After playing its first 20 games of the season away from home, the Nebraska softball team opens the home portion of its 2009 schedule this week with a pair of doubleheaders at Bowlin Stadium. NU will host North Dakota State for two games on Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m. before facing Division I newcomer South Dakota twice on Wednesday.
The Huskers enter their first home games on a roll. Nebraska finished 4-1 at the prestigious Judi Garman Classic last weekend, tying for the best record in the 17-team field which featured nine ranked teams. NU is 8-1 this month and the Huskers have won nine of their last 10 games.
March has been very good to the Big Red so far this year, as Nebraska is scoring an average of 6.8 runs per game this month while the pitching staff took control at the Judi Garman Classic thanks to senior ace Molly Hill.
Hill tossed two shutouts in four starts at the tournament, including a 2-0 blanking of 16th-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette, which advanced to the 2008 Women’s College World Series. Hill also shut out a strong New Mexico lineup and allowed just one run to a Penn State team that had just scored 23 runs in its previous two games against third-ranked Washington and No. 12 Arizona. Hill posted a 4-1 record with a 0.93 ERA on the weekend, as she led all pitchers in the 17-team tournament with four wins, while ranking behind a pair of All-Americans to finish with the third-lowest ERA in the tournament among pitchers who threw at least 15.0 innings.
While Hill was in control in the circle, sophomore Julie Brechtel put together a career weekend in her return to her hometown of Fullerton, Calif. Brechtel batted .563 at the tournament with seven RBIs. She led all players in average and on-base percentage, while ranking second in RBIs. Brechtel’s efforts earned her the first Big 12 Player-of-the-Week award of her career on Monday.
Brechtel had a pair of clutch hits on the weekend. The first was an RBI single that broke a scoreless tie and propelled the Huskers to a 2-0 upset of the 16th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns. The other blast was a grand slam against Penn State, the first by a Husker in nearly two years.
Senior Brittany Pascale and sophomore Heidi Foland also homered at the Judi Garman Classic, as Nebraska officially surpassed its home run totals from the past two seasons. The Huskers have slugged 17 home runs in 20 games this season after finishing with 15 homers in 53 games last season and just 14 home runs in 57 games in 2007.
More power and dominant pitching this week could help the Huskers build on an impressive streak. Since Bowlin Stadium opened in 2002, NU has swept 15 of its 16 home non-conference doubleheaders.
Scouting the North Dakota State Bison (12-8)
North Dakota State has won three of its last five games and enters Tuesday’s doubleheader with a 12-8 overall record. The Bison are in their first year as a full-fledged member of Division I, as they would have earned the Summit League’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid last season had they been eligible for the postseason. This year, three of NDSU’s losses have come at Arizona, while the Bison own a 5-4 win at Big 12 foe Kansas.
North Dakota State is batting .289 as a team while averaging nearly five runs per game. Elisa Victa leads the team with a .420 average while adding three doubles, 10 RBIs and a team-high 13 runs scored. Three other starters are batting above .300, including Melissa Chmielewski, who is hitting .358 while leading the team with seven doubles, three home runs and 16 RBIs.
In the circle, the Bison staff has posted a 4.65 ERA and tossed two shutouts, one fewer than the Huskers. Andi Padilla leads the way, as she is 9-4 with a 2.84 ERA in 76.1 innings. Padilla, a high school teammate of NU senior Crystal Carwile at Don Antonio Lugo in Chino, Calif., has thrown more than half of North Dakota State’s innings this season. Randi Parks is 2-3 with a 7.00 ERA in 35.0 innings of work, while Kim Westendorf is 1-1 on the year with a 7.33 ERA in 21.0 innings.
Husker History vs. North Dakota State
Nebraska is not only undefeated against North Dakota State (12-0), but the Huskers are a perfect 44-0 all-time against members of the Summit League. In each of the 12 all-time meetings between Nebraska and North Dakota State, the Huskers have at least doubled the Bison’s score each time. The teams have met eight times over the past four seasons with Nebraska outscoring NDSU 38-3 in those meetings, as the Bison have been shut out in six of the last eight meetings.
The Huskers swept a doubleheader from North Dakota State at Bowlin Stadium last year behind the right arm of Molly Hill. Hill tossed a three-hit shutout and struck out 10 in Nebraska’s 7-0 game-one victory, then turned around and threw a five-hit shutout as the Huskers posted a 1-0 win in the nightcap. Hill is the only current Husker pitcher who has faced North Dakota State and her career numbers are impressive. Hill is 4-0 all-time against the Bison and she has not allowed a single earned run in her 28.0 innings against them. Overall, Hill has thrown 16.1 straight scoreless innings against NDSU.
