Huskers Host Cowgirls in Big 12 Home Opener
The Nebraska softball team looks to continue its winning ways this weekend, when the Huskers host their first Big 12 Conference home games of the season against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Saturday and Sunday at Bowlin Stadium.
First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for both games are available at the ticket office behind home plate on the day of the game, online at Huskers.com or over the phone by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED.
Fans unable to make it out to the ballpark will have a variety of ways to follow both games. Veteran play-by-play voice Nate Rohr will call all of the action for the Husker Sports Network. The radio broadcast can be heard in Lincoln on 105.3 WOW FM or on the internet at Huskers.com. A live video stream of both contests will also be available to HuskersNSide subscribers.
The weekend series pits two of the top teams in the conference in an early season showdown. Oklahoma State is 2-0 in Big 12 play and tied for second in the early season standings, while the Huskers are 1-1 in conference action and tied for fifth. Overall, the 24-6 Huskers and the 25-7 Cowgirls rank second and third in the league in winning percentage.
Nebraska’s .800 winning percentage not only ranks second in the league, but 13th nationally. The Huskers have won 18 of their last 20 games, while the 24-6 start marks NU’s second-best 30-game record in school history, trailing only the 2002 World Series team’s start of 25-5.
NU is 17-2 this month heading into its final two games of March this weekend. With a pair of victories, the Huskers would finish with a .905 winning percentage in the month of March. That would mark NU’s second-best March ever, trailing only the 2002 Women’s College World Series team, which posted a .950 winning percentage (19-1). The Huskers can finish with 19 wins in March with two wins this weekend, which would tie for the second-most wins in any month in the 34-year history of Nebraska softball (NU won 21 games in March of 2001).
The Huskers enter the weekend on a five-game win streak that marks their fourth winning streak of at least five games this season. Nebraska swept a doubleheader from South Dakota State on Tuesday and took two from Drake on Wednesday. The Huskers outscored the Jackrabbits 16-0 in a pair of run-rule victories, before rallying late for 5-2 and 7-4 wins over the Bulldogs.
Nebraska hit .371 in the four mid-week games, slugging four home runs while scoring an average of 7.0 runs per game. Senior Crystal Carwile led the way by hitting .533 (8-for-15) with a pair of doubles, one home run and nine RBIs. Carwile has produced both a multi-hit and multi-RBI game in each of the Huskers’ first four games this week.
In the circle, Nebraska posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time this season against SDSU. Junior right-hander Alex Hupp saw her most extensive action of the season and responded with a pair of dominant outings.
Hupp tossed a one-hit shutout against South Dakota State to earn her first win of the year, then threw 3.0 hitless innings of relief to earn the victory in game two against Drake. Hupp allowed only one hit in 8.0 scoreless innings. She also went 2-for-7 at the plate with a double, a homer and four RBIs.
Scouting the Oklahoma State Cowgirls (25-7 Overall, 2-0 Big 12)
Oklahoma State saw its seven-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday with a 5-3 loss at Tulsa, but the Cowgirls still own an impressive 25-7 overall record heading into this weekend. OSU swept Kansas at home last weekend to open Big 12 play, as the Cowgirls are one of only three teams with an undefeated league record. Nebraska and Oklahoma State share four common opponents this season in Drake, New Mexico, Northern Iowa and Wichita State. The Huskers posted a 6-0 record against those teams, winning by an average of more than four runs per game, while the Cowgirls posted a 4-0 record and were victorious by an average of seven runs per game.
Oklahoma State is solid offensively and defensively. The Cowgirls rank sixth in the Big 12 in batting average, second in ERA and fourth in fielding percentage. Four regular starters are hitting above .300, led by Mariah Gearhart. Gearhart leads the team with a .352 average, 31 runs scored, three triples and 22 stolen bases. Alysia Hamilton is right behind with a .351 average, while leading the Cowgirls with 37 RBIs. Julie Ward is the top power threat, as she paces OSU with seven home runs and a .598 slugging percentage. Ward has also peen perfect defensively in 125 chances at first base.
In the circle, Anna Whiddon and Sarah Odom have been the Cowgirls’ primary pitchers. Whiddon has thrown a team-high 104.0 innings, posting a 12-4 record and a team-low 1.21 ERA that ranks fourth in the conference. She has tossed eight shutouts in her 10 complete games, while striking out 102 and limiting opposing hitters to a paltry .174 average. Whiddon tossed 9.1 scoreless innings against Kansas last week, allowing only three hits. Odom is 11-2 on the season and has compiled a 2.03 ERA in 79.1 innings. She allowed two runs in 4.2 inning against the Jayhawks last weekend. Alex Villalobos (2-1, 1.62 ERA in 26.1 innings) rounds out the Cowgirl staff.
