The Nebraska softball team begins one of its most important stretches of the season on Wednesday, when the Huskers travel to the Sunflower State for a doubleheader with the Kansas Jayhawks.

Beginning with Wednesday’s doubleheader at Kansas, Nebraska will play eight straight games against Big 12 foes over a 12-day span, including their only four mid-week games in conference play this season. The Huskers return home to host league-leading Texas on Friday and Saturday at Bowlin Stadium before playing a home-and-home series with Iowa State on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. NU concludes the conference stretch with a two-game series at Baylor on April 18 and 19.

Fans can follow both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader live on Huskers.com. Nate Rohr will call all of the action for the Husker Sports Network and his broadcast will be available for free on Huskers.com. Due to limitations at Arrocha Ballpark, the broadcast will originate from a cell phone so we apologize in advance for any problems with connectivity or clarity.

The Huskers are currently tied with the Jayhawks for sixth place in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 2-4 record. Each of Nebraska’s four conference losses have come by two runs or less, including three one-run road losses to top-20 teams. In three of the losses, every run the Huskers have allowed has scored with two outs.

While the Huskers have been close to winning several more league games, they hope to find a way to win on Wednesday and snap a season-long four-game losing streak. NU has lost four straight despite not allowing more than three runs in any of those games. Offensively, Nebraska has scored only four runs in the four-game losing streak, after averaging nearly six runs per game prior to the recent slump.

Clutch hits have been the Huskers’ problem of late, as NU has only been out-hit 21-20 during the losing streak, despite being outscored 11-4. The Huskers have also drawn 14 walks and been hit by three pitches in their last four games, but Nebraska has gone just 6-for-50 (.120) with runners on base and only 1-for-25 (.040) with runners in scoring position during the losing streak. The Huskers have also had a runner on third with less than two outs six times, but have scored that runner only twice.

Despite the recent slump, there is still plenty of hope for what has been a much-improved Husker offense this season. Nebraska has already scored more runs this season (180) than it did the entire 2007 season (177 runs in 53 games) and NU has almost eclipsed last year’s total of 190 runs in 53 games. The Huskers currently rank in the top 30 nationally in runs per game.

In the circle, NU ranks in the top 30 nationally in ERA, while senior Molly Hill ranks 15th in wins, 20th in saves and 26th in ERA.

Scouting the Kansas Jayhawks (12-21, 2-4 Big 12)
Kansas enters Wednesday’s doubleheader with a 12-21 record, including a 2-4 mark in the Big 12 Conference. The Huskers and Jayhawks are currently tied for sixth place in the league standings. KU has split each of its last two Big 12 series, taking one of two at Texas Tech last weekend after splitting a doubleheader at home with 11th-ranked Missouri last Wednesday. Kansas and Nebraska share five common opponents in Northwestern, North Dakota State, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma State and Creighton. The Huskers are 4-3 against those teams, while the Jayhawks are 2-7.

Kansas has struggled offensively this season against a very challenging schedule. The Jayhawks’ .240 average ranks last in the Big 12, but KU’s .238 average in conference action ranks sixth. Three starters are hitting above .300, but four are hitting .225 or below. Liz Kocon leads the way with a .322 average that also includes team-high totals of seven doubles and 21 RBIs. She has also homered three times in KU’s first six Big 12 games. Dougie McCaulley is close behind with a .314 average and a team-high 18 runs scored and nine stolen bases, while Allie Clark leads the Jayhawks with five home runs.

In the circle, Val George has seen the majority of the action. In 18 starts, George has compiled a 7-11 record with a 2.86 ERA. She has struck out 126 in only 115.0 innings, as her 7.67 strikeouts-per-seven-innings ratio ranks third in the league. George is just 0-2 in conference play however, with a 3.82 ERA. Sarah Vertelka is 5-5 on the year with a 2.84 ERA in 66.2 innings of work. She has seen more action in Big 12 play, as she is 2-2 with one shutout and a 2.33 ERA in 15.0 innings. Sarah Blair (0-3, 3.75 ERA in 18.2 innings) and Clark (0-2, 4.33 ERA in 21.0 innings) round out the Jayhawk staff.

Husker History vs. Kansas
Kansas leads the all-time series with Nebraska by a 54-49 margin, although the Huskers won two of three meetings last season. The Huskers and Jayhawks have split the last 10 meetings, while Coach Revelle is 29-24 all-time against Kansas, including a 24-12 mark vs. KU Head Coach Tracy Bunge. The road teams have enjoyed tremendous success recently. The Huskers have won the last five meetings in Lawrence dating back to a 3-0 non-conference loss in 2004.

Last season, Nebraska split a home doubleheader with Kansas before beating the Jayhawks in the play-in round of the Big 12 Championship. In game one of the doubleheader, the Huskers led 2-1 going into the top of the sixth inning before Kansas scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead. The Huskers answered back with three runs in the bottom of the inning to win, as Brittany Pascale came through with a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single to cap the rally. In game two, NU committed four errors to lose in extra innings. Ashley Guile homered in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, but KU scored three times in the eighth while the Huskers left 12 on base in the loss.

