NEB Softball: Huskers Aim For Deep Run at Big Ten Tournament - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

NEB Softball: Huskers Aim For Deep Run at Big Ten Tournament

Posted By: Sports

sports@klkntv.com

Courtesy: UNL Media Relations

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Nebraska softball team takes aim at a conference title this weekend at the 2017 Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Huskers will need to win four games in three days at Michigan's Alumni Field in order to claim their first Big Ten Tournament title and earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Fifth-seeded Nebraska opens tournament play on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (Central) against No. 12 seed Penn State. With a win, the Huskers would advance to Friday's quarterfinal to face No. 4 seed Illinois at 12:30 p.m. (Central). Another win would put NU in Saturday's first semifinal at Noon (Central), with the championship game set for 5 p.m. (Central).

All 11 games of the single-elimination tournament will be televised live on the Big Ten Network, and fans can listen to every NU game for free on Huskers.com.

Nebraska enters a conference tournament with a losing record for just the second time under Rhonda Revelle. The last time Nebraska brought a losing record into a conference tournament was in 2008, when NU made a run to the Big 12 Tournament final.

Another potential deep run this weekend would begin with a win over a Penn State, who NU defeated three times last month. Win that game, and the Huskers would take on an Illinois team whom they defeated 14-0 on April 23. Second-ranked Minnesota, the No. 1 seed, would likely await NU in the semifinals. The Huskers nearly knocked off the Gophers on March 25, when Minnesota was down to its final out before rallying from a two-run deficit.

Nebraska is seeking its first conference tournament title since winning the 2004 Big 12 Tournament.

This Week's Top 10

1) Nebraska owns a 4-4 all-time record at the Big Ten Tournament, with its best finish coming as the runner-up at the 2015 Big Ten Tournament.

2) The Huskers have won six conference tournament titles in school history, most recently winning the 2004 Big 12 Tournament.

3) Nebraska aims to defeat Penn State for a fourth time on Thursday. The last time the Huskers defeated one opponent four times in a season was 2013 against Purdue (4-1 record).

4) The Huskers have not posted a 4-0 record or better against one opponent in a season since 2008 vs. Northern Colorado (4-0). Nebraska last went 4-0 against a conference opponent in 1998, when the Huskers posted a 4-0 season record vs. Texas.

5) Nebraska swept a three-game series vs. Penn State but won the three games by a combined total of just four runs and needed two walk-off wins.

6) Nebraska posted its most wins in April (15) since 2006.

7) Opponents have only one home run in their last 268 at bats against Husker pitching.

8) Rhonda Revelle has led Nebraska to a conference tournament final eight times in 19 tries.

9) Kaylan Jablonski leads Nebraska in both innings pitched and RBIs. She is looking to become the first Husker ever to lead NU in both categories.

10) Cassie McClure is 5-2 with a 2.13 ERA over her last 10 appearances.

Husker Pitchers Can Hit, Too

Both of Nebraska's primary pitchers - senior Cassie McClure and junior Kaylan Jablonski - can also handle the bat as two of the Big Ten's top hitting pitchers.

• McClure and Jablonski combined to go 7-for-17 at Purdue last weekend, while the rest of the Husker hitters combined to go 7-for-60. The duo also combined for two of Nebraska's three doubles last weekend.

• McClure was 3-for-6 at Purdue with a double, two walks and three RBIs, while Jablonski went 4-for-11 with a double and three runs scored.

• Both McClure and Jablonski have totaled 25 doubles in their careers, with that total ranking second among all current Huskers.

• McClure also ranks second among all 2017 Huskers with a .313 career batting average, 23 career home runs and 123 career RBIs.

• Jablonski ranks fourth among all active Huskers with 10 career home runs and 60 career RBIs.

• Jablonski leads Nebraska with 29 RBIs this season. She is bidding to join Christie McCoy as the only Husker pitchers to also lead Nebraska in RBIs. McCoy posted a team-high 36 RBIs in 1997, when she also made 16 appearances and threw 59.2 innings in the circle - just 16 percent of Nebraska's total innings.

