The Nebraska softball team closes the regular season with a challenging three-game road schedule this week. The Huskers open the week on Tuesday night at Creighton in their final non-conference game of the year, before traveling to 10th-ranked Missouri over the weekend.
Fans can listen to all of the action on Huskers.com, which will stream the radio broadcast of play-by-play voice Nate Rohr, courtesy of the Husker Sports Network. Nebraska enters play this week with a 32-15 record, including a 24-7 mark in non-conference play.
The Huskers will be looking to split the season series with Creighton and snap a four-game losing streak to the Bluejays on Tuesday night. Creighton won the first meeting this year on April 1 at Bowlin Stadium, shutting out the Huskers 3-0. Bluejay ace Tara Oltman tossed a five-hit shutout to pick up her fourth straight win over Nebraska. Husker senior ace Molly Hill tossed a four-hitter but she was charged with the loss after allowing three runs, two of which were unearned.
Offensively, Creighton only had four hits but the Bluejays bunched their hits together. CU’s first hit scored a run in the second and Creighton didn’t record its second hit until the sixth, when three hits led to two more runs. Outside of their two scoring innings, CU had just two baserunners. Nebraska meanwhile had baserunners in six of the seven innings but could not push a run across. Despite the baserunners, Nebraska never got a runner past second base, as the Huskers were 0-for-10 with runners on base.
Sophomore Julie Brechtel paced the Husker offense in the first meeting with a 2-for-2 day that also included a walk. Senior Amanda Duran also added a hit in the first meeting and NU will be looking for continued production from Duran after she posted big efforts in each of the Huskers’ four games last week.
Duran went 9-for-11 at the plate last week to post an .818 batting average. She had at least two hits in every game, including one extra-base hit in three of the four contests. Duran also produced five RBIs.
The Huskers also got some clutch at bats from senior Crystal Carwile last week. After producing only one RBI through the first 14 Big 12 games, Carwile had three RBIs in a doubleheader split with Texas Tech last Saturday. With scoring chances likely hard to come by against Oltman, the Huskers can take some comfort in the fact that they averaged more than five runs per game last week thanks to the production of Duran and Carwile, the No. 3 and 4 hitters in the lineup.
In the circle, Hill is poised to start her 16th consecutive game on Tuesday. She ranks second in the Big 12 in wins and third in ERA.
Scouting the Creighton Bluejays (31-13)
Creighton enters Tuesday’s matchup with a 31-13 record, including a 10-4 mark at home. The Bluejays are in first place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with a 17-5 record and CU can clinch its third straight conference title this weekend. Creighton has won six of its last seven games, while the Bluejays have not allowed an earned run in three games.
Creighton is led by ace pitcher Tara Oltman. Oltman, who tossed a five-hit shutout against Nebraska earlier this month, is 25-9 on the season with a 0.83 ERA. She has posted 11 shutouts while striking out 232 in 227.2 innings. Opponents are hitting only .160 against her. Behind Oltman, who has thrown 78 percent of the team’s inning, Creighton ranks 19th nationally in ERA, one spot ahead of Nebraska. Kyle Hovinga is the only other Bluejay who has pitched more than 2.0 innings for Creighton this season. Hovinga, a left-hander, is 6-4 on the year with a 3.52 ERA in 67.2 innings.
Offensively, Creighton has given Oltman plenty of run support, as the Bluejays are averaging four runs per game. CU hit six home runs in five games last week to put them over 30 home runs on the season. Four Bluejays are hitting better than .300, led by Lincoln native Renae Sinkler. In addition to her team-best .361 average, Sinkler leads the team with two triples, 11 homers and 34 RBIs. Bailey Dawson and Sara Loeffelholz have each homered six times, while Laura Kratochvil has hit five home runs to go along with a .338 average.
Husker History vs. Creighton
Nebraska has played more games against Creighton than any other program in school history. The Huskers and Bluejays have met 109 times entering Tuesday’s meeting, with Nebraska holding a 73-36 edge in the series. The Huskers’ 73 wins in the series unofficially rank as the fifth-most victories against a single opponent in NCAA Division I history, according to research compiled by the Florida State media relations office. Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 45-13 in her career against Creighton, including a 42-11 mark vs. Bluejay Head Coach Brent Vigness.
Nebraska had won 15 straight in the series - and 23 of 24 overall - before Creighton swept the season series for the first time ever in 2005. The Bluejays again swept the season series last year and CU won the first meeting this year in Lincoln by a score of 3-0. Overall, Creighton has won the past four meetings, five of the last six and seven of the past 10. CU’s current four-game winning streak is its longest in the history of the series. Nebraska is 27-20 all-time against Creighton in Omaha.