Husker History vs. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State won both meetings last year to take a 43-41 lead in the all-time series. The Huskers have won eight of the last 11 meetings despite being swept last season. Coach Revelle is 21-26 in her Nebraska career against the Cowgirls, as OSU is one of only two Big 12 schools that Revelle does not own a winning record against. In Lincoln, the Huskers lead the all-time series 16-12, but Nebraska is just 3-3 against OSU at Bowlin Stadium.
Last year, Nebraska lost 3-1 and 8-2 in Stillwater, marking Oklahoma State’s first sweep in the series since 2003. In the first game, the Huskers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning, only to see the Cowgirls rally for three runs in the bottom of the frame. Darcy Rutherford paced the offense with a 2-for-3 day that included an RBI, while Alex Hupp took the loss for NU, allowing three runs in 2.1 innings. Molly Hill came on in relief and tossed 3.2 scoreless innings while picking up five strikeouts.
Hill did not fare as well when starting game two, as she allowed six runs over 4.2 innings in a losing effort. Crystal Carwile powered the Husker offense with a 2-for-3 day that included a home run and two runs scored. Carwile has hit safely in each of her last four games against Oklahoma State. Carwile has been a tough out for the Cowgirls, as she is a career .391 hitter with four home runs and seven RBIs in seven games against OSU.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers host Oklahoma State at Bowlin Stadium this weekend in the first Big 12 home games of the season:
Nebraska’s record after 30 games stands at 24-6. The Huskers are only one win away from matching last year’s win total, as NU did not pick up its 24th win of the season until the 51st game last season.
The only other teams in the 34-year history of Nebraska softball to win at least 24 of the first 30 games were the 2002 Huskers (25-5 games) and the 2006 Huskers (24-6).
Nebraska returns every starter from the 2008 season and a total of 15 letterwinners. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,436 games at the Division I level.
NU is 394-230 (.631) all-time in the month of March, including a 17-2 mark this season. The Huskers’ best March record came in 2002 when NU went 19-1.
The Huskers have hit 21 home runs this season after homering only 15 times in 2008 and 14 times in 2007.
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 12.9 at bats and an RBI every 5.5 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.
Six starters in the Husker lineup are hitting above .300.
Five Huskers have already posted double-digit walk totals this year. Last year, a total of three Huskers drew 10-or-more walks in 53 games.
The Huskers have held 23 of their first 30 opponents to two runs or less
Nebraska’s 2-1 loss at 19th-ranked Texas A&M last Saturday marked the Huskers’ first loss of the season when holding its opponent to fewer than three runs. NU is 21-1 this year when allowing less than three runs.
Molly Hill has enjoyed terrific run support this season. In her 15 starts, Nebraska has averaged 5.6 runs per game. In 2008, Hill received 3.7 runs of support and Nebraska scored only 2.5 runs per game for Hill in 2007.
Nebraska is 48-of-56 in stolen bases this season, a success rate of 86 percent. Overall, the Huskers have been successful on 34 of their last 36 attempts.
NU has been hurt by two-out runs in its losses. In four of NU’s six losses, every run has scored with two outs.
So far this season, 23 of the 63 runs Nebraska has allowed (37 percent) have scored on home runs.
Huskers Feature Balanced Lineup
Nebraska has used a balanced lineup to average nearly six runs per game this season. Six starters are hitting above .300, but the real balance comes in the power department. The Huskers have relied heavily on senior Crystal Carwile for power production over the past three years. While Carwile has continued to deliver, she has enjoyed much more support this season.
Carwile, who led NU in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage in each of her first three seasons, only leads the team in RBIs this year, as her nine RBIs this week have given her the team lead for the first time all year. Six Huskers have hit more than one home run this season, the highest total for the Huskers since 2003. Last year, no player other than Carwile homered more than once and only four players homered all season.
In the RBI department, Carwile leads the team with 27 RBIs, but three other Huskers have each driven in 19. With one more RBI for each of those players, Nebraska will have four players with at least 20 RBIs this season, tying for its highest total since 2003.