Offensively, Nebraska was balanced in its game one victory last season. Eight Huskers had at least one hit, while three posted multi-hit games. Darcy Rutherford and Kelli Linke each added two RBIs, while Crystal Carwile homered. Carwile powered the offense in game two with a solo home run in the first inning that proved to be the lone run of the game. The Huskers had only two hits in the game, as Meghan Mullin added a single.
Carwile has been a tough out for the Bison, as she a career .313 hitter against North Dakota State. Two of her five hits have been home runs, as she owns a .750 slugging percentage against NDSU and a .450 on-base percentage.
Scouting the South Dakota Coyotes (14-4)
In its first year of transition to the Division I level, South Dakota is 14-4 this season against a mix of Division I and Division II competition. The Coyotes will take a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday’s doubleheader, while they have won 11 of their last 12 overall.
South Dakota boasts solid numbers offensively and defensively. The Coyotes are hitting .316 as a team while averaging 4.5 runs per game. In the circle, USD owns a 2.39 ERA and is averaging nearly seven strikeouts per game while limiting opponents to a .239 average.
Tagney Jones leads the offense with a .483 average, five doubles, 16 RBIs and 11 runs scored. Rachel Fricke ranks second on the team with a .364 average, but her three home runs pace the Coyotes. Callie Roan (.326), Lexie Eversley (.320) and Mel Johnson (.317) are all hitting above .300 on the season.
In the circle, Cortney Heim is 9-1 on the season with a 2.00 ERA. She has thrown more than half of South Dakota’s innings, tossing one shutout and striking out 47 in 66.2 innings. Brittany Donohue has thrown 45.0 innings, posting a 4-3 record with a 2.96 ERA. Johnson (1-0, 2.47 ERA in 11.1 innings) rounds out the Coyote staff.
Husker History vs. South Dakota
Nebraska and South Dakota will be meeting for only the second time ever on Wednesday and for the first time since 1979. By the time first pitch is thrown in game one of the doubleheader, the Huskers will have played 1,687 games since they last faced the Coyotes. The Huskers won the only previous meeting, 5-4 on April 6, 1979.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers open play at Bowlin Stadium with a pair of mid-week doubleheaders:
Nebraska is 385-229 (.627) all-time in the month of March, including an 8-1 mark this season.
NU has been hurt by two-out runs in its losses. In three of NU’s five losses, every run has scored with two outs.
The Huskers have hit 17 home runs this season after homering only 15 times all of last season.
Six Huskers have hit more than one home run this season, the highest total at NU since 2003.
Nebraska is averaging an extra-base hit every 12.7 at bats and an RBI every 5.4 at bats this season. Last year, the Huskers averaged an extra-base hit every 19.1 at bats and an RBI every 8.6 at bats.
The Huskers rank second in the Big 12 with a .976 fielding percentage. NU has only committed 13 errors in 20 games after committing 26 errors through 20 games last season.
The Huskers have held 14 of their first 20 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 421 career games at Nebraska, while the infield has combined to start 624 contests. In the circle, NU’s five-pitcher staff has combined to start 211 Division I games and pitch 1,385.1 innings, including 126 starts and 820.2 innings at Nebraska. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,336 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.
The Huskers and the Home Opener
Nebraska officially opens the eighth season of play at Bowlin Stadium with a doubleheader against North Dakota State on Tuesday. The Huskers have only lost their home opener once since Bowlin Stadium opened in 2002 and have won three straight home openers overall.
Nebraska has posted a winning record every season at Bowlin Stadium and overall the Huskers have owned a winning home record in each of the past 31 seasons. With four home games this weekend, Nebraska has a chance to pick up its 100th victory at Bowlin Stadium. The Huskers currently own a 97-40 all-time record at Bowlin Stadium.
Brechtel Posts Big Weekend to Earn Big Player-of-the-Week Honors
Sophomore Julie Brechtel hit .583 at the prestigious Judi Garman Classic last weekend in her hometown of Fullerton, Calif. In addition to the high average, Brechtel finished with seven RBIs and five runs scored in five games at the tournament. Her seven RBIs were one more than she had recorded through the first 15 games of the season, while Brechtel also hit the first grand slam of her career and the first by a Husker in nearly two seasons. For her efforts, Brechtel was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.
