Huskers begin 8 game road trip in Oklahoma - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Huskers begin 8 game road trip in Oklahoma

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The 25th-ranked Nebraska softball team heads to Oklahoma this weekend for a pair of doubleheaders against No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday and Oklahoma State on Sunday. The four road games begin a stretch of eight consecutive true road games for Nebraska, tying the longest streak of consecutive road games in school history.

First pitch for Saturday's doubleheader in Norman is set for 1:30 p.m., while Sunday's doubleheader in Stillwater begins at Noon. Fans can listen to all four games for free on Huskers.com, with veteran softball play-by-play announcer Nate Rohr calling all of the action. Live video of Saturday's doubleheader will be available with a subscription to www.soonersports.tv, while Sunday's second game can be seen live with a subscription to www.okstate.tv.

The Huskers bring an 11-4 record into play this weekend, with all four losses coming to top-20 opponents. Nebraska also picked up its first victory over a ranked team last weekend, shutting out No. 23 Florida State, 2-0. The strong start to the season helped NU move into the USA Softball/ESPN.com top-25 poll on Tuesday, marking the Huskers' first national ranking since February of last season.

Included in the four losses to top-20 opponents was a 2-0 setback to top-ranked Oklahoma last Friday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. That game was scoreless heading into the top of the seventh inning before the Sooners prevailed, despite being out-hit and being held to a season-low two runs. The two-run margin of victory also tied for Oklahoma's closest game this season, as the 15-0 Sooners have won by an average of six runs per game this spring.

Saturday's doubleheader at OU marks the end of a tough stretch of games against ranked teams for the Big Red. The pair of games against the No. 1 Sooners will mark Nebraska's fourth and fifth consecutive games against top-25 opponents, including four matchups with top-10 squads. Overall, Saturday's doubleheader will wrap up a schedule that saw the Huskers face six ranked teams in a seven-game stretch and seven top-25 opponents in an 11-game stretch.

While Saturday's doubleheader wraps up a daunting stretch of ranked opponents for the Huskers, it also begins a streak of eight consecutive true road games. The only other time an NU team has played eight consecutive road games was in 2011, when the Huskers finished the road trip with a 6-2 record.

Scouting the Oklahoma Sooners (15-0)
Oklahoma, last year's runner-up at the Women's College World Series, has been the nation's most dominant team this season. The top-ranked Sooners 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. OU is a perfect 15-0 this spring, including a 2-0 win over Nebraska last Friday. Oklahoma has outscored its opponents 104-14 on the year, winning by an average of six runs per game. The Sooners have been even more impressive against ranked teams, defeating their seven ranked opponents by a combined score of 41-0. The 25th-ranked Huskers will attempt to become the first ranked team to score a run against the Sooners this weekend. OU faces Houston once on Friday, before hosting the Huskers in Saturday's doubleheader.

Offensively, Oklahoma is averaging 6.9 runs per game, and the Sooners have scored 11-or-more runs four times this season. Six Sooners are batting above .300, including returning All-Americans Lauren Chamberlain and Keilani Ricketts. Chamberlain has been a terror out of the leadoff spot, reaching base at a .644 clip while batting .488 (20-for-41) with eight home runs, 19 RBIs, 15 walks and 25 runs scored in only 15 games. She is slugging 1.195. Ricketts is next with a .447 average, including two doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs. Ricketts has drawn 13 walks to post a .577 on-base percentage. Brittany Williams (.342), Brianna Turang (.321) and Pendley (.311) are all hitting above .300. Oklahoma's third returning All-American Jessica Shults is hitting only .289 this year, but she has slugged three home runs and leads the Sooners with 20 RBIs, including a game-winning, two-run single in the top of the seventh inning of Oklahoma's 2-0 victory over Nebraska last Friday.

In the circle, Oklahoma owns a staff ERA of 0.85, and the Sooners have shut out 10 of their first 15 opponents, including seven shutouts in seven tries against ranked foes. Ricketts, the 2012 USA Softball National Player of the Year, is 7-0 on the year with a 0.78 ERA in 53.2 innings. Opponents are hitting only .111 against her and she has tossed six shutouts and struck out 80, an average of 10.4 per game. Last week, Ricketts went 3-0 with three shutouts and one save, as she brings a 23.1-inning scoreless streak into play this weekend. Against ranked opponents this year, Ricketts is 6-0 with six shutouts and two no-hitters. She has not allowed a run in 37.0 innings against ranked teams, while allowing just nine hits and striking out 57. Oklahoma also features one of the nation's top No. 2 pitchers in lefty Michelle Gascoigne. Gascoigne is also 7-0 on the year with a 0.82 ERA. She has tossed three shutouts and opponents are hitting only .153 against her, while striking out an average of 13.5 times per game. Georgia Casey (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 1.0 IP) and Taylor Dewbery (1-0, 4.20 ERA in 1.2 IP) round out a Sooner staff that owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 9-to-1 (166 strikeouts, 19 walks).