In the postseason meeting, Nebraska again rallied late. NU trailed 3-1 heading into the fifth, but the Huskers scored twice in the fifth and once in the sixth to pull out a 4-3 victory. Molly Hill earned the decision in all three meetings last year and she is 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA in her career against the Jayhawks.

Quick Hitters
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers travel to 12th-ranked Oklahoma for a two-game series with the Sooners this weekend:

  • Nebraska’s record after 35 games stands at 25-10. The Huskers have matched last year’s win total (25-28).
  • The Huskers’ record stood at 25-8 prior to being swept at 12th-ranked Oklahoma last weekend. The only other teams in the 34-year history of Nebraska softball to win at least 25 of the first 33 games were the 1985 Huskers (25-8), the 1998 Huskers (25-8), the 2002 Huskers (28-5) and the 2006 Huskers (27-6). All of those teams except the 2006 squad went on to make the Women’s College World Series.
  • Nebraska returns every starter from the 2008 season and a total of 15 letterwinners. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,486 games at the Division I level.
  • NU is 452-220 (.670) all-time in the month of April, as the month has been Nebraska’s best all-time month in terms of victories and winning percentage. Last year, the Huskers were just 7-10 in April and NU is 0-3 in 2009.
  • The Huskers have hit 22 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.
  • Five starters in the Husker lineup are hitting above .300.
  • Six 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.
  • Of the Huskers’ 11 returning hitters, six have set career highs this season in runs scored, five in RBIs and home runs and four in doubles.
  • Senior Meghan Mullin scored her 30th run of the season in Nebraska’s 31st game, becoming the fastest player to score 30 runs in a season since at least 2000.
  • The Huskers have held 24 of their first 35 opponents to two runs or less.
  • Nebraska gave up only two runs in each of its first two Big 12 losses, marking the only times the Huskers have lost this season when allowing less than three runs. NU is 22-2 overall when allowing two runs or less.
  • Nebraska is 13-1 this season when playing error-free ball.
  • Molly Hill has enjoyed terrific run support this season. In her 16 starts, Nebraska has averaged 5.0 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 52-of-61 in stolen bases this season, a success rate of 85 percent. Overall, the Huskers have been successful on 38 of their last 41 attempts.
  • NU has been hurt by two-out runs in its losses. In six of NU’s 10 losses, every run has scored with two outs.
  • The second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader with Kansas will mark Coach Revelle’s 999th career game as a head coach. It could also mark the 200th game played of Crystal Carwile’s career, if she appears in both games.

Taking One for the Team
Senior Crystal Carwile was hit by three pitches in three games last week. A native of Chino, Calif., Carwile has now been hit by a team-high five pitches this season and 20 times in her career. Carwile is just the second player in school history to get hit by 20 pitches in a career. Former Husker Devin Porter owns the school record, as she was plunked 22 times from 2004 to 2007.

Hill Earns 100th Career Decision
Senior right-hander Molly Hill took the loss in the Huskers’ narrow 3-2 setback at 12th-ranked Oklahoma last Sunday. The decision was the 100th of her career, as Hill now owns a career record of 65-35. Hill is only the fifth pitcher in the 34-year history of Nebraska softball to earn 100 career decisions, joining Jenny Voss (1997-2000), Leigh Ann Walker (1999-2002), Peaches James (2000-2004) and Ashley DeBuhr (2004-07). Hill’s .650 career winning percentage ranks eighth in Husker history.

Oh So Close
Nebraska is tied for sixth in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 2-4 record, but the Huskers are just a few plays away from being near the top of the league standings. Of Nebraska’s four conference losses, three have been by just a single run while the fourth was by only two runs.

In three of the Huskers’ four losses, every run the opponent has scored has come with two outs. In addition five of the 10 runners who have scored in the losses reached base by either a walk or a hit batter, while two runs came home on bases-loaded walks.

Seniors Posting High Walk Totals
Seniors Amanda Duran and Meghan Mullin have each walked 21 times this season, a total which not only ties for the team lead but also ties as the third-most in the Big 12 Conference. The two Huskers with at least 20 walks this season matches the combined total from the previous three seasons, as only one player coaxed 20 walks in both 2007 and 2008 and no Husker drew 20 walks in 2006. The last time Nebraska has had more than two players walk 20 times in a season was in 2004, when three Huskers drew 20-or-more walks.

Turning Two
Nebraska has turned 14 double plays this season, an average of 0.40 double plays per game. The Huskers rank 50th nationally in double plays per game, while their current average of double plays per game ranks as the second-highest total at Nebraska this decade. NU has also turned two double plays in a single game on three occasions this season.