The Nebraska softball team hosts its final home games of the season this weekend when the Huskers welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders to Bowlin Stadium for a two-game series. Due to inclement weather, the schedule was changed on Friday night and the teams will meet twice on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There will be no game on Sunday.
Tickets are available for the doubleheader and can be purchased online at Huskers.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-8-BIG-RED or at the main ticket booth behind home plate on the day of the game. Fans with tickets to Saturday's originally scheduled 2 p.m. contest can use their ticket for both games of the newly scheduled doubleheader. Fans with tickets to Sunday's game can use their ticket for general admission seating for both games on Saturday. General admission does include one section of plastic chairback seating.
Fans unable to make it out to Bowlin Stadium for the final homestand can follow all of the action in a variety of ways. Saturday’s 2 p.m. second game can be seen live in the state of Nebraska on NET-1 and NET-HD. Larry Punteney will call all of the action for NET, while former Husker captain and CoSIDA Academic All-American KoKo Tacha will provide color commentary.
A free live radio broadcast will also be available for both games this weekend on Huskers.com, courtesy of the Husker Sports Network. The radio call will feature the play-by-play voice of Nate Rohr. Huskers.com will also have free live video streams of both games.
With only five games remaining in the regular season, the Huskers are looking to string together some victories to further bolster their NCAA Tournament resume. Nebraska is currently positioning itself for an at-large berth into the postseason, as the Huskers are in the upper half of the Big 12 Conference standings and sit at No. 32 in the most recent NCAA RPI ranking released on Thursday.
Despite a disappointing doubleheader split with Northern Iowa on Wednesday, NU has a chance to post some key wins over the next two weeks that would help secure the program’s 19th all-time NCAA Tournament bid. With a sweep of Texas Tech this weekend, the Huskers would be guaranteed to finish with at least a .500 record in the Big 12 Conference.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to a field of 64 teams in 2003, only once has a Big 12 team finished with a .500 conference record and not been selected for the tournament. No Big 12 team with a winning conference record has ever been left out of the NCAA Tournament since the field expanded to 64 teams, while four teams have been selected for postseason play with a losing league record.
Two wins this weekend would put Nebraska at 9-7 in the conference standings with only two games remaining at Missouri, which is at No. 11 in the RPI. A sweep will not be easy however, as the Huskers have had trouble sweeping Big 12 series. NU has split five of its first seven Big 12 series this year, posting only one sweep, at home against Texas. Over the past two seasons the Huskers have posted only one sweep in 16 total Big 12 series.
Scouting the Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-38, 2-12 Big 12)
Texas Tech enters this weekend with a 14-38 record after being swept in a doubleheader at UTEP on Thursday night. The Red Raiders are in 10th place in the Big 12 Conference with a league record of 2-12. Texas Tech has lost six straight conference games, including the last five by a combined score of 30-3. The Red Raiders have enjoyed recent road success in Big 12 play, as Tech has won three of its last six conference road games dating back to last season.
Tech averages the fewest runs per game of any team in the conference, as the Red Raiders rank last in the league in doubles and home runs. In conference-only games, Tech is last in the league with a .194 average while the Red Raiders have only scored 20 runs in 14 games. Walks have been a problem for TTU this year as Tech has walked 43 more batters than any other team in the league while drawing the second-fewest walks of any Big 12 team. In league games, Tech has walked only nine times while issuing 61 free passes.
Four starters are hitting above .300 for Tech, led by Elizabeth Eimen’s .358 average. Alex Watkins is Texas Tech’s top power hitter, as she leads the squad with six homers, 11 doubles and 28 RBIs.
In the circle, Watkins and Ashly Jacobs have been Tech’s primary pitchers. Jacobs is 9-18 on the season with a 4.35 ERA in 156.0 innings. Watkins has thrown 142.0 innings, posting a 3-15 record and a 5.08 ERA. Tech’s overall staff ERA of 4.91 is 1.82 higher than any other Big 12 team, while its league mark of 6.48 is 1.84 higher.