Husker History vs. Oklahoma
Nebraska leads the all-time series by just one game, 40-39. The Sooners have won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including a 2-0 victory last Friday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif. Nebraska's last win in the series came in game one of a two-game Big 12 series in 2011 in Norman. Overall, Oklahoma leads the all-time series 13-12 in Norman. Both teams feature NFCA Hall-of-Fame coaches, with Oklahoma's Patty Gasso owning a 26-20 record against Nebraska's Rhonda Revelle.

In Oklahoma's 2-0 win last Friday, the unranked Huskers gave the No. 1 Sooners all they could handle. Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, before Oklahoma used a pair of singles, three walks and one hit batter to claim a 2-0 win. In a two-hit effort, Edwards struck out a season-high eight batters, but she also walked a career-high nine, in addition to hitting one batter. Edwards also added a double, while senior Courtney Breault and freshman Hailey Decker added singles, as the Huskers out-hit Oklahoma, 3-2.

For the Sooners, Brianna Turang delivered an infield single and Jessica Shults produced a two-run single to account for the game's lone runs. In the circle, Keilani Ricketts struck out nine in a three-hit shutout.

Scouting the Oklahoma State Cowgirls (7-7)
Oklahoma State enters play this weekend with a 7-7 record. Before hosting the Huskers in Sunday's doubleheader, OSU will host Houston in a Saturday Doubleheader at Cowgirl Stadium. Oklahoma State owns a 4-1 victory over No. 20 Stanford, in addition to losses to No. 5 Florida and 16th-ranked UCLA. The Cowgirls, who have lost two straight, are 1-1 against the Big Ten this season, splitting a pair of games with Iowa, including a 3-1 eight-inning loss. OSU is 1-2 in extra-innings this season, including a 1-0 loss to UNO.

The Cowgirls have struggled offensively, as they are batting just .224 as a team, slugging .285 and averaging only 2.5 runs per game. Tarah Ettinger is the only starter hitting above .250, as she is batting .415 (17-for-41) with two doubles, one home run and seven RBIs. Ettinger also leads the team with nine walks, a .537 slugging percentage and .520 on-base percentage. Stephanie Brewer leads the Cowgirls with three doubles, and she has also drawn eight walks to go along with a .250 average. Taylor Woodall and Samantha Chrisman have each homered this year, while Shelby Davis has stolen five bases. Ari Morrison began the year 7-for-17 (.412) over the first five games, but she has not played over Oklahoma State's last nine games.

In the circle, Oklahoma State boasts a solid 1-2 combination in Kat Espinosa and Simone Freeman. The Cowgirls own a 1.35 staff ERA and are giving up just 2.1 runs per game, while allowing only one opponent (UCLA) to score more than three runs. Espinosa, the staff's ace, has factored into only five of OSU's seven decisions, despite throwing more than 60 percent of the team's innings. Espinosa is 2-3 on the year with a 1.04 ERA in 60.2 innings. She has also added a save and opponents are hitting just .169 against her with 58 strikeouts. Simone Freeman is 5-4 on the year with a 2.23 ERA in 37.2 innings. She is averaging an impressive 9.8 strikeouts per game while throwing one shutout and limiting opposing hitters to a .212 average.

Husker History vs. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State leads the all-time series, 47-44. The teams will be meeting for the 31st straight year this weekend and for the second consecutive season as non-conference opponents. OSU has won four of the last six meetings and six of the last nine, including a 2-0 victory in Stillwater last season. In the final meeting as Big 12 Conference opponents in 2011, Nebraska swept a two-game series from the Cowgirls at Bowlin Stadium. Oklahoma State owns an 18-8 advantage in Stillwater, while Husker Head Coach Rhonda Revelle is 24-30 in her career against OSU, including a 5-6 record vs. Cowgirl Head Coach Rich Wieligman.

In last year's meeting, Kat Espinosa no-hit the Huskers. Espinosa was nearly perfect, allowing only a third-inning walk to Brooke Thomason before retiring the final 14 batters she faced. Espinosa added seven strikeouts. Offensively, the Cowgirls managed only three hits and struck out 10 times against Ashley Hagemann. But Tamara Brown and Julie Ward delivered third-inning RBI singles to lift OSU to the victory.

