After a disappointing doubleheader split at Kansas on Wednesday, the Nebraska softball team has another chance to move up the Big 12 Conference standings this weekend, when the Huskers host the league-leading Texas Longhorns on Friday and Saturday at Bowlin Stadium.
Friday’s game starts at 5 p.m., while Saturday’s contest will have an 11 a.m. first pitch. 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 with tickets to the Huskers’ Friday baseball doubleheader can attend Friday’s softball game for free. Saturday's game is also student appreciation day, as the first 100 UNL students will receive free popcorn and trail mix.
Fans unable to make it out to the ballpark can follow both games 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.
Nebraska’s record stands at 26-11 overall and 3-5 in Big 12 play entering the series with the 20th-ranked Longhorns. The Huskers are currently tied for sixth place in the league standings, but NU has missed several opportunities to pick up additional conference wins. The Huskers’ five Big 12 losses have come by a combined six runs, including four one-run defeats.
NU has been agonizingly close to winning some of those games, but the Huskers have been unable to get over the hump. Opponents have scored the winning run in their final at bat in three of Nebraska’s five Big 12 losses, while the Huskers have either led or been tied in the sixth inning in four of their five losses.
The Huskers’ pitching has kept them in games of late, while the offense has struggled since conference play began. Nebraska boasts a 1.75 ERA in Big 12 games, a total that ranks second in the league. The Huskers have also allowed the second-fewest runs of any Big 12 school in conference action, while opponents are hitting a league-low .200 against NU. Nebraska has also allowed a league-low one home run, as every other team in the conference has given up at least three home runs in conference play.
Offensively, Nebraska is hitting just .215 in conference action while averaging only 2.4 runs per game. Baserunners haven’t been the problem, as the Huskers boast the league’s fourth-best on-base percentage.
Timely hitting and extra-base hits have been a point of concern for Nebraska in conference play. The Huskers’ .254 slugging percentage ranks last in the league, as NU has only six extra-base hits in 205 at bats in Big 12 play. Nebraska is hitting just .190 with runners in scoring position (12-for-63), while in its five Big 12 losses, NU has gone just 3-for-38 (.079) with runners in scoring position.
The good new for the Huskers is they hit .316 with runners in scoring position during the non-conference season. With each of NU’s Big 12 losses coming by two runs or less, just one clutch hit a game can be enough to propel the Huskers to victory.
NU showed signs of improvement by going 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position in a 4-0 win over Kansas on Wednesday in game one of a doubleheader. That loss snapped a four-game losing streak for the Huskers and Nebraska was in a position to win game two as well, before the Jayhawks scored twice in their final at bat to rally for a 2-1 win.
Scouting the 20th-ranked Texas Longhorns (31-12, 7-2 Big 12)
Texas saw its six-game conference winning streak snapped on Wednesday, as the Longhorns lost at home to Baylor, 3-2. The loss dropped the Longhorns to 31-12 on the season, but UT remained in first place in the Big 12 with a 7-2 record. Overall, Texas has won 10 of its last 12 games. The Longhorns and Huskers share seven common opponents this season, including one common Big 12 opponent. UT is 6-2 against those teams, while NU is 5-5.
Texas is led by one of the most powerful offenses in the Big 12. The Longhorns lead the league with 44 home runs in only 43 games, while Texas ranks second in runs scored and second in average. Loryn Johnson paces UT with a .426 average that ranks second in the Big 12, as she is one of six starters hitting above .300. Johnson has added 11 doubles, six home runs and a team-best 39 RBIs. Desiree Williams leads the team with 10 home runs and a Big 12-best 39 walks, while a total of seven Longhorns have hit at least three home runs this season. In conference play, Texas has been just as good, hitting .309 with 12 homers in nine games. Brittany Barnhill has been the Longhorns’ top hitter in conference action, as she is batting a league-high .519 with 12 RBIs.
In the circle, Texas boasts a staff ERA of 3.07. Barnhill has been the Longhorn’s primary pitcher, as she has thrown more than half of UT’s total innings. The sophomore is 19-7 on the season with a 2.84 ERA in 145.2 innings. In Big 12 play, Barnhill has started eight of Texas’ nine games, going 6-2 with an ERA of 3.00. Torrey Schroeder has been the Longhorns’ No. 2 pitcher, compiling a 9-3 record and a 3.38 ERA in 78.2 innings. Erin Tresselt has also seen extensive action, posting a 3-2 record with a team-low 2.53 ERA in 47.0 innings. Desiree Williams (0-0, 5.25 ERA in 16.0 innings) and Courtney Craig (0-0, 3.00 ERA in 2.1 innings) round out the Longhorn staff.
Husker History vs. Texas
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Texas 16-14, but the Longhorns have won seven of the last nine meetings, including a sweep of the Huskers last season in Austin. Head Coach Rhonda Revelle has been in charge of the Husker program in each of the 30 all-time meetings, as has Texas Head Coach Connie Clark. Nebraska owns a 6-3 series advantage in Lincoln, including a two-game sweep of the 11th-ranked Longhorns in 2007. Overall, the series has generally been close, as 21 of the 30 all-time meetings have been decided by two runs or less.
Last year, Nebraska opened Big 12 Conference play at Texas and managed just one run while losing by scores of 5-1 and 4-0. In game one, the game was tied at 1-1 before Texas scored four times in the bottom of the third inning to win. The Huskers were held to just two hits in the game, as Brittany Barnhill earned the win in her Big 12 debut. Nebraska was shut out the next day by UT ace Meagan Denny. Denny tossed a four-hit shutout with seven strikeouts, as the Huskers managed just six hits in the two games, with three of those hits coming from Ashley Guile, who has yet to play this season due to an elbow injury.