Overall, Carwile has accounted for only 19 percent of Nebraska’s home run total this season after accounting for 80 percent of the Huskers’ home run total last year. Carwile’s .545 slugging percentage this year is also only .107 higher than the team mark, after her 2008 slugging percentage was .216 higher than the team average.
Eight Huskers have also scored at least 10 runs this season, marking Nebraska’s highest total since 2006.
Nebraska hit three home runs in the fifth inning in game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader with Drake to overcome a 2-0 deficit and rally for a 5-2 win. Seniors accounted for each of the three homers, as Crystal Carwile led off the inning with a solo shot, before Amanda Duran made it back-to-back home runs three pitches later. Following a walk, Brittany Pascale launched a two-run homer to cap the span of three home runs in four batters.
The power surge marked the first time in 406 games that Nebraska had hit three home runs in an inning. Prior to Wednesday’s game, the last time the Huskers had homered three times in an inning was during a 9-1 win over Miami (Ohio) on March 17, 2002. That power surge came in the first six batters of the game, as Kim Ogee led off with a homer, Amber Burgess drilled a two-run shot three batters later and Peaches James completed the trifecta with another solo home run out of the No. 6 spot in the lineup.
The back-to-back home runs by Carwile and Duran on Wednesday also marked the first time Nebraska had hit consecutive home runs since 2007. Overall, the Huskers hit three home runs against Drake, marking their second three-homer game of the year. Prior to this year, Nebraska had not hit more than two home runs in a game since 2006.
Nebraska has now produced a total of five multi-home run games this season, eclipsing the combined total from the past two seasons. The Huskers had only one multi-homer game in both 2007 and 2008. In 2006, the Huskers posted 11 multi-homer games.
Four of Nebraska’s last nine victories have been made possible thanks to late-inning rallies. Entering last week, the Huskers had been 0-3 when trailing after four innings, 0-3 when trailing after five and 0-5 when trailing after seven. But Nebraska has now won four straight games when trailing after four innings, two straight when trailing after five and the Huskers pulled off their first seventh-inning comeback in nearly two seasons the last time they trailed entering the final frame.
The Huskers never led until scoring a pair of extra-inning walk off victories in a doubleheader sweep of North Dakota State on March 17. Nebraska then rallied from a one-run seventh-inning deficit at 19th-ranked Texas A&M last Sunday. NU trailed 1-0 with two outs and nobody on in the seventh, before a walk and back-to-back singles forced extra innings, where the Huskers won in nine, 3-2. This week, Nebraska trailed Drake 2-0 in the fifth inning in game one on Wednesday, before three home runs powered the Huskers to a 5-2 win. In game two, the Bulldogs led 4-3 heading into the sixth, when Nebraska scored four times in its final at bat to earn a 7-4 win.
Home Sweet Home
Nebraska is 8-0 at Bowlin Stadium this season heading into its first home conference games this weekend. The Huskers’ 8-0 home start is the second-best in Bowlin Stadium history, as the 2006 squad opened with 13 straight home wins en route to finishing with a final 20-1 home record. The current eight-game winning streak is the fourth-longest in Bowlin Stadium history. Overall, the longest home winning streak in school history is 29 games from 1999 to 2001. Nebraska was just 13-9 at Bowlin Stadium last season.
Huskers and the Big 12 Home Opener
Since the inception of the conference in 1996, Nebraska is 8-5 in its first Big 12 home game of the season, but the Huskers are just 3-4 since Bowlin Stadium opened in 2002. NU is 3-1 against non-ranked opponents, as the Huskers have played their first league home game of the year against a ranked team nine times in 13 seasons.
Hupp Enjoying Big Week
Junior Alex Hupp has put forth an outstanding effort offensively and in the circle through the Huskers’ first four games this week. Hupp entered the week having only thrown only 4.0 innings this season, earning a save but no decisions. She started her first game of the season against South Dakota State on Tuesday and tossed a one-hit shutout. She then threw 3.0 scoreless innings of relief against Drake the next day to earn the win. On the week, Hupp is 2-0 in the circle with a 0.00 ERA, as she has allowed only one hit in 8.0 innings of work.
Offensively, Hupp has earned seven at bats this week after entering the week with only 16 at bats on the season. Hupp was in the batting order as the starting pitcher against South Dakota State, and she responded with a big day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and a career-high four RBIs. She tied her career highs in hits and runs scored in the win. Hupp has also added a walk and a stolen base to post an .857 slugging percentage and a .375 on-base percentage in her three games this week.