Posted By: Sports
The Nebraska softball team will seek to extend the best start in school history against a challenging schedule at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., this weekend. The Huskers, who have matched the best 10-game start in school history with a 9-1 record, will play five games in three days at the Big League Dreams Complex, including four matchups with ranked teams and three contests against teams that advanced to the 2012 Women's College World Series.
The Huskers open play on Friday at 8 p.m. (Central) against top-ranked Oklahoma, last year's national runner-up, before facing future Big Ten Conference opponent Maryland at approximately 10:30 p.m. On Saturday, Nebraska has a lone game against ninth-ranked Oregon at 7:30 p.m. The Ducks finished in a tie for fifth at the 2012 Women's College World Series. The Huskers conclude the tournament with a pair of games on Sunday, facing No. 23 Florida State at 11 a.m., before taking on eighth-ranked California at approximately 1:30 p.m. The Seminoles are outscoring their opponents 60-10 this season, while Cal finished in a tie for third at the 2012 Women's College World Series as the No. 1 national seed.
The schedule will provide a tough test for a young Husker team that starts between three and five freshmen every game. Fans can follow all of the games on Huskers.com. In addition to live stats, a free radio broadcast will be available online and also through a subscription to Nebraska's official mobile app, with Nate Rohr calling all of the action. Fans are advised that 35 teams are competing at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic so games could run behind schedule and result in a later starting time.
Nebraska is coming off a 4-1 finish in Tucson, Ariz., last weekend, a performance that helped the Huskers match the best 10-game start in school history. The best 15-game start in school history was a 14-1 record by the 2003 Huskers, who climbed as high as No. 3 in the national polls during that hot start. While matching that mark will be a challenge against such a tough schedule, a strong performance could vault Nebraska back into the national rankings. The Huskers have not been ranked since coming in at No. 24 in the final poll of February last season. Nebraska received one vote in the USA Softball/ESPN.com top-25 polls this week, marking the first time this season NU had received a vote.
Pitching was the story in Arizona last weekend, as junior Tatum Edwards and freshman Emily Lockman combined to throw three shutouts in five games, while posting a 0.21 ERA, allowing only one earned run in 33.0 innings. Lockman tossed two shutouts in three starts, including her first no-hitter.
Scouting the Oklahoma Sooners (10-0)
Oklahoma, last year's runner-up at the Women's College World Series, has been the nation's most dominant team this season. The Sooners, who returned all but one starter from last year's team and made up for that one loss by adding transfer Shelby Pendley - Arizona's All-Pac-12 starting shortstop in 2012 - are a perfect 10-0 this spring. OU has outscored its opponents 81-12 on the year, including four run-rule victories. While those totals are impressive by themselves, the Sooners have defeated four ranked teams by a combined score of 31-0 this season.
The Sooners have slugged 17 home runs and are averaging 8.1 runs per game while batting .312. OU returns three All-America hitters in Lauren Chamberlain, Keilani Ricketts and Jessica Shults. Chamberlain, the nation's top freshman last season, is 15-for-27 (.556) to open her sophomore campaign with three doubles, six home runs and 17 RBIs. She has also walked 10 times to post a .700 on-base percentage. Ricketts is batting .462 with two homers and nine RBIs, while Shults is hitting .267 with two homers and 13 RBIs. In addition to the All-Americans, Brianna Turang is batting .412, while Brittany Williams is hitting .346 with a pair of homers. Pendley is hitting .313 with three homers and 11 RBIs, while Georgia Casey owns 10 RBIs and 11 walks.
In the circle, Ricketts returns after earning national player-of-the-year honors last season. A left-hander, Ricketts opened her senior season with back-to-back no-hitters, and she is 4-0 on the year with a 1.38 ERA in 30.1 innings. She has thrown three shutouts and struck out 46 in 30.1 innings, while limiting opposing hitters to a .139 average. Michelle Gascoigne has been even better, posting a 5-0 record with a 0.68 ERA in a team-high 31.0 innings. The lefty has struck out 59 and held opposing hitters to a .145 average. Casey (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 1.0 IP) and Taylor Dewbery (1-0, 4.20 ERA in 1.2 IP) round out the Sooner staff. Overall, Oklahoma's pitchers have struck out 109 and walked only 12.
Nebraska leads the all-time series 40-38, but Oklahoma has won nine of the last 11 meetings. The teams last met in their final matchup as members of the Big 12 Conference in 2011, splitting a two-game series in Norman.
Scouting the Maryland Terrapins (3-1)
Maryland played its first four games of the season last weekend, posting a 3-1 record. Three of the Terrapins' four games were decided by the run-rule, including a 10-2 loss to No. 15 Michigan, a 16-8 win over Massachusetts and an 18-1 win over Long Island.
