RBIs. Julie Kernen has tied Cobb for the team lead with eight home runs, while adding 39 RBIs.
In the circle, Tulsa boasts a 1.80 ERA that ranks 12th nationally, one spot behind Nebraska (1.79). The Golden Hurricane are led by 2013 Conference USA Pitcher of the Year Aimee Creger. Creger is 25-6 in her junior season with a 1.04 ERA in 195.2 innings. She ranks fourth nationally in ERA, 10th in strikeouts per seven innings, 18th in shutouts and 22nd in wins. Opponents are hitting only .173 against her with just 20 extra-base hits and 283 strikeouts in 682 at bats. Like Nebraska, Tulsa also boasts an outstanding No. 2 pitcher in Middlebrooks, who is 14-3 with a 1.76 ERA in 123.0 innings. Opponents are hitting just .193 against Middlebrooks, who ranks 27th nationally in hits allowed per seven innings and 48th in ERA. Caitlin Sill (3-5, 3.98 ERA in 56.1 IP) and Hayley Bottino (0-0, 11.67 ERA in 3.0 IP) round out the Tulsa staff.
The all-time series between Nebraska and Tulsa is tied 3-3. The Huskers won the first three meetings, before the Golden Hurricane swept a three-game series from the Huskers in Tulsa during the 2010 season.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few brief notes heading into the NCAA Lincoln Regional:
- NU’s roster features seven freshmen, tying for the most freshmen in Coach Revelle’s 21 seasons (also 2008).
- NU’s starting lineup has featured at least three freshmen in every game, including 16 games with five freshmen.
- The freshmen have combined for 33 extra-base hits, the eighth-highest total by a freshman class in school history.
- Nebraska has allowed one run or less in 27 of its 53 games this season, including 15 shutouts.
- Nebraska has won seven straight extra-inning games dating back to 2012. NU is 4-0 in extra innings this spring.
- NU had drawn 186 walks over its first 48 games, an average of 3.9 per game. Nebraska was on pace to set a school record for walks, but NU has drawn no walks its past two games and just six walks over its last five games.
- Gabby Banda’s 37 walks this season are just three shy of tying Nebraska’s season record (40).
- The Edwards twins have homered in the same game nine times in their careers, including twice in 2013.
Huskers Look For All Phases to Click in the Postseason
This weekend, Nebraska hopes to advance to an NCAA Super Regional for the first time since the NCAA adopted the regional-super regional format beginning with the 2005 season. The Huskers have the potential to win a talented Lincoln Regional, but Nebraska must play well in all three phases of the game.
Over the last two weekends, the Huskers have pitched well and played good defense, but the NU offense has struggled. Over the past five games, Nebraska’s pitching staff owns a 1.48 ERA and the defense is fielding at a .987 clip while turning seven double plays. The Huskers are allowing just 1.4 runs per game during that stretch, but offensively, Nebraska is averaging just 2.0 runs per game. Nebraska is hitting just .252 and has scored only 10 runs over its last five games, which includes three games against a Penn State pitching staff that ranks 273rd out of 290 teams nationally in ERA. The Huskers have been held to fewer than four runs in five straight games for only the second time this season.
While pitching and defense have been Nebraska’s strength the past five games, the previous five games saw the Huskers’ offense be the strength of the team. Before its recent five-game skid, Nebraska scored 27 runs in its previous five games, an average of 5.4 runs per game. NU slugged seven doubles and seven homers during that stretch, while posting a .500 slugging percentage and .397 on-base percentage. During that same five-game stretch, the Husker pitching staff allowed an average of 3.2 runs per game while boasting a 3.09 ERA. Nebraska’s coaching staff hopes this is the weekend where the offense, pitching and defense all click at the same time.
Decker Finishing Freshman Season Strong
Freshman Hailey Decker has been Nebraska’s hottest hitter the past three weeks. She brings a career-long seven-game hitting streak into the NCAA Tournament, the longest current streak of any Husker and the second-longest overall streak by a Husker this season. Decker is batting .429 (9-for-21) during her hit streak with a .714 slugging percentage and a .455 on-base percentage.
Decker’s numbers have improved as the rest of the lineup has seen a drop in production. During Decker’s seven-game hitting streak, she is hitting .191 higher than the rest of the team, slugging .408 higher and reaching base nearly 14 percent more often than her teammates. Decker has also produced four extra-base hits and five RBIs during her hit streak, while all other Husker hitters have combined for only seven extra-base hits and 12 RBIs.
Nebraska Leads Nation in Turning Double Plays
Nebraska has recorded 42 double plays this season. That total ties Utah for the most in the country, while the Huskers’ average of 0.79 double plays per game leads the nation outright. Nebraska’s 42 double plays are a school record, and the Huskers are one of only four teams nationally to turn even 30 double plays this spring.
Currently, Nebraska has recorded at least one double play in eight straight games, totaling 12 double plays in that stretch. The current streak marks the second time this year that Nebraska has turned a double play in eight consecutive games. Nebraska has also posted nine games where the Huskers have turned at least two double plays, including tying the school record with three double plays against No. 9 Michigan on April 28.