NEB Softball: Top-10 Teams Await Nebraska in Cathedral City

Posted By: Sports

sports@klkntv.com

The Nebraska softball team closes out the opening month of the season this weekend with a challenging schedule at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, Calif.

The Huskers will face three of the top nine teams in this week’s NFCA coaches’ poll during their four games at the Big League Dreams Complex. Nebraska’s four opponents have combined for a 35-7 record entering this weekend.

NU opens the tournament on Friday at Noon (Central) against seventh-ranked Oregon, which has advanced to the Women’s College World Series in each of the last two seasons. Up next is No. 1 Florida, the two-time defending national champion who is 11-0 this season. The Huskers, who defeated No. 1 Florida in 2011, square off at 7:30 p.m. (Central) on Friday.
On Saturday, the Huskers face an unranked San Diego State team at 7 p.m. (Central). The Aztecs are 7-3 this season and have advanced to eight consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Nebraska wraps up the tournament on Sunday against No. 9 Washington (9-1) at 11 a.m. (Central). The Huskies received a first-place vote this week.

Fans have a variety of options to follow all of the exciting action from Cathedral City. Nate Rohr will have the call for a free radio broadcast of every game on Huskers.com, courtesy of the Husker Sports Network.

FloSoftball will also offer a live video stream of every game this weekend, including non-Nebraska games. A monthly subscription costs $19.99 and fans can find more information on flosoftball.com.

This Week’s Top 10

  1. Nebraska has matched the best nine-game start in program history with an 8-1 record.
  2. With two wins, Nebraska would record 10 victories in February for only the fifth time in school history.
  3. The Huskers will play three of the top nine teams in the NFCA coaches’ poll this weekend (No. 1 Florida, No. 7 Oregon and No. 9 Washington).
  4. Nebraska faces three different top-10 opponents in a four-game span for only the second time in program history (also in 1998).
  5. The last time Nebraska faced three different top-10 opponents in the same weekend was the 2013 Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, when NU went 0-3 vs. No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Cal and No. 9 Oregon.
  6. Nebraska owns two wins over a No. 1-ranked team in program history, and both times the Huskers handed the No. 1 team its first loss.
  7. On March 12, 2011, Nebraska defeated 24-0 and top-ranked Florida, 1-0. On March 2, 2013, NU defeated 17-0 and top-ranked Oklahoma, 1-0.
  8. Nebraska has defeated a ranked opponent in each of its past five trips to the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, including a 5-2 upset of 10th-ranked Tennessee last season.
  9. The Huskers rank 10th nationally with 15 home runs, the highest total ever after nine games.
  10. Nebraska has a total of five California natives who will be returning home this weekend.

Huskers Off to Strong Start
Nebraska is 8-1 this season, matching the best nine-game start in program history. The 2016 squad is one of eight Nebraska teams to begin a year with an 8-1 record.

• Nebraska’s 8-1 record is tied for the best record among Big Ten teams, and the Huskers’ .889 winning percentage is tied for 18th nationally.

• Each of the first seven teams to begin the season with an 8-1 record went on to post a top-20 national finish.

• Nebraska needs two wins to become the fifth Husker team to post double-digit wins in the month of February.

Husker History in Cathedral City
Nebraska is participating in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic for the seventh time in eight seasons.

• The Huskers are 13-17 all-time in Cathedral City with only one winning record in their seven trips.

• Including this year, 22 of Nebraska’s 34 all-time games at the tournament have come against ranked opponents.

• NU is 6-13 vs. ranked opponents at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, including 2-8 vs. top-10 teams.

Pitching Much Improved From 2015
One of the biggest areas targeted for improvement during the offseason was pitching, with an emphasis on throwing strikes. The results have been positive through two weeks.

• Nebraska has allowed 27 runs through nine games this season after allowing 61 runs through the first nine games of the 2015 season.

• The Huskers’ ERA is nearly five runs per game lower this season than it was through nine games a season ago.

• Nebraska has walked only 17 batters in 60.0 innings this season after walking 39 batters in 52.0 innings through the first nine games last season.

• The Huskers had a negative strikeout-to-walk ratio through the first nine games of 2015 (33 strikeouts, 39 walks), while NU has better than a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2016 (43 strikeouts, 17 walks).

• Nebraska is throwing an average of 15.4 pitches per inning this spring after averaging 20.5 pitches per inning through the first nine games of 2015.

Cassie McClure has a 1.81 ERA in 19.1 innings this season after having a 4.36 ERA in 17.2 innings through the first nine games of last season.

Kaylan Jablonski owns a 2.53 ERA in 19.1 innings this season after having a 9.13 ERA in 7.2 innings through her first nine games last season.

Emily Lockman has a 2.41 ERA in 20.1 innings this season after having an 8.45 ERA in 25.2 innings through the first nine games of 2015.

Nebraska vs. No. 1
Nebraska will take on No. 1 Florida in the Huskers’ second game Friday. That will mark the 13th time Nebraska has faced the No. 1 team in the NFCA coaches’ poll since the poll’s inception in 1995.

• Nebraska is 2-10 all-time vs. the top-ranked team, including a 2-7 record in the regular season and an 0-1 mark at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

• The Huskers’ first win over a No. 1 team was a 1-0 victory over Florida on March 12, 2011, in Clearwater, Fla.

Comeback Kids
Nebraska has shown the ability to come from behind as the Huskers have trailed in three of their eight wins.

• Nebraska is 3-0 when trailing after five innings and 2-0 when trailing after six innings. In 2015, the Huskers were 1-17 when trailing after five innings and 0-17 when trailing after six innings.