Husker History vs. Texas Tech
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Texas Tech 27-5, although the Red Raiders won two of the three meetings last year, including their first-ever regular-season sweep of the Huskers. NU’s .844 winning percentage against Texas Tech marks the Huskers’ best winning percentage against any Big 12 team. Nebraska had won 14 consecutive games in the series prior to the Red Raiders winning both regular-season meetings a year ago. NU is 11-1 at home against Texas Tech, including a perfect 6-0 mark at Bowlin Stadium, where the Huskers have outscored the Red Raiders 31-4. TTU’s lone win in Lincoln came on March 31, 2001 (6-5). Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 25-5 in her career against Texas Tech, although Saturday will mark her first matchup with first-year Texas Tech Head Coach Amy Suiter.
In the first meeting between the teams last season, Texas Tech posted its most lopsided victory in series history with a 7-0 win. The seven runs were the Red Raiders’ second-highest total in the series as Tech out-hit NU 10-3. Ashly Jacobs earned the win with a shutout performance while Molly Hill took the complete-game loss. Game two was much closer, as a Husker error gave the Red Raiders a 2-1 walk-off victory in the bottom of the 10th inning. That contest was a pitcher’s duel, as Jacobs earned the win in relief for the Red Raiders, while Hill took the loss in relief for NU despite throwing 4.1 hitless innings.
In the postseason meeting, Hill tossed a complete-game eight-hitter, holding the Red Raiders to a single run in the first inning. Crystal Carwile gave Nebraska a 3-0 lead three batters into the game with a three-run homer and Haley Long produced a two-out, two-run single one inning later to give NU a 5-1 lead after two innings.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers close out the home portion of their 2009 schedule with a weekend series against Texas Tech:
Nebraska returned every starter from the 2008 season and a total of 15 letterwinners. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,586 games at the Division I level.
The Huskers have hit 26 home runs this season after homering only 15 times in 2008 and 14 times in 2007.
NU has scored 219 runs in 45 games this season. In 2007, Nebraska totaled 177 runs in 57 games and last year, the Huskers put up 190 runs in 53 games.
Six Huskers have hit more than one home run this season, the highest total at NU since 2003.
Five current starters in the Husker lineup are hitting above .300.
Eight Huskers have drawn at least 10 walks this year. Last year, only three Huskers drew 10-or-more walks.
Of the Huskers’ 11 returning hitters, eight have set career highs this season in runs scored, seven in RBIs, six in doubles and five in home runs.
The Huskers have held 31 of their first 45 opponents to two runs or less.
NU is 28-3 this season when allowing two runs or less, with all three losses coming in Big 12 play.
Nebraska is 16-2 this season when playing error-free ball.
Nebraska is 63-of-72 in stolen bases this season, a success rate of 87 percent. Overall, the Huskers have been successful on 49 of their last 52 attempts, including a perfect 15-of-15 in Big 12 play.
Overall, seven of Nebraska’s 14 losses have come by just one run. The Huskers are 7-7 in one-run games.
Big 12 Turnaround
After finishing in a tie for ninth in the final 2008 Big 12 standings and earning the No. 10 seed at the Big 12 Championship, Nebraska has shown dramatic improvement in conference play this season. Entering the weekend series with Texas Tech, the Huskers are 7-7 in Big 12 play and sit in fifth place in the conference standings.
The Huskers’ conference turnaround already ranks as one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Big 12 softball. With four more conference victories from 2008 to 2009, Nebraska has already posted the fourth-best win-total improvement in the 14-year history of the Big 12 Conference. The Huskers are also poised to become just the second team in league history to be the 10th seed in the conference tournament one year and then be a top-six seed the next season.
The greatest single-season improvement in Big 12 history came from the 2003 to the 2004 campaign by Baylor. The Lady Bears were the No. 10 seed at the 2003 Big 12 Tournament following a 3-15 conference season. But in 2004, Baylor finished fourth in the league standings with an 11-6 record. With two wins this weekend, Nebraska would lay claim to the second-best one-year win-loss improvement since the conference was formed in 1996.
