The Nebraska softball team plays in its fifth and final regular-season tournament this weekend when the Huskers travel to Fullerton, Calif., for five games at the Judi Garman Classic, hosted by Cal State Fullerton.

The trip will mark the end of NU’s season-opening 20-game road trip, as the Huskers open the home portion of their schedule next Tuesday and Wednesday with a pair of doubleheaders at Bowlin Stadium against North Dakota State and South Dakota.

Before turning their attention to the home opener, the Huskers are first looking to build on a five-game winning streak. The streak is Nebraska’s second five-game winning streak of the season and comes on the heels of a disappointing three-game losing streak to top-20 teams in late February. After the frustrating losses, Nebraska got back on the winning track with a solid 5-2 victory over Penn State before sweeping the field at the Shocker Invitational last weekend.

During the five game winning streak, the Huskers have outscored their opponents 43-9 while dominating statistically. Nebraska is batting .358 as a team with seven home runs during the winning streak, while averaging nearly nine runs per game. The pitching staff has also done its part to contribute to the streak by limiting opponents to a .144 average and less than two runs per game.

While the numbers are impressive, Nebraska is still looking for more consistent play as the Big 12 Conference season rapidly approaches. During the winning streak, Husker pitchers have allowed just 15 hits in 32.0 innings, but that total has been offset by the 28 walks the staff has issued. Four of those walks have come around to score, an average of almost one run per game.

After losing its first three games against ranked opponents this season, Nebraska is also looking to prove itself against some of the nation’s top teams and the Huskers will get that chance this weekend. Nebraska opens the tournament with a game against a 9-9 Pacific squad before the Huskers face a pair of 2008 Women’s College World Series teams.

Nebraska faces 16th-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette in its final game on Thursday before facing No. 6 Arizona State in its lone game on Friday. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished in a tie for fifth place at last year’s World Series, while the Sun Devils are the defending national champions. The Huskers faced each team last year, defeating ULL 3-1 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic and falling 9-0 in five innings at Arizona State.

NU closes the tournament with a game on Saturday against a New Mexico squad that owns four wins over Big 12 teams this season and a Sunday rematch with Penn State.

Nebraska is returning to the prestigious Judi Garman Classic - formerly the Kia Klassic - for the first time since 2005. The Huskers played in the event in 2003, 2004 and 2005 and compiled an 8-7 record in the event.

Scouting the Pacific Tigers (9-9)
Pacific is 9-9 on the season following a doubleheader sweep over Northern Illinois on Monday. The Tigers and Huskers share no common opponents this season, but Pacific is 0-2 against the Big 12.

Offensively, Pacific is batting .292 as a team while averaging 4.5 runs per game. Six Tigers are hitting .300 or better, led by Nicole Matson. Matson has started all 18 games and leads the team in nearly every offensive category, including a .387 average, 19 runs, nine doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs and five stolen bases.

In the circle, Pacific owns a 4.26 ERA. Chelsea Engle and Heidi Helberg have been the Tigers’ top two pitchers. Engle is 4-5 with a 4.33 ERA in a team-high 66.1 innings. Helberg has compiled a 4-2 record with a 4.72 ERA in 40.0 innings. Michelle Tait (1-0, 1.00 ERA in 7.0 innings) and Gabby McDaniel (0-1, 4.20 ERA in 11.2 innings) round out the staff.

Pacific leads the all-time series 7-5, but the Huskers have won four of the past five meetings. The last time the teams met was in the 2003 NCAA Tournament at Bowlin Stadium when the Huskers won 11-7. Each of the past three meetings have come in postseason play.

Scouting the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (11-2)
Louisiana-Lafayette is 11-2 on the season and ranked 16th in the latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll. The Ragin’ Cajuns return seven starters from last year’s Women’s College World Series team.

Louisiana-Lafayette is led by one of the top pitching staffs in the country. ULL has posted a miniscule 1.01 ERA while shutting out six opponents and averaging eight strikeouts per game. Donna Bourgeois has seen the most action, throwing nearly 70 percent of the team’s innings. Bourgeois is 9-1 with a 0.61 ERA in 68.2 innings and opponents are hitting just .123 against her. Behind Bourgeois, Brittany Cuevas is 1-1 with a 2.62 ERA in 16.0 innings. Amanda Hill (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2.0 innings) has also seen action, while an injury has limited Ashley Brignac to only 10.0 innings pitched, where she is 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA.

Offensively, ULL is averaging six runs per game. Karli Hubbard is one of two starters hitting .500 or better, as she leads the team with a .512 average and 14 runs scored. Melissa Verde is batting .500 with three homers and a team-high 21 RBIs. Louisiana-Lafayette has also been a threat on the basepaths, stealing 30-of-31 bases this season.

Louisiana-Lafayette leads the all-time series with Nebraska 5-3, but the Huskers have won three of the past four meetings. Last year, NU handed the Ragin’ Cajuns their first loss of the season with a 3-1 victory at the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

Scouting the Arizona State Sun Devils (21-4)
The defending national champion Arizona State Sun Devils are 21-4 and ranked sixth in the country heading into play this weekend at the Judi Garman Classic. The Sun Devils and Huskers share four common opponents this season in Penn State, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 21 UMass and South Dakota State. ASU has posted a 5-1 record against those four teams, while NU is 2-2.