• Nebraska rallied from a 4-1 seventh-inning deficit in the season opener at Northern Iowa to win 7-4 in eight innings.

• The Huskers came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat North Carolina State, 6-1, last Friday.

• Last Saturday, Nebraska was tied 3-3 with Louisville before Kiki Stokes delivered a walk-off, RBI single with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.

• The Huskers have outscored their opponents 31-15 from the fifth inning on, a total that would be even more impressive had Nebraska not allowed eight seventh-inning runs to North Carolina State last Saturday, when the Huskers lost a two-run seventh-inning lead.

• All told, Nebraska has produced the winning run in the sixth inning or later in four of its eight victories.

Stokes a Senior CLASS Award Candidate
Senior Kiki Stokes was one of 30 players nationally to be named a candidate for the 2016 Senior CLASS Award.

• To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition.

• Stokes is the fifth Husker to be a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award since 2011. No Husker softball player has ever won the award.

Scouting No. 7 Oregon (8-3)
Oregon is 8-3 and ranked seventh following a 3-2 weekend that included a pair of losses to then-No. 7 Louisiana. The Ducks defeated ULL once, while each of Oregon’s three losses this season have come to top-20 teams.

Offensively, Oregon boasts a potent lineup that averages 8.0 runs per game. The Ducks rank seventh nationally in doubles, eighth in homers, 10th in slugging percentage, 14th in scoring and 17th in average. Koral Costa leads the team with a .515 average and 13 RBIs, while three other starters are hitting above .400 and three more are hitting .333 or higher.

In the circle, the Ducks’ ace is two-time first-team All-American Cheridan Hawkins. The lefty is 3-2 this season with a 3.78 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. She is the active leader among all Division I pitchers with 86 wins, 866 strikeouts, 26 shutouts and 16 saves. Freshman Megan Kleist (4-1, 1.70 ERA in 24.2 IP) and All-American Geri Ann Glasco (1-0, 2.10 ERA in 16.2 IP) are the primary pitchers behind Hawkins.

Oregon is coached by Mike White, who owns a 288-86-1 record in his seventh season in Eugene.

Scouting No. 1 Florida (11-0)
Florida, the two-time defending national champion, has outscored its opponents 90-4 en route to an 11-0 record, which includes an 8-0 run-rule victory over No. 2 Michigan.

The top-ranked Gators average 8.2 runs per game while batting .368 as a team. Florida ranks second nationally in on-base percentage (.517), 11th in scoring and 13th in average. Amanda Lorenz leads the Gators with a .571 average that ranks 19th nationally, and she also leads the team with four doubles and 11 walks. Janell Wheaton is one of three other Gators hitting .400 or better, and Wheaton leads the team with two homers and 13 RBIs.

Defensively, Florida leads the country in fielding percentage (.996) – committing only one error – and is second in ERA (0.45). Delanie Gourley is 4-0 this season in 19.0 shutout innings. She has allowed only six hits and struck out 30, while leading the nation with three shutouts. Aleshia Ocasio is also 4-0 with a 0.28 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, while Kelly Barnhill has compiled a 3-0 record with a 1.19 ERA in 17.2 innings.

Florida is coached by Tim Walton, who owns a 563-121 record in 11 years at Florida and a 686-185 career record.

Scouting San Diego State (7-3)
San Diego State brings a 7-3 record into the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. The Aztecs have won six of their last seven games. San Diego State has made eight consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a regional runner-up finish at UCLA last season.

SDSU is batting .280 as a team and averaging 4.4 runs per game. Zaria Meshack has started only half of the games but is 9-for-14 (.643) with a team-high seven runs and four stolen bases. Samantha Camello is batting .333 with two doubles and two triples. Sam Vlot owns a .313 average and is tied with Katie Byrd for the team lead with five RBIs.

In the circle, San Diego State ranks 39th nationally with a 2.05 ERA. Erica Romero has seen the most action, posting a 5-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 28.2 innings. Behind Romero, Julie McDonald (1-0, 0.95 ERA in 14.2 IP), Ashley Ercolano (1-1, 1.91 ERA in 11.0 IP) and Alex Formby (0-2, 3.94 ERA in 10.2 IP) have split the innings.

The Aztecs are coached by Kathy Van Wyk, the five-time Mountain West Coach of the Year. Van Wyk owns a 662-433 record in 20 seasons at San Diego State.

Scouting No. 9 Washington (9-1)
Washington is ranked ninth this week. The Huskies are 9-1 on the season with wins over No. 9 Oklahoma (10-3), No. 15 Minnesota (7-2) and No. 15 UCF (9-7).

The Huskies are led by one of the nation’s top offenses. Washington is averaging 10.4 runs per game while posting a .390 average, including 26 doubles and 14 homers.

Trysten Melhart is batting .500 to open the season, while Kimberlee Souza is hitting .444 with three home runs and 15 RBIs. Julia DePonte is right behind with a .441 average, and she leads the team with four homers while adding 18 RBIs. All-American Ali Aguilar, the reigning NFCA National Player of the Week, is hitting .342 with five doubles, three homers and 20 RBIs.

In the circle, Washington boasts a 3.28 ERA. Madi Schreyer is 5-0 with a 1.40 ERA and three shutouts. Taran Alvelo is 3-0 with a 4.25 ERA in 26.1 innings, while Casey Stengel is 1-1 with a 7.30 ERA in 7.2 innings.

Washington is led by Heather Tarr, who owns a 452-197-1 record in her 12th season at her alma mater. Tarr led Washington to the 2009 national title.