• Jablonski is looking to become the first player in school history to lead the team in both innings pitched and RBIs. The closest a Husker ever came to accomplishing that feat was Tatum Edwards, who threw a team-high 240.0 innings as a senior in 2014 and was second on the team with 52 RBIs, one shy of the team lead.

• Jablonski has been one of NU's top hitters the second half of the season. She is 25-for-75 (.333) in her last 24 games with nine doubles, four homers and 24 RBIs.

Knighten Has Reached Base Safely in 20 Straight Games

Senior MJ Knighten singled in her final at bat against Purdue on Monday to extend her streak to 20 consecutive games reaching base safely.

• Knighten's 20-game reaching base streak is the longest by a Husker since Steph Pasquale reached base safely in the final 20 games of her career in 2015.

• Knighten's career-best streak is 21 consecutive games reaching base safely as a sophomore in 2015.

• Knighten is hitting .321 (18-for-56) during the streak with three doubles, three homers and 16 RBIs. She has seen her walks increase dramatically during the streak, drawing 15 walks in the 20 games after totaling only eight walks in her first 32 games of the season.

• Knighten owns a team-best .459 on-base percentage during her streak.

Knighten's Consistency Continues

Senior MJ Knighten has continued her remarkable career consistency this season.

• Knighten has six home runs this season becoming the fifth Husker to hit more than five home runs all four years of her career. The other Huskers to accomplish that feat are Tatum Edwards, Jennifer Lizama, Brooke Thomason and Nicole Trimboli.

• Knighten has totaled 51 hits this year, giving her at least 50 hits all four seasons of her career. The only other Huskers with four 50-hit seasons are Jennifer Lizama, Kim Ogee and Nicole Trimboli.

• Knighten owns 28 RBIs this season. With two more RBIs, she would become the fourth Husker to produce 30 RBIs all four seasons of her career. The other Huskers to accomplish that feat are Taylor Edwards, Brooke Thomason and Nicole Trimboli.

• Knighten is currently batting .323 and is bidding to become the seventh Husker to hit .300 all four years of her career. The other Huskers to accomplish that feat are Denise Day, Tobin Echo-Hawk, Jennifer Lizama, Kim Ogee, Brooke Thomason and Ali Viola.

McClure Pitching Well

Senior Cassie McClure has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 consecutive appearances. She owns a 5-2 record with a 2.13 ERA in 46.0 innings over that stretch.

• McClure has allowed one or no earned runs in five of her last 10 outings.

• McClure allowed only two earned runs in 9.2 innings in the Purdue series to post a 1.45 ERA, but discomfort in her forearm forced her to exit Sunday's game early.

• McClure had won four straight decisions before taking the loss at Purdue last Saturday, despite allowing only one unearned run in 5.2 innings of three-hit relief.

• McClure picked up her first win over a ranked team in a 14-0 (5) victory over No. 25 Illinois on April 23. She fired a three-hit shutout, NU's only shutout this season.

• The shutout was the fourth of McClure's career and was her second career shutout vs. a ranked team, as she also shut out No. 1 Michigan last season.

Jablonski Also Pitching Well

Junior Kaylan Jablonski is pitching her best of late.

• Jablonski is 8-6 with two saves and a 3.27 ERA over the past seven weeks. Over the first seven weeks of the season, Jablonski was 3-10 with a 5.83 ERA.

• She has lowered her season ERA from 5.83 after seven weeks of play to its current mark of 4.36, shaving nearly 1.5 runs off her season ERA.

• Jablonski went 7-4 with two saves and a 2.58 ERA in April. She appeared in 16 of Nebraska's 20 games in April while throwing more than 60 percent of the Huskers' total innings.