The Sun Devils boast one of the top offenses in the nation. Arizona State is averaging nearly eight runs per game, while slugging 30 home runs in only 25 games. All-American Kaitlin Cochran leads the way with a .455 average, seven homers and 23 RBIs. Cochran is slugging at an impressive .964 clip and she has walked 24 times in 25 games to post a .647 on-base percentage. Five other Sun Devils have hit at least three home runs, while 10 players are hitting .300 or better.

In the circle, Arizona State has done a solid job of replacing All-American Katie Burkhart. The staff struggled early, but has allowed two or fewer runs in each of the last six games. Overall, ASU boasts a 2.38 ERA while opponents are batting just .228 against the Sun Devils. Freshman Hillary Bach leads the staff with an 11-0 record, four shutouts, 61 strikeouts and a 2.02 ERA in a team-high 69.1 innings. Megan Elliott has also seen extensive action, going 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 55.0 innings. Megan Ellsworth (5-1, 2.69 ERA in 28.2 innings) rounds out the staff.

Arizona State leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 17-10, and the Sun Devils have won six straight in the series and eight of the past nine. Last year, Arizona State defeated the Huskers 9-0 in five innings.

Scouting the New Mexico Lobos (8-10)
New Mexico enters play this weekend with an 8-10 record following a split in a four-game series with Iowa State. The Lobos are 4-4 against the Big 12 Conference this season, as New Mexico has played seven of its last eight games against Big 12 foes, including six straight.

The Lobos boast a high-powered offense that is averaging nearly six runs per game while hitting .308 as a team. Shaunte Duarte (.429) and Samantha Hughes (.403) are each hitting above .400, while three other Lobos are batting better than .300. Hughes has been New Mexico’s top power threat, as she leads the team with three home runs and top baserunner, as she leads the Lobos with 10 stolen bases this season, while she has only been thrown out once.

In the circle, New Mexico has a 4.81 ERA, as opponents are hitting .365 against the Lobos and have struck out just 21 times in 120.2 innings. Analise Rubalcava has thrown more than half of the innings, compiling a 5-6 record with a 4.16 ERA in 69.0 innings. Opponents are hitting .364 against her, but she has walked only 14. Danielle Castro has earned eight starts - the most on the team - but is just 1-3 with a 5.32 ERA. Opponents are hitting .333 against her, but she has walked 24 in 25.0 innings while striking out only two. Kerry Hodgins (2-1, 6.04 ERA in 26.2 innings) rounds out the staff.

New Mexico leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 8-6. The Huskers have won four straight in the series, as Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 4-0 against the Lobos. The last meeting came in 2005, when Nebraska won 3-0. Overall, the Huskers have shut out New Mexico in each of the three meetings this decade.

Scouting the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-8)
Nebraska and Penn State have already met once this season, with the Huskers defeating the Nittany Lions 5-2 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Since that loss, Penn State has gone 2-3 and enters this weekend with a 7-8 overall record.

The strength of the Nittany Lion squad is its pitching staff, which boasts a 1.90 ERA. Jacki Hill leads Penn State with a 4-5 record in a team-high 11 appearances, eight starts and 56.1 innings pitched. Hill averages more than one strikeout per inning and possesses a 1.24 ERA. Freshman Lisa Akamine got off to a strong start, as she was the Big Ten’s ERA leader when she pitched against Nebraska in February. Currently, Akamine is 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 33.0 innings of work. Kimi Wong (0-0, 1.11 ERA in 6.1 innings) has also seen time in the circle.

Offensively, Penn State is hitting .259 as a team while averaging 3.5 runs per game. Akamine has been the Nittany Lions’ top hitter, as she is the only starter hitting above .300 (.308 average). Akamine also leads the team with eight RBIs, while Desi Giordano has scored a team-high eight times while tying for the team lead with two home runs, including one against Nebraska.

The Huskers lead the all-time series with Penn State 3-2 after taking the first meeting this season.

Quick Hitters
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers travel to Fullerton, Calif., for the Judi Garman Classic.