Settling In Against the Big 12
Senior Molly Hill has been outstanding in the circle all season, but the Wayne, Neb., native has been especially good in her last 10 games against Big 12 competition. Hill started all 10 games, including four against ranked teams, two more against teams receiving votes in the poll and seven road starts. During those 10 games, Hill has only posted a 5-4 record, but she has compiled a 1.37 ERA with seven complete games and two shutouts. Opponents are hitting only .234 against her, but where Hill has been most impressive has been in the late innings.
Over her last 10 conference games, Hill has struggled somewhat in the first three innings, but has been downright dominant from the fourth inning on. During the challenging 10-game stretch, Hill allowed 14 runs over the first three innings while posting a 2.57 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .301 against her. But from the fourth inning on, Hill allowed only four total runs in 37.2 innings. Opponents hit just .163 against her after the third inning, while Hill posted a 0.56 ERA from the fourth inning on.
Duran Enjoying Home Cooking
Amanda Duran has posted a solid senior season thus far, as she leads the Huskers in batting average, doubles, RBIs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage while ranking second in home runs and walks. But Duran has been even better in the friendly confines of Bowlin Stadium. Through 15 home games this season, Duran his batting .463 at home with five doubles, two home runs and 16 RBIs. All of those totals lead the team in home-games only, as does Duran’s .732 slugging percentage, which is .152 higher than any other Husker.
Duran only played in 10 home games a season ago, as she missed the final 20 games of the year with a broken hand. But even in limited action last year, Duran displayed a knack for producing at home as she hit .364 with three doubles and six RBIs in only 22 at bats.
In her brief home career, Duran has averaged nearly one RBI per game and one extra-base hit every six at bats while slugging .651 and reaching base at a .513 clip.
Hill Reaches 20 Wins for First Time in Career
Senior right-hander Molly Hill earned her 20th victory of the season with a three-hit shutout over Baylor last Sunday. Hill, whose record stands at 21-10 on the season, is one of only three pitchers in the Big 12 Conference to post 20 wins this season. She currently ranks third in the conference with her 21 victories, as Texas’ Brittany Barnhill and Baylor’s Whitney Canion are tied for the league lead with 22 victories.
Despite ranking fifth in career victories at Nebraska, this season marks Hill’s first 20-win season. She won 18 games as a freshman, 17 games as a sophomore and 15 games as a junior. Hill currently owns 71 career victories, as she passed former teammate Ashley DeBuhr for fifth place in Husker history with a win on Wednesday.
Huskers Look to Rebound from Shaky Defensive Effort
Nebraska has been one of the top defensive teams in the nation this year, as the Huskers currently rank 17th nationally in fielding percentage. That ranking will go down however, as NU committed seven errors in Wednesday’s doubleheader split with Northern Iowa, including a season-high five errors in the game two loss.
The error-filled day was uncharacteristic for the Huskers, as Nebraska had only committed seven errors over its last nine games before committing seven on Wednesday. The Huskers also had back-to-back games with more than one error for just the third time this season and committed more than one error in a game for just the ninth and 10th times all year.
The Husker infielders had been especially strong of late before a disastrous day on Wednesday. NU’s infield (not including the pitcher and catcher) had not committed an error in four games prior to committing six combined errors on Wednesday.
The middle infield has remained solid for NU, despite Wednesday’s infield struggles. Sophomore second baseman Julie Brechtel has gone 29 games without committing an error, as she has been perfect in her last 111 chances. Junior shortstop Whitney Barrett has fielded 37 straight chances cleanly while committing only two errors over her last 19 games.
The Husker senior outfield has also remained consistent, as right fielder Haley Long has gone 78 games without committing an error, while center fielder Meghan Mullin has gone 48 games without an error. Left fielder Darcy Rutherford has posted a 15-game errorless streak.
A return to Big 12 Conference play will hopefully mark a return to normalcy for the Nebraska defense, as the Huskers rank first with a .976 fielding percentage in conference-only games.
Big 12 Stat of the Week
Nebraska has allowed only one home run in Big 12 play this season, a stretch that includes 14 games and 362 at bats. Every other conference school has allowed at least five home runs in league play, including four schools who have given up at least 10 home runs.