After winning three of its four Big 12 Conference games last week, the Nebraska softball team looks to continue its climb up the conference standings this week when the Huskers take on the Iowa State Cyclones in a home-and-home mid-week series.

Nebraska travels to Iowa State on Tuesday for a 3:30 p.m. contest before the Cyclones head to Lincoln on Thursday for a 5 p.m. first pitch at Bowlin Stadium. Huskers.com will carry free live radio broadcasts of both games, with Nate Rohr calling all of the action for the Husker Sports Network. Thursday’s home matchup with the Cyclones will also feature free live streaming video.

The Huskers went 3-1 in Big 12 play last week to even their conference record at 5-5. Nebraska nearly posted its third perfect week of the season, as the Huskers’ lone loss came when Kansas scored twice in its final at bat to rally from a 1-0 seventh-inning deficit. NU opened the week with a 4-0 road win over the Jayhawks in game one of a doubleheader and ended the week with an impressive two-game sweep of 20th-ranked Texas at Bowlin Stadium, which entered the series atop the Big 12 standings.

Nebraska had several players step up last weekend and contribute in the victories, including a pair of senior veterans in Molly Hill and Meghan Mullin and a somewhat more unlikely duo in freshman Jamie Gay and sophomore Kelli Linke.

Hill was brilliant in the circle last week, compiling a perfect 3-0 record with a 1.04 ERA. She earned the start in all four games, tossing 27.0 innings and throwing 442 pitches in less than four days. Hill allowed just 19 hits in her four starts as opponents hit a paltry .198 against her.

Hill opened the week with a brilliant two-hit shutout performance in game one at Kansas, as she allowed only one ball to leave the infield all game while tossing the second Big 12 shutout of her career. She added six more scoreless innings in game two, until being charged with one run after allowing a walk-off two-run single with one out in the bottom of the seventh.

In the weekend series against 20th-ranked Texas, Hill held down a UT squad that entered the series averaging a Big 12-best 6.6 runs per game in conference play. Hill limited the Longhorns to just one run in the first game of the series before holding Texas to two runs in the finale.

While Hill was in control in the circle, Mullin set the table for the Husker offense to score 12 runs in the four games. Batting out of the leadoff spot, Mullin posted three multi-hit games, finishing with a .615 average (8-for-13). She also added three stolen bases and three runs scored. In the finale against Texas, Mullin went 4-for-4 and scored three times.

As Hill and Mullin continued to perform as they have for their entire careers, Gay and Linke made the most of their newfound starting opportunities, as the pair had combined to start only one of the Huskers’ first eight Big 12 games.

Gay made her Big 12 career debut by earning both starts against Texas. She responded in a big way, going 3-for-5 in the series with a double, a walk and two runs scored. Gay, who entered the series with two career hits, was also perfect defensively in nine chances.

Linke appeared in all four games last week, starting the final three. She hit safely in all four games - a career best - finishing 5-for-11. She also doubled twice and drove in seven runs in the four games, including a career-high five RBIs in NU’s 5-2 win over Texas last Saturday.

Scouting the Iowa State Cyclones (19-23, 1-7 Big 12)
Iowa State is 19-23 on the season and 1-7 in Big 12 Conference play heading into this week’s two-game series with Nebraska. The Cyclones have lost six in a row entering Tuesday’s matchup, including five straight in conference play. ISU’s lone win in Big 12 play came with a 7-2 win over Texas Tech, but the Cyclones have lost twice on walk-off homers in league play.

Iowa State is averaging 4.4 runs per game despite homering the fewest times of any team in the Big 12. Only two Cyclones are hitting .300 or better, as Iowa State’s .259 team average ranks ninth in the Big 12. Carleigh Berry leads the team with a .319 average, 28 runs scored and 15 stolen bases, while Courtney Wray is batting .300 with a team-high eight doubles. Alex Johnson has been the top power threat, as she has slugged four home runs and driven in 29 runs. In Big 12 play, Berry leads the team with a .417 average, while Johnson has homered twice and produced five RBIs.

In the circle, Iowa State is allowing just over four runs per game, but one-third of the runs the Cyclones have allowed have been unearned. ISU ranks last in the Big 12 with a .949 fielding percentage, but the Cyclones are first in Big 12 games only with a mark of .986. Rachel Zabriskie is Iowa State’s top pitcher, as she has thrown 208.2 of a possible 284.2 innings for the Cyclones this season. Zabriskie is 12-18 with a 2.52 ERA this year, striking out 167 while walking only 29. In Big 12 play, Zabriskie has thrown all but 5.1 innings, posting a 1-6 record and a 5.43 ERA. Charissa Carlin is the only other Cyclone who has seen extensive action in the circle this season, as she is 7-5 with a 3.77 ERA in 68.2 innings, including an 0-1 record and an 11.45 ERA in 3.2 innings in Big 12 play. Iowa State has three other pitchers who have all thrown 4.1 innings or fewer this season.

Husker History vs. Iowa State
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Iowa State, 63-16, as the Huskers’ 63 wins over Iowa State mark the most wins against any Big 12 opponent in school history. NU has won 28 of the last 30 meetings, but both of those losses have come in the past three years in Ames, as the Huskers fell 6-5 in 2006 and 13-4 last season in six innings. Overall, Nebraska leads the all-time series in Ames 15-5 and the Huskers own a 28-4 record in Lincoln, including a perfect 7-0 record at Bowlin Stadium, where the Cyclones have been shut out five times. Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 34-9 in her career against Iowa State, but she is just 4-2 against Iowa State Head Coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler, who is in her fourth season in charge of the Cyclone program.