Scouting No. 12 Seed Penn State (22-32)

Penn State brings a 22-32 record into the Big Ten Tournament. The 12th-seeded Nittany Lions finished 12th in the final regular-season conference standings with an 8-15 record in Big Ten play, including a 4-13 record against the other 11 teams that qualified for the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State was swept by No. 4 Minnesota in a three-game series last weekend, losing all three games in run-rule fashion by a combined score of 35-3. Penn State lost seven of its final nine regular-season games, and the Huskers swept a three-game series from the Nittany Lions in Lincoln in mid-April.

Offensively, Penn State hits .258 as a team and averages 3.6 runs per game. The Nittany Lions have been held to one or no runs in six of their last eight games. During the conference season, PSU posted a .244 batting average while scoring an average of 3.5 runs per game.

Tori Dubois is Penn State's top hitter. Dubois owns a team-best .351 average with a team-high six home runs and 29 RBIs. Dubois hit .457 in Big Ten play - .174 higher than any other Nittany Lion - while totaling 32 hits, 14 more than any of her teammates. She also led PSU with five doubles, two triples, five homers and 19 RBIs in league play. Behind Dubois, Rebecca Ziegler is batting .313 as the only other Nittany Lion with an average above .285. Ziegler leads Penn State with 11 doubles and ranks second with five home runs. Toni Polk ranks third on the team with a .284 average and leads the Nittany Lions with three triples and six stolen bases. Kristina Brackpool owns a .279 average with eight doubles, four homers and 29 RBIs, while Shelby Miller has also totaled eight doubles and four home runs while batting .271 with a team-high 32 RBIs. Brackpool and Miller each added 14 RBIs in conference play, as the trio of Dubois, Brackpool and Miller accounted for 47 of Penn State's 78 RBIs in Big Ten action (60 percent).

Defensively, Penn State boasts a 4.30 ERA and allows an average of 5.2 runs per game. The Nittany Lions owned a 5.19 ERA in Big Ten play and allowed 6.1 runs per game.

Marlaina Laubach is the Nittany Lion ace, compiling an 11-11 record with one save and a 3.41 ERA in a team-high 143.2 innings. Laubach leads Penn State in nearly every pitching category, and she was 5-6 with one save and a 3.69 ERA in Big Ten play. Madison Seifert has seen the most action behind Laubach, posting a 4-9 record with a 4.23 ERA in 82.2 innings, including a 1-3 record with a 5.42 ERA in conference action. Jessica Cummings (3-4, 4.60 ERA in 45.2 IP), Madey Smith (3-4, 6.33 ERA in 42.0 IP) and Madison Shaffer (1-4, 5.19 ERA in 31.0 IP) have also seen extensive action, while Amanda Ferlisi has made five appearances and is 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA in 4.2 innings.

This Year's Series vs. Penn State

Nebraska swept a three-game home series from Penn State on April 14, 15 and 16. The three games were decided by a total of four runs and the first two victories in the series were walk-off wins for Nebraska.

The series opener was tied 1-1 with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning when Austen Urness capped a three-hit day with a walk-off home run. Kaylan Jablonski earned the win for Nebraska by firing a five-hitter, while Penn State's Marlaina Laubach took the loss despite allowing only one earned run in a complete-game effort.

In game two, Penn State led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning before Nebraska rallied for the largest known final-inning comeback in program history. Aided by two errors, two walks and a pair of singles, Nebraska cut the lead to 4-2 and had the bases loaded with one out. Urness then hit a ground ball back to the circle that was fielded by Laubach, but her throw home was wild, allowing both the tying and winning runs to score.

Penn State nearly turned the tables on Nebraska in the series finale. The Huskers led 6-1 heading to the seventh inning but Tori Dubois hit a three-run homer to cut the lead to two before Jablonski closed out a complete-game win with a strikeout.

Jablonski went 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA in the series and was 3-for-10 with two doubles and two RBIs at the plate. Tristen Edwards went 6-for-12 in the series with a double and two RBIs, while Urness was 5-for-11 with a home run.

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