In the first meeting this season, Tara Oltman picked up her fourth straight win against the Huskers by tossing a five-hit shutout, her first-ever shutout against Nebraska. The Huskers actually out-hit Creighton 5-4 but three of CU’s hits came with runners on base. Creighton got all four of its hits in the two innings where the Bluejays scored, as CU had just two baserunners in the other five innings.
In last year’s meeting in Omaha, Creighton earned a 7-2 victory. The Bluejays hit two home runs while scoring seven times over the first four innings. The Huskers were only out-hit 9-7, but NU was being shut out until scoring twice in the top of the seventh inning.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes of interest as the Huskers close out the non-conference portion of their 2009 schedule with a midweek matchup at Creighton on Tuesday:
Nebraska returned every starter from the 2008 season and a total of 15 letterwinners. Overall, the Huskers’ 21-player roster has combined to start 1,606 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 230 runs in 47 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.
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 32 of their first 47 opponents to two runs or less.
NU is 29-3 this season when allowing two runs or less, with all three losses coming in Big 12 play.
Nebraska is 27-2 this season when out-hitting the opponent, with one of those losses coming to Creighton.
The Huskers are 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, eight of Nebraska’s 15 losses have come by just one run. The Huskers are 7-8 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. Following a split last weekend with Texas Tech, the Huskers are 8-8 in Big 12 play and sit in fifth place in the conference standings.
With five more conference victories from 2008 to 2009, Nebraska has posted the second-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.
Duran Posts Big Week
Senior Amanda Duran proved to be an exceptionally tough out in four games last week. Duran went 9-for-11 on the week to post an .818 batting average, as she recorded at least two hits in every game while hitting safely in a career-high-tying four straight games. Overall, Duran also coaxed two walks to post a .846 on-base percentage, as she reached base safely in 11 of her 13 plate appearances.
In addition to the high hit total, Duran also came through with big hits. She had an extra-base hit in three of the four games last week, while producing a total of five RBIs. Her slugging percentage was 1.091 on the week, while she was a perfect 7-for-7 with runners on base, 4-for-4 with runners in scoring position and 1-for-1 with the bases loaded.
She began her week by tying her career highs with three hits and three RBIs in game one against Northern Iowa. She then went 2-for-3 with two more RBIs in game two against the Panthers, before going 4-for-5 with a double and a walk in a Big 12 Conference doubleheader with Texas Tech. With her big week offensively, Duran moved up to seventh in the league with a .374 season average, tied for fifth in the Big 12 with 11 doubles and 24 walks, while moving up to fourth in the conference with a .484 on-base percentage.
Duran was also outstanding behind the plate, where she was perfect defensively in 26 chances. She caught one shutout while throwing out all three runners who attempted to steal a base.
Hill Posting Impressive Big 12 Totals
Molly Hill has started 15 of the Huskers’ 16 Big 12 Conference games, and the senior right-hander has put up impressive totals. Hill’s 1.37 ERA in conference-only games ranks second in the Big 12. But Hill has posted her mark while throwing 102.1 innings in conference action, while ERA leader Stacy Delaney (1.24) has only thrown 45.1 innings.
Hill is 8-6 in the Big 12 this season as she and Baylor’s Whitney Canion are the only hurlers who have been the winning pitcher in each of their team’s conference victories. Behind Hill’s outstanding efforts, Nebraska has allowed only 32 runs during the league season. Every other Big 12 school has given up at least 40 runs, while seven of the 10 schools have allowed at least 53 runs in conference play.
Huskers Nearing 1,000th NCAA Win
Since softball became an official NCAA sport in 1982, Nebraska has posted 998 victories. With two more wins, the Huskers will record their 1,000th victory of the NCAA era. Although no official statistic is kept for victories in the NCAA-era only, according to research from CBS College Sports conducted in 2008, the Huskers would become only the 10th program to post 1,000 wins in the NCAA era.
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 on April 19. Hill, whose record stands at 22-11 on the season, is one of only three pitchers in the Big 12 Conference to post 20 wins this season. She currently ranks second in the Big 12 with her 22 victories, along with Texas’ Brittany Barnhill. Baylor’s Whitney Canion leads the league with 23 wins.
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 72 career victories, as she passed former teammate Ashley DeBuhr for fifth place in Husker history with a win last Wednesday.
Keeping the Ball in the Park
Nebraska has allowed only one home run in Big 12 play this season, a stretch that includes 16 games and 404 at bats. Every other conference school has allowed at least five home runs in league play, including six schools who have given up at least 10 home runs.