NU Softball: Huskers Open March Schedule at Woo Pig Classic

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Courtesy: UNL Media Relations

Huskers Open March Schedule at Woo Pig Classic
LINCOLN – The Nebraska softball team faces its busiest schedule of the season this weekend when the Huskers play five games in three days at the Woo Pig Classic, hosted by the University of Arkansas.

Nebraska opens the tournament on Friday against IUPUI at 10 a.m. before taking on Arkansas at 3 p.m. The Huskers face IUPUI again on Saturday at 10 a.m. before meeting Lamar at 12:30 p.m. NU closes the tournament with a second game against Lamar on Sunday at 10 a.m. All five games can be heard live on Huskers.com, courtesy of the Husker Sports Network.

The Woo Pig Classic will mark the only time this season Nebraska will play five games in a weekend or in a three-day span. While more games await the Huskers in Arkansas, NU will get a break from what has been a daunting early-season schedule.
Nebraska will not face a ranked team this weekend after playing 10 of its first 12 games against current top-25 teams. Although NU does not face a ranked opponent this weekend, Arkansas (11-1) is off to the best start in school history and receiving votes in the poll, while Lamar has lost its five games to Power Five Conference teams by a combined six runs and IUPUI has won two straight.

The Huskers finally broke through against the tough schedule with a pair of wins last weekend. After a hard-fought losses to Tennessee and Cal – both of whom are ranked this week – Nebraska upset No. 20 Missouri, 4-1. NU had its best pitching performance of the year against the Tigers, posting season lows of two hits and one run allowed. The Husker offense then exploded for its best performance, homering three times in a 10-6 win over Oregon State.

This Week’s Top 10

1) Of Nebraska’s 12 games, 11 have come against opponents who have been ranked in the NFCA poll, including 10 teams currently ranked in the top 25 and nine teams ranked at game time.

2) Oregon State is the only unranked team NU has faced, and the Beavers received the most votes of any non-ranked team in the preseason NFCA poll.

3) Nebraska has played a nation-leading 10 games against teams ranked in this week’s NFCA poll.

4) Based on this week’s NFCA poll, Nebraska will play 13 of its first 20 games against ranked teams.

5) The combined record of NU’s opponents thus far is 92-19-1 (.826), while the starting pitchers in the Huskers’ 10 losses are a combined 62-4.

6) Nebraska is 0-3 all-time in road games against teams from the Southeastern Conference heading into Friday’s game at Arkansas..

7) Nebraska has scored 14 runs in its last two games after scoring 11 runs in its first 10 games.

8) The Husker pitching staff posted a 2.85 ERA last weekend after compiling a 7.10 ERA through the first two weeks of the season.

9) With a run scored against Oregon State last Sunday, MJ Knighten became the third Husker to total 150 career hits, 150 career runs and 150 career RBIs.

10) MJ Knighten has been named one of 30 national candidates for the Senior CLASS Award. She is the sixth Husker to be a candidate for the award.

Husker Offense Comes Alive

Nebraska’s offense appeared to begin to hit its stride in the final two games of the Mary Nutter Classic last week.

• In its final two games last weekend – wins over No. 20 Missouri and Oregon State – Nebraska scored 14 runs. The Huskers had scored only 11 runs through their first 10 games of the season.

• NU had been shut out in four consecutive games before scoring four times in its 4-1 victory over No. 20 Missouri. The Huskers had not scored in 34 innings before plating one run in the third inning against the Tigers.

• Overall, NU scored in eight of its final 10 innings last week after scoring in only seven of its first 66 innings.

• The Huskers had six extra-base hits against Missouri and Oregon State (three doubles, three home runs). Nebraska had recorded only five extra-base hits in the first 10 games of the season.

• Nebraska had seven hits with runners in scoring position in the two games (7-for-18, .389), matching its total from the first 10 games combined (7-for-37, .189).

• Nebraska set season highs with 10 runs and 11 hits in the 10-6 win over Oregon State in its last game.

• The Huskers posted a six-run fourth inning against the Beavers, their highest-scoring inning of the year. Prior to the six-run fourth inning, NU had scored only six runs over its previous 41 innings combined.

• NU hit three home runs vs. Oregon State, snapping a 10-game homerless drought. The Huskers’ only home run entering the game came during the season opener.

Husker Pitching Also Posts Progress

While the Husker bats came alive, Nebraska’s pitching showed more of its promise last week.

• The Huskers posted a 2-2 record with a 2.85 ERA at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic against a schedule that included two games vs. ranked opponents and two games against teams receiving votes in the top-25 poll.

• NU allowed four fewer runs per game last week than it had allowed through the first two weeks of the season.

• The Huskers’ ERA was 4.25 lower last week than it was the first two weeks of the season, while NU’s opponent batting average was .131 lower.

• Individually, Kaylan Jablonski and Cassie McClure both recorded their first win and save of the season last week.

• Jablonski earned the win over No. 20 Missouri – her first career victory over a ranked opponent – before registering her first career save vs. Oregon State.

• McClure picked up the save against the 20th-ranked Tigers and earned the win in relief vs. Oregon State.