In the last meetings in Lincoln, the Huskers upset No. 11 Texas with a pair of close victories. In game one, Nebraska scored twice in the bottom of the 11th inning to pull out a 5-4 victory. Then in game two, Molly Hill and Ashley DeBuhr combined on a five-hit shutout, as the Huskers won 2-0.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers prepare to host 20th-ranked Texas, which currently sits atop the Big 12 Conference standings:
Nebraska’s record after 37 games stands at 26-11. The Huskers have exceeded 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 returned every starter from the 2008 season and a total of 15 letterwinners. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,506 games at the Division I level.
NU is 453-221 (.670) all-time in the month of April, as the month has been Nebraska’s best in terms of victories and winning percentage. Last year, the Huskers were just 7-10 in April and NU is 1-4 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 and RBIs, five in home runs and four in doubles.
The Huskers have held 26 of their first 37 opponents to two runs or less.
Nebraska gave up only two runs in three of its five Big 12 losses, marking the only times the Huskers have lost this season when allowing less than three runs. NU is 23-3 overall when allowing two runs or less.
Nebraska is 13-1 this season when playing error-free ball.
Molly Hill has enjoyed solid run support this season. In her 16 starts, Nebraska has averaged 4.7 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. In Big 12 play however, Hill is receiving only 2.6 runs of support.
Nebraska is 55-of-64 in stolen bases this season, a success rate of 86 percent. Overall, the Huskers have been successful on 41 of their last 44 attempts.
NU has been hurt by two-out runs in its losses. In six of NU’s 11 losses, every run has scored with two outs.
The Huskers have scored 185 runs in 37 games this season. In 2007, NU totaled 177 runs in 57 games and last year, the Huskers put up 190 runs in 53 games.
Nebraska is just 2-4 on the road in Big 12 play this season, with each of the four losses coming by just a single run. In three of those losses, the opponent has scored the winning run in its final at bat, including a pair of walk-off hits.
Nebraska is just 2-7 against ranked teams this season, but each of those contests have been on the road or at a neutral site. The Huskers’ series with No. 20 Texas this weekend marks their first home games against a ranked opponent this season.
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 66-35 following a win at Kansas on Wednesday. Hill is only the fifth pitcher in the 34-year history of Nebraska softball to earn 100 career decisions, joining Jenny Voss (110-48 from 1997-2000), Leigh Ann Walker (81-25 from 1999-2002), Peaches James (98-38 from 2000-2004) and Ashley DeBuhr (70-44 from 2004-07). Hill’s .653 career winning percentage ranks eighth in Husker history.
Oh So Close
Nebraska is tied for sixth in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 3-5 record, but the Huskers are just a few plays away from being near the top of the league standings. Of Nebraska’s five conference losses, four have been by just a single run while the fifth was by only two runs.
In three of the Huskers’ five losses, every run the opponent has scored has come with two outs. In addition six of the opposing 12 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.
Illustrating just how close the Huskers have been to having a better Big 12 record have been late-inning rallies by the opponent. Nebraska has lost three conference games when the opponent scored the game-winning run in its final at bat, while the Huskers have either led or been tied in the sixth inning in each of their five Big 12 losses.
Seniors Posting High Walk Totals
Seniors Meghan Mullin and Amanda Duran rank third and fourth in the Big 12 Conference with a total of 22 and 21 walks, respectively. 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.
Nebraska has turned 14 double plays this season, an average of 0.38 double plays per game. The Huskers rank 37th 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.
Senior Haley Long picked up the 100th hit of her career in game one of a doubleheader with Oklahoma State on March 29. Long joined fellow seniors Crystal Carwile, Meghan Mullin and Darcy Rutherford as current members of the 100-hit club. The last time a Husker lineup featured four players with 100 career hits was in 2006, but that only lasted for four games, as Jamie Waldecker became the fourth member during the NCAA Tournament. The last time a Nebraska lineup featured five players with 100 career hits was in 2003. The 2009 Huskers could feature five players with 100 career hits by the end of the season, as senior Brittany Pascale owns 76 career hits.
Nebraska in the NCAA Statistical Rankings
The NCAA released its third set of official statistical rankings on April 7 and the Huskers were well represented in several categories. The Huskers rank among the top 100 nationally in nine of the NCAA’s 11 team categories after finishing among the top 100 in only three categories last season. NU ranks 23rd in fielding percentage, 27th in ERA, 33rd in winning percentage, 37th in double plays per game, 42nd in stolen bases per game, 43rd in batting average, 45th in scoring, 72nd in slugging percentage and 81st in home runs per game.
It has truly been a team effort for Nebraska this season as only two Huskers are included in the NCAA’s individual rankings. Senior Molly Hill ranks 26th nationally in saves, 27th in victories and 37th in ERA. The only other Husker among the nation’s individual leaders is fellow senior Amanda Duran, who ranks 13th nationally in sacrifice flies.
After coming in at the No. 25 spot in the first official NCAA RPI rankings released on April 1, Nebraska was ranked 31st in the most recent release on Wednesday. The Huskers are the fourth-highest ranked Big 12 team, as only two of NU’s 11 losses have come to teams ranked outside of the top 50.