Playing in the 17-team tournament that featured nine ranked teams, four top-10 squads and three of the top six teams in the Big 12 Conference standings, Brechtel’s totals ranked among the tournament’s best. Brechtel led all hitters in the tournament in batting average and on-base percentage, while ranking second in RBIs despite somewhat limited opportunities batting in the No. 9 spot in the order in four games and seventh once.
In addition to the cumulative totals, Brechtel set single-game career highs for runs, RBIs, home runs and stolen bases during the tournament. Brechtel finished the tournament with seven hits in her final eight at bats, while reaching base safely in nine of her final 10 plate appearances. Behind her play, Nebraska posted a 4-1 record at the event, which tied for the tournament’s best record.
Brechtel was especially good in Nebraska’s two games against ranked teams, as she combined to go 3-for-4 with two runs scored, two RBIs a hit-by-pitch and a stolen base against 16th-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 6 Arizona State. Brechtel produced the game-winning RBI in the Huskers’ upset of the Ragin’ Cajuns and set a new career high in runs scored in a loss to the defending national champion Sun Devils.
Facing a hot Penn State team that was fresh off a win over No. 12 Arizona, Brechtel closed the tournament in style. She hit a grand slam in her first at bat and finished 2-for-2 with a walk, a career-high four RBIs and her second career game with two runs scored. Brechtel also added her second stolen base of the weekend against the Nittany Lions, after not having attempted a stolen base all season before the tournament.
Hill Dominates at Judi Garman Classic
Senior right-hander Molly Hill earned the decision in each of Nebraska’s five games at the Judi Garman Classic last weekend. She posted a 4-1 record at the event to lead the Huskers to a tie for the best finish among the tournament’s 17 teams, a noticeable accomplishment in a field that consisted of nine ranked teams.
Hill led all pitchers in the elite tournament with four wins and her 0.94 ERA ranked third in the tournament behind a pair of All-Americans (minimum 15.0 innings pitched). Hill entered the weekend with only one shutout on the season, but she recorded two shutouts at the Judi Garman Classic and nearly picked up a third.
Hill’s first start came against 16th-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette, when she pitched Nebraska to a 2-0 upset victory. In addition to the shutout, Hill struck out a season-high nine batters, which also marked a season high in strikeouts for ULL. In her next complete game, Hill tossed another shutout while striking out seven and walking none against New Mexico. Her final start was spoiled by a solo homer that served as the only run she allowed in the Huskers’ 10-1 five-inning victory over a Penn State squad fresh off a 9-6 upset victory of No. 12 Arizona.
On the weekend, Hill established season highs in starts for innings pitched, strikeouts, fewest walks allowed, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed and fewest hits allowed. She struck out 21 in 22.1 innings while allowing only three earned runs. She stretched her season-high scoreless innings streak to 15.2 through the first two games of the tournament and closed the event allowing only one earned run over her final 12.1 innings. Although Hill’s statistics were excellent on the weekend, they were inflated by a one-inning outing against sixth-ranked Arizona State, when Hill allowed two earned runs while pitching her third game in less than 24 hours.
Huskers Scoring Runs at Near-Record Pace
Nebraska has scored 118 runs through the first 20 games of the season, as the Huskers are averaging nearly six runs per game. After posting the highest 15-game run total in school history, Nebraska currently has the second-highest run total after 20 games in the 34-year history of the program.
Only five other teams in school history have totaled at least 105 runs after the first 20 games of a season. To put this year’s run-scoring success in perspective, NU did not score its 118th run until the 31st game of the season last year and in 2007, the Huskers totaled 118 runs in the 41st game of the year.
Although its still very early in the season, Nebraska’s average of 5.9 runs per game is currently on pace to rank as the highest in school history. The record is 5.6 runs per game by the 1978 Huskers. Nebraska has averaged at least five runs per game in only three seasons: 1978 (5.6), 1995 (5.3) and 1996 (5.5).
The Huskers have scored at least nine runs nine times through the first 20 games this season. That more than 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 Passes 2008 Home Run Total
Nebraska hit two home runs in its last game to increase its season total to 17. The Huskers have already hit more homers through 20 games this season than they did all of last season when NU hit 15 homers in 53 games. Nebraska also surpassed the home run total of 14 from the 2007 season, giving the Huskers their most home runs over the past three seasons.
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 two home runs, including three who hit their first career home run. Overall, seniors Amanda Duran (2 home runs), Haley Long (2) and Brittany Pascale (3), along with sophomores Julie Brechtel (2) and Heidi Foland (5) have all hit more home runs this season than any other season in their career.