Last season, the Huskers and Cyclones split their two-game series, with the home team winning each meeting. It was a nightmarish finish for Nebraska in Ames, as the Huskers led 4-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, only to see Iowa State send 11 batters to the plate and all 11 score without an out being recorded before the game ended due to the run rule, snapping NU’s conference-leading streak of 139 games without a run-rule defeat.

The Huskers then rallied to win in Lincoln. Crystal Carwile, who went 2-for-3 with a double, a homer and two RBIs in the first game, powered NU to a win in game two with a three-run homer. Her home run came as part of a six-run fourth inning for the Huskers, who trailed 2-0 entering the inning before holding on for a 6-4 win.

Quick Hitters
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers prepare for a home-and-home series with Iowa State this week:

  • The Huskers’ record stood at 25-8 after 33 games. 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 1,526 games at the Division I level.
  • NU is 455-221 (.673) 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 3-4 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.
  • Six current 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, seven have set career highs this season in RBIs, six in runs scored and five in home runs and doubles.
  • The Huskers have held 28 of their first 39 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 25-3 overall when allowing two runs or less.
  • Nebraska is 15-1 this season when playing error-free ball.
  • Molly Hill has enjoyed solid run support this season. In her 24 starts, Nebraska has averaged 4.4 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 2.8 runs of support.
  • Nebraska is 57-of-66 in stolen bases this season, a success rate of 86 percent. Overall, the Huskers have been successful on 43 of their last 46 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.

Stolen Base Success
Nebraska has been great at stealing bases this season and even better when defending against the stolen base. Opponents have only been successful on 16-of-27 stolen base attempts this year. The 16 stolen bases tie Oklahoma for the fewest stolen bases allowed by a Big 12 school, while the Huskers’ 41 percent caught stealing rate leads the league.

Offensively, NU ranks fourth in the league with 57 stolen bases in only 66 attempts, as the Huskers’ 86 percent success rate ranks third in the Big 12. Nebraska is a perfect 10-of-10 in stolen bases in conference action.

Lineup Switch Pays Dividends
Following a disappointing doubleheader split with Kansas last Wednesday, Head Coach Rhonda Revelle altered her batting order for the Huskers’ weekend series with 20th-ranked Texas. Against the Longhorns, sophomore Julie Brechtel moved up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup, while fellow sophomore Kelli Linke entered the lineup at the cleanup spot. Freshman Jamie Gay was also inserted into the lineup because of her offensive potential, as she entered the lineup at the No. 9 spot in the order.

The moves paid off as Nebraska swept the Longhorns. Linke drove in five of the Huskers’ seven runs in the two games, while Gay scored the tying run in Friday’s win and the winning run on Saturday. Linke and Gay combined to go 6-for-11 in the two-game series, adding two doubles, two walks, two runs scored and five RBIs. Although Brechtel did not record a hit in the series, she reached base with a walk or a hit batter in four of her seven plate appearances in the series, setting the stage for Linke’s productive RBI weekend.

Linke & Gay Post Big Weeks
Sophomore Kelli Linke and freshman Jamie Gay made the most of their playing time last week. Linke started three of the Huskers’ four games, while Gay earned two starts. Entering the week, Linke had made only five starts on the season while Gay had started only three games.

The two produced phenomenal numbers, combining for eight hits, three doubles and seven RBIs. Linke finished the week with five hits, two doubles and seven RBIs after entering the week with season totals of six hits, two doubles and six RBIs. Gay entered the week with only two career hits and no career walks, but she went 3-for-5 with her first career walk while adding her first career walk in her only two games of the week against 20th-ranked Texas on Friday and Saturday.

Huskers Surpass 2007 & 2008 Run Totals
Nebraska scored 12 runs in its four games last week to push its season run total to 192. That total surpasses the Huskers’ run total from the past two seasons as Nebraska scored 177 runs in 57 games in 2007 and NU plated 190 runs in 53 games a year ago. The Huskers are currently averaging 4.9 runs per game this season, a total that would rank fifth in the 34-year history of the program.

Taking One for the Team
Senior Crystal Carwile has 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 on April 5. The decision was the 100th of her career, as Hill now owns a career record of 68-35 following a perfect 3-0 record last week. 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 .660 career winning percentage ranks eighth in Husker history.

Oh So Close
After going 3-1 in league games last week, Nebraska is in fifth place in the Big 12 Conference standings with a 5-5 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.

Huskers Willing to Take the Walk
Seniors Meghan Mullin and Amanda Duran rank fourth and fifth in the Big 12 Conference with a total of 23 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. NU is close to matching that total this season, as sophomore Julie Brechtel has walked 19 times this season.

Turning Two
Nebraska has turned 15 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.

Huskers Nearing 30th Win
With a pair of wins this week, Nebraska will reach the 30-win plateau for the 22nd time in the 34-year history of Husker softball. NU had won at least 30 games for 10 straight seasons prior to finishing with only 25 wins last season. Overall, the Huskers have posted 30 wins in 12 of Head Coach Rhonda Revelle’s first 16 seasons.