Maryland hit a solid .277 and averaged an impressive 10.3 runs per game last weekend, but opponents actually posted a batting average .027 higher than the Terrapins (.304). The high run total was due in part to an average of four errors committed per game by the opponent, leading to 17 unearned runs in only four games.
Sara Acosta went 5-for-10 with a triple and three RBIs, while Shannon Bustillos hit .400 with a double and four RBIs. All other staters hit under .300, with Melissa Mancuso producing a team-high five RBIs and Candice Beards adding two doubles and a team-high three stolen bases to complement a .286 average.
In the circle, Maryland posted a 6.36 ERA and allowed an average of 5.5 runs per game. Maddie Martin started three of the four games and posted a 2-1 record with a 5.56 ERA in 11.1 innings. Kaitlyn Schmeiser was 1-0 with a 7.00 ERA in 5.0 innings, while Lexi Carroll appeared in two games, posting a 9.00 ERA in 4.2 innings. Brenna Nation (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 1.0 IP) rounds out the Terrapin staff.
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against Maryland, defeating the Terrapins 3-1 in 1999 and 6-4 in 2011.
Scouting the Oregon Ducks (8-3)
Oregon enters this weekend ranked ninth in the NFCA coaches' poll after opening the year with an 8-3 record. All three of the Ducks' losses have come to top-25 teams (1-0 to No. 5 Florida, 12-0 to No. 1 Oklahoma and 6-5 to No. 19 Hawaii).
The Ducks are batting .330 as a team and averaging 6.0 runs per game. Janie Takeda is hitting .500 (16-for-32) with four doubles and eight stolen bases. Alexa Peterson is batting .478 with three homers and nine RBIs, while Courtney Ceo is hitting .412. Four other Oregon regulars are hitting above .300, while Kailee Cuico leads the team with seven walks and 13 RBIs.
In the circle, Oregon has relied on a staff-by-committee approach, as the staff owns only two complete games. Jessica Moore, a third-team NFCA All-American who threw 33 complete games in 2012, has made six starts this season, but thrown just one complete game. Moore is 4-2 on the year with a 1.31 ERA in 32.0 innings. Freshman left-hander Cheridan Hawkins is 2-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 22.0 innings and opponents are hitting only .108 against her and have struck out 32 times. Karissa Hovinga, a native of Ralston, Neb., is 2-0 with a 1.87 ERA in 15.0 innings.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Oregon, 6-4, including a 3-1 victory at the 2009 Cathedral City Classic (now the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic). The Huskers have won four of the last five meetings, but the Ducks earned a 4-2 victory last season in the most recent matchup.
Scouting the Florida State Seminoles (7-2)
No. 23 Florida State played its first nine games at home this season and the Seminoles, who play at Central Florida on Wednesday, will be leaving the Sunshine State for the first time this season this weekend. FSU is 7-2 on the year after posting a 3-2 record last weekend, with both losses coming to Tulsa.
The Seminoles have outscored their opponents 60-10 this season, scoring an average of 6.7 runs per game. Offensively, five everyday starters and nine total players are hitting above .300, as Florida State is batting .344 as a team. Tiffani Brown is hitting .469, while Celeste Gomez is batting .364 and Morgan Bullock is hitting .350. Briana Hamilton leads FSU with three home runs, seven walks and four stolen bases to go along with a .333 average, while Courtney Senas is batting .320 with a team-high 10 RBIs.
In the circle, FSU boasts four shutouts and a 1.45 ERA. Lacey Waldrop has started four games, posting a 3-0 record with a 0.39 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .133 against her and have struck out 29 times in 23.1 innings. Monica Perry is 4-2 in a team-high five starts and 30.2 innings. She has thrown two shutouts while compiling a 2.35 ERA. Jessica Nori (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 2.0 IP) rounds out a Seminole staff that is also benefitting from a defense that boasts a .987 fielding percentage.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Florida State, 9-5, but the teams have not met since 2007, when the Seminoles hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to pull out a 2-1 victory.
Scouting the California Golden Bears (7-2)
California is 7-2 this spring, and the Golden Bears bring a six-game winning streak into play this weekend. The Bears lost two of their first three games to ranked teams from the SEC (3-2 in nine innings to No. 20 Kentucky and 7-4 to No. 5 Florida) but have outscored their opponents 48-7 during their win streak.
Cal is batting .312 as a team while averaging 6.8 runs per game. Victoria Jones is 10-for-19 this season (.526) with three doubles and nine walks to post a .679 on-base percentage. Khala Taylor is hitting .476 with a team-high three stolen bases, while Breana Kostreba is hitting .407 with a pair of home runs. Lindsey Ziegenhirt is the Bears' top slugger, leading Cal with five home runs and 11 RBIs to complement a .357 average.