Quick Hitters
The information below provides a quick glimpse of a few statistics and brief notes as the 25th-ranked Huskers take an 11-4 record to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this weekend.

  • Nebraska finished the month of February with an 11-4 record, becoming only the fourth team in school history to win 10 games in February. The Huskers also posted a winning February for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons.
  • Nebraska owns an all-time record of 431-249 (.634) in the month of March. The Huskers have posted a winning month of March for 17 straight seasons dating back to 1994.
  • NU's roster features seven freshmen, tying for the most freshmen in Coach Revelle's 21 seasons (also 2008).
  • Five freshmen started the season opener, the most in Coach Revelle's tenure and believed to be the most ever.
  • Nebraska's starting lineup has featured at least three freshmen in every game this season.
  • Nebraska has allowed one run or less in nine of its 15 games this season, including five shutouts. In 55 games last season, NU allowed one run or less just 16 times.
  • Tatum Edwards is two home runs shy of cracking Nebraska's all-time top 10.
  • In the circle, 18 of the 40 hits Tatum Edwards has allowed this season have been infield singles (45 percent).
  • Taylor Edwards is seven walks shy of passing Jennifer Lizama (92) for the most walks through a player's first three seasons in school history.
  • Taylor Edwards is also 14 RBIs from entering Nebraska's all-time top five.
  • Gabby Banda is four doubles shy of cracking Nebraska's all-time top 10.
  • Banda has started 150 consecutive games for the Huskers.
  • Brooke Thomason is three RBIs from entering Nebraska's all-time top three.
  • Thomason is also one double from cracking Nebraska's all-time top 10.
  • Thomason also needs only six total bases this weekend to become the 11th Husker with 300 career total bases.
  • Thomason is batting .462 against ranked teams in 2013, the only Husker hitting above .250.
  • Tatum and Taylor Edwards, along with Brooke Thomason, each homered against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 9. That marked the third time all three players had homered in the same time, while also marking the eighth time that the Edwards twins had homered in the same game.

Huskers Begin Stretch of Eight Straight Road Games
This weekend's doubleheaders kick off a string of eight consecutive road games for the Huskers. The streak ties the longest stretch of true road games in school history. The only other time a Nebraska team played eight consecutive road games was in 2011. That year, the Huskers finished the trip 6-2, going 3-1 at New Mexico State, 2-0 at UTEP and 1-1 at Oklahoma.

Nebraska Was Successful in Season's Opening Month
Nebraska finished 11-4 in February, allowing the Huskers to go from unranked and not receiving any votes in the preseason polls to a No. 25 national ranking in this week's USA Softball/ESPN.com poll. The Huskers' 11 victories tied for the third-most in the month of February in school history, while also clinching the program's 11th winning month of February in the past 12 seasons.

Only the 2011 (14) and 2003 (12) Huskers won more games in February than this year's team. The 2002 squad also won 11 games in February. Each of those three teams went on to successful seasons and ended the year in the top 25. The 2011 Huskers notched the only victory over a No. 1 team in school history, the 2003 squad climbed to the highest ranking in school history (No. 3) and the 2002 Huskers were the last Nebraska team to play in the Women's College World Series.

Pitching Staff Posted Fantastic February
Nebraska's pitching was tremendous in the season's opening month, 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 1.44 ERA that ranks third in the Big Ten Conference.

The Huskers have allowed one earned run or less in 11 of 15 games this year, including five shutouts and a sixth game where Nebraska did not allow an earned run, but did allow a run. During a stretch that began with Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 10 and ended with Purdue on Feb. 17, Edwards and Lockman combined to throw three shutouts and one no-hitter, while throwing 38.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.

Nebraska finished February with a 1.44 ERA, just missing posting Nebraska's lowest ERA in the month since 2000. 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 65 batters in 97.0 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 .201 against Nebraska, and teams have managed only 14 extra-base hits and five home runs against Husker pitching in 344 at bats, recording one extra-base hit an average of every 24.6 at bats.

The pitching staff has also fared well against some of the nation's best teams. Tatum Edwards allowed just two earned runs in a pair of complete-game efforts against No. 19 Arizona and No. 1 Oklahoma, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Sooners. Lockman got her first taste of ranked competition last Saturday against No. 8 California, firing a four-hitter and holding Cal to a season-low one run.

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