  • Nebraska is 381-228 (.626) all-time in the month of March. March was the Huskers’ best full month last season, as the Huskers posted an 11-10 record in the month, with four losses coming to ranked teams.
  • NU has been hurt by two-out runs in its losses. In three of NU’s four losses, every run has scored with two outs while overall, 14 of the 18 runs Nebraska has allowed in its losses (78 percent) have scored with two outs.
  • So far this season as a team, Nebraska is averaging an extra-base hit every 11.1 at bats and an RBI every 5.2 at bats. Last year, the Huskers averaged an extra-base hit every 19.1 at bats and an RBI every 8.6 at bats.
  • The Huskers lead the Big 12 with a .980 fielding percentage. NU has only committed eight errors in 15 games after committing 20 errors through 15 games last season.
  • Nebraska has committed more than one error in a game just once through the first 15 games this season. Last year, the Huskers had five games with two or more errors at the same point in the season.
  • The Huskers have held 10 of their first 15 opponents to two runs or less.
  • Nebraska returns every starter from the 2008 season and a total of 15 letterwinners. The Huskers’ outfield has combined to start 406 career games at Nebraska, while the infield has combined to start 599 contests. In the circle, NU’s five-pitcher staff has combined to start 206 Division I games and pitch 1,363.1 innings, including 121 starts and 788.2 innings at Nebraska. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,286 games at the Division I level.
  • A Husker freshman (Heidi Foland) won the final 2008 Big 12 Player-of-the-Week award, while current freshman Ashley Hagemann was a co-recipient of the first Big 12 Pitcher-of-the-Week award in 2009. Prior to these two awards, no Husker freshman had been named player of the week or pitcher of the week since 2001.

Huskers Scoring Runs at Record Pace
Nebraska has scored 95 runs through the first 15 games of the season, as the Huskers are averaging more than six runs per game. The 95 runs mark the highest run total after 15 games in Husker history. Prior to this year’s offensive outburst, the most runs scored in a season’s first 15 games was 91 in 1996.

Only five other teams in the 34-year history of the program have totaled at least 80 runs after the first 15 games. Last season, NU did not score its 95th run until the 22nd game of the season and in 2007, the Huskers totaled 95 runs in the 32nd game of the year.

The 2009 Huskers are also on a quest to score their 100th run of the season faster than any other team in school history. If Nebraska scores five runs against Pacific on Thursday, it will give the Huskers 100 runs scored in only 16 games. The 1978 and 2006 squads each scored their 100th run in the 17th game of the season.

Eight is Enough
The Huskers have scored at least eight runs in four straight games, tying the longest such streak in school history. Overall, NU has scored at least nine runs eight times through the first 15 games this season. That doubles Nebraska’s total from the last two seasons combined, as NU scored nine-or-more runs just twice in 53 games last season and only twice in 57 games in 2007.

Nebraska Nearing 2008 Home Run Total
Nebraska hit six home runs in four games last weekend and the Huskers have hit 14 home runs through the first 15 games of the season. NU has nearly eclipsed last year’s total of 15 home runs in a 53-game schedule.

Last season, senior Crystal Carwile accounted for 12 of Nebraska’s 15 home runs as only three other players homered and each hit only one roundtripper. Already this season, six Huskers have hit at least one home run, including three who hit their first career home run. Overall, seniors Amanda Duran (2 home runs), Haley Long (2) and Brittany Pascale (2), along with sophomores Julie Brechtel (1) and Heidi Foland (4) have all hit more home runs this season than any other season in their career.

Nebraska already has five players who have hit more than one home run this season. That number ranks as the most since the 2003 season, when six Huskers homered more than once.

Two-Out Tallies
Nebraska came through with some clutch hitting last weekend at the Shocker Invitational. The Huskers scored 38 runs in four games and 25 of those runs scored with two outs. On the weekend, NU hit .400 (18-for-45) with two outs. For the season, the Huskers are hitting .285 (35-for-123) with two outs, while producing 31 two-out RBIs.

Changes at the Top Provide Spark
Despite scoring 21 runs in two games last Saturday, Head Coach Rhonda Revelle opted to make a change at the top of the Husker batting order for Sunday’s action. After batting leadoff for the first 13 games of the season, senior Darcy Rutherford traded places with fellow senior Meghan Mullin, who moved up to the leadoff spot after batting second in each of the first 13 games.

The move paid off as Mullin and Rutherford combined to go 11-for-16 in the two Sunday games with eight runs scored and two RBIs. Mullin especially excelled, as she went 6-for-8 and scored five times while driving in one. A native of Mesa, Ariz., Mullin was hitting .316 on the season before the switch and she is now batting .391. Rutherford was hitting .357 before the switch and the Omaha native now has her average up to .400.

Tyson Earns First Win
Sophomore Tori Tyson made a solid season debut last Saturday at the Shocker Invitational. After not pitching in the Huskers’ first 12 games, Tyson came on in relief at Wichita State and earned the victory. The right-hander entered the game with runners on second and third and only one out in the bottom of the fourth inning with Nebraska leading 7-3. She got out of the jam allowing only one of the inherited runners to score, then held Wichita State off the scoreboard over the final three innings.

The victory was the second of Tyson’s career, as she improved to 2-3. Tyson lost her final three decisions of 2008, with each loss coming to NCAA Tournament teams, including losses to national champion Arizona State and No. 6 Northwestern.

Carwile Hits 30th Career Home Run
Senior Crystal Carwile hit her third home run of the season last Saturday against North Dakota. A native of Chino, Calif., Carwile now has 30 home runs in her career, becoming just the fourth player in school history to reach the plateau. Carwile will tie Jenny Smith for third place on the NU all-time chart with her next home run. Carwile has a chance to join three-time All-Americans Ali Viola and Jennifer Lizama as the only Huskers in the 34-year history of the program to produce 40 career home runs.