In the circle, Jolene Henderson, the 2012 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and first-team NFCA All-American, leads a Cal staff that boasts a 2.47 ERA. Henderson has thrown more than 85 percent of Cal's total innings this season, compiling a 6-2 record with a 2.19 ERA in 53.1 innings. She has started seven games and appeared in all nine contests, tossing two shutouts and holding opposing hitters to a .196 average. Nisa Ontiveros is the only other pitcher to see action this season, posting a 1-0 record and a 4.15 ERA in 8.2 innings.
Nebraska leads the all-time series with Cal, 15-13, but the Bears have won five of the last six meetings. Cal earned a 6-1 win in the most recent meeting in 2008, one year after NU defeated the Bears, 5-2 in eight innings.
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes as the Huskers take a 9-1 record to Cathedral City, Calif., for five games in three days at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
Huskers Tie Best Start in School History
With a 9-1 record, Nebraska has matched the best 10-game start in school history. This season marks the fourth time in Husker history that a team has won nine of its first 10 games, a feat that also happened in 2011, 2006, 2003 and 1996. Nebraska has a chance of matching the 2003 Huskers for the best 15-game start in school (14-1), although NU would need to go a perfect 5-0 this weekend against a schedule that includes four ranked teams and three teams that advanced to the 2012 Women's College World Series.
A winning weekend of any kind would give this year's team one of the five best starts in school history. In addition to the 2003 squad's 14-1 record, the 1987 and 2011 Huskers were both 13-2 through their first 15 games. Only three other times (1996, 2005 and 2006) has a Nebraska team won 12 of its first 15 games.
Lockman Tosses First Career No-Hitter
Freshman right-hander Emily Lockman joined an elite group of Husker pitchers by tossing her first career no-hitter, a six-inning effort against Utah State last Saturday. Lockman is the first Husker freshman to throw a no-hitter since Summer Tobias in 2003 and just the fifth ever. The first two freshmen to throw no-hitters ended their careers as All-Americans. Lori Sippel, currently in her 24th season as Nebraska's pitching coach, tossed a pair of no-hitters during her freshman season in 1985, while Jenny Voss threw a no-hitter as a freshman in 1997.
Lockman's no-hitter came in only her fourth career start and was the earliest no-hitter in school history. A native of Corona, Calif., Lockman is just the second Husker to throw a no-hitter in the month of February, joining All-American Peaches James who recorded her second career no-hitter as a senior on Feb. 20, 2004 against Houston. Lockman recorded her first career no-hitter faster than any other pitcher in school history, needing only her fourth start, bettering the previous record of seven starts by Tobias.
Lockman Named Big Ten Freshman of the Week
Freshman Emily Lockman was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday, following an outstanding performance at the Hillenbrand Invitational last weekend. The weekly award was the first of Lockman's career.
Lockman started three games last weekend, posting a 2-0 record with a pair of shutouts, 15 strikeouts and a 0.41 ERA in 17.0 innings. She opened her weekend with a four-hit shutout in a seven-inning victory against Southern Utah on Friday, before tossing a six-inning no-hitter against Utah State the next day.
Against the Aggies, Lockman not only threw a no-hitter but struck out a career-high eight batters. Lockman's no-hitter was just the second by a Husker pitcher in the past five seasons. Lockman became the first freshman to throw a no-hitter at Nebraska since Summer Tobias in 2003 and just the fourth overall.
In her next outing following the no-hitter, Lockman got her first taste of Big Ten competition, allowing only one earned run in 4.0 innings against Purdue, earning a no-decision in the Huskers' 4-3 non-conference victory.
Thomason Sets Grand Slam Record
Senior Brooke Thomason hit her third career grand slam against Utah State last Saturday, giving Nebraska the necessary runs for a 9-0, run-rule victory. Thomason is the first known player in school history to hit three career grand slams. All three of her bases-loaded blasts have come in less than a calendar year.
Her first career grand slam was a dramatic shot that capped a two-homer game for the native of Overland Park, Kan. In Nebraska's first-ever Big Ten Conference game, Thomason belted a walk-off grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning against Northwestern on March 23, 2012, to lift Nebraska to a 9-6 come-from-behind victory. Two weeks later, Thomason hit her second career grand slam, another walk-off shot that wrapped up an 11-0, six-inning victory over Illinois on April 6.
Thomason's most recent grand slam was the third by a Husker this season, as junior Taylor Edwards set a school record with two grand slams in one game against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 9. Nebraska's three grand slams this season not only tie its total from all of last season, but rank as the most grand slams in a season since at least 2000.
Pitching Staff Posting Fantastic February
Nebraska's pitching has been tremendous this season, especially considering the Huskers' three pitchers had combined for only 130.0 career innings entering this season. Led by the combination of junior right-hander Tatum Edwards and freshman right-hander Emily Lockman, Nebraska boasts a Big Ten-best 0.98 ERA.
The Huskers have allowed one earned run or less in eight of 10 games this year, including four shutouts and a fifth game where Nebraska did not allow an earned run, but did allow a run. The staff has been even better as of late, allowing only one earned run in the past six games, totaling a 0.18 ERA during that stretch. In five games last weekend - which included games against Arizona's traditionally powerful lineup and a Purdue squad which led the Big Ten in hitting in 2012 - Edwards and Lockman combined to throw three shutouts and one no-hitter, while posting a 0.21 ERA. Before allowing a solo home run to Purdue on Sunday, the pitching staff had thrown 38.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. Overall, the staff has allowed only one earned run in its last 44.1 innings.
Entering the final weekend of February, Nebraska has a chance to post one of the lowest February ERAs in recent memory. Since 2000, the lowest ERA a Husker team has ever posted after the opening month of the season was 1.43 in 2003, when Nebraska went 12-1 in February and climbed to as high as No. 3 in the national polls.
Unlike previous seasons, Nebraska's staff is not as reliant on the strikeout in 2013. Husker pitchers have struck out only 41 batters in 64.0 innings. Both Edwards and Lockman are ground-ball pitchers and their success keeping the ball down has neutralized the opponent's power game. Opponents are hitting only .211 against Nebraska, and teams have managed only 10 extra-base hits and three home runs against Husker pitching in 227 at bats, recording one extra-base hit an average of every 23 at bats. In keeping with the theme of not getting hit hard, 15 of the 38 singles the staff has allowed have been infield singles (39 percent).
Tatum Edwards On Impressive Pitching Streak
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards is 6-1 this season with a 1.03 ERA in 34.0 innings pitched. She leads the Big Ten in wins, while ranking fifth in ERA. The impressive early-season totals have been fueled by a tremendous stretch of recent dominance from Edwards.
A native of Murrieta, Calif., Edwards has not allowed an earned run over her last five appearances. She enters this weekend with a streak of 23.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. She has allowed one earned run or less in six of her seven appearances this season. A big reason for the success has been improved control. Edwards averaged one walk for every 9.5 batters she faced through her first two seasons, but she is allowing one walk for every 12.9 batters she faces this season. Edwards has also proven hard to hit, as opponents are hitting only .231 against her and 14 of the 28 hits she has allowed have been infield singles.
Turning Two Becoming Routine
Nebraska has recorded an impressive nine double plays through 10 games this season, including turning four double plays on ground balls and five on fly balls. The Huskers are more than halfway toward matching last year's total of 16 double plays, while Nebraska has averaged 17 double plays per season over the past five years. Included in this year's total are a pair of games (Arizona and Drake) where the Huskers have turned two double plays. Overall, Nebraska has recorded at least one double play in each of its last five games.
Thomason On Cusp of Joining Exclusive Clubs
Senior Brooke Thomason is poised to join a couple of elite clubs this weekend. Thomason needs only one run scored this weekend to become the ninth Husker to record 100 career hits, runs and RBIs and the first since Julie Brechtel in 2011. Thomason would join an elite list that includes All-Americans Tobin Echo-Hawk, Ali Viola, Jennifer Lizama and Kim Ogee, along with Brechtel, Amanda Buchholz, Nicole Trimboli and Crystal Carwile.
Thomason also enters the weekend needing one home run to total both 30 home runs and doubles in her career. She would join Viola, Lizama and Carwile as the only Huskers to accomplish that feat.
Stokes Excelling in Leadoff Role
Freshman Kiki Stokes, a three-time high school All-American, has made a smooth transition to the collegiate level through the first two weeks of the season. She leads the Big Ten with 14 runs scored, while ranking second in on-base percentage (.641), fourth in walks (9), fifth in batting average (.500) and seventh in stolen bases (3).
Batting leadoff, Stokes has done a tremendous job getting on base, helping Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Taylor Edwards and Brooke Thomason rank first and second, respectively, in the conference in RBIs. Stokes is reaching base in better than 64 percent of her plate appearances. She has reached base safely at least twice in nine of 10 games this season, and Stokes has never been retired in more than two consecutive plate appearances. She has produced four multi-hit games, in addition to drawing at least one walk in eight consecutive games. Overall, Stokes has reached base safely in 16 of her last 20 plate appearances, including 14 of 18 last weekend.