• McClure also threw a complete-game against Cal last Saturday, allowing only two runs.

NU Seeking Rare Road Win vs. SEC Team

Nebraska will seek a rare road win over an SEC opponent on Friday when NU takes on Arkansas at Bogle Park.

• The game at Arkansas will mark Nebraska’s fourth regular-season road game against an SEC opponent.

• Nebraska is 0-3 in regular-season road games against SEC teams (0-1 at Auburn; 0-2 at Texas A&M).

• Nebraska is 2-9 all-time in road games vs. SEC teams.

Edwards Posts Multi-Homer Game

Freshman Tristen Edwards hit two home runs in Nebraska’s 10-6 victory over Oregon State last Sunday. The home runs were the first of Edwards’ career.

• Edwards became the first Husker freshman to post a multi-homer game since her older sister Tatum – NU’s graduate manager – accomplished the feat in 2011.

• Overall, Tristen is just the sixth Husker to post a multi-homer game as a freshman. No Husker freshman has ever recorded two multi-homer games.

• Edwards’ first career multi-homer effort came just 11 games into her career. She is the third-fastest Husker to record a multi-homer game.

Metzler Settling in as NU Centerfielder

Junior Gina Metzler is off to a fast start this season and has started 10 straight games, including nine in center, where NU is replacing two-time All-American Kiki Stokes.

• Metzler leads NU with 10 hits and five runs. She also leads all regulars with a .323 average, and Metzler is tied for the team lead with two doubles.

• Metzler has 10 hits in 31 at bats (.323) this season after recording 11 hits in 40 at bats (.275) in 2016.

• Metzler has two multi-hit games in her 10 starts this season. In her first 49 starts the past two seasons, Metzler totaled three multi-hit games.

• Metzler has two doubles in 31 at bats this season, after totaling one double in 69 at bats the past two seasons.

• Metzler has two RBIs this season after totaling four RBIs in her first two years combined.

• In eight starts vs. ranked teams, Metzler is 7-for-24 (.292) with one double and one RBI. Her .292 average vs. ranked teams is the second-highest of any Husker.

• Metzler owns a career-long four-game hitting streak. She is 5-for-13 (.385) in the streak. Overall, Metzler has hit safely in eight of her 10 starts including six of her eight starts against ranked opponents.

Jablonski Earns First Save in Odd Fashion

Junior right-hander Kaylan Jablonski earned her first career save in odd fashion in the Huskers’ 10-6 victory over Oregon State last weekend.

• Jablonski earned the start against the Beavers and was removed from the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning of a 2-2 tie.

• Oregon State ended the half inning with a 5-2 lead before Nebraska scored six times in the bottom of the frame.

• With Nebraska leading 8-5, Jablonski re-entered the game to start the fifth inning and allowed only an unearned run over the final three innings.

• Jablonski earned the save and not the win despite throwing 6.2 innings and recording every out but the final out of the fourth inning.

Freshmen Firsts

There were a flurry of firsts for Nebraska’s freshmen last week at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

• Bree Boruff appeared as a pinch runner against Oregon State and stole her first base in her first career attempt.

• Rindy Bryant hit safely in each of Nebraska’s final three games, the longest hitting streak of her young career. She also recorded her first career extra-base hit with a double vs. No. 20 Missouri and scored the first run of her career against the Tigers.

• Tristen Edwards went 2-for-3 with two homers, two runs and three RBIs in the Huskers’ win over Oregon State. That marked her first career home runs, her first career RBIs, her first career multi-hit game and the first time she has scored multiple runs in a game.

• Lexey Kneib pinch hit against Oregon State and drew a walk, marking the first time she had reached base in her six plate appearances.

• Sydney McLeod made the first relief appearance of her career with a scoreless inning against No. 15 Tennessee.

• Alexis Perry went 2-for-3 in the Huskers’ upset of No. 20 Missouri. It marked Perry’s second multi-hit game, but she scored the first run of her career, and her run proved to be the game-winner.

• Haley Donaldson did not have a career first last weekend, but she leads all freshmen with five hits and a .357 average, while ranking second with two RBIs.

Knighten Joins Elite Husker Club

Nebraska senior MJ Knighten joined an elite Husker club last weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.

• Knighten scored one run in Nebraska’s 10-6 win over Oregon State to become just the third Husker to total 150 career hits, runs and RBIs. She joined three-time All-American Ali Viola and two-time All-American Taylor Edwards in that exclusive club.

NU Faced Tough Foes in February

Nebraska went 2-10 in February in large part due to playing the most challenging schedule in the country.

• Nine of Nebraska’s 12 games in the month of February came against teams ranked at game time.

• Of those nine games vs. ranked opponents, four came against teams ranked in the top three (No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Auburn and No. 3 Florida State twice).

• Overall, 11 of the Huskers’ 12 February games came against teams that earned a ranking during the season’s opening month, as both BYU and Cal moved into the top 25 the week after playing Nebraska.

• The only unranked team Nebraska faced in February was Oregon State, which received the most votes of any non-ranked team in the preseason NFCA poll and received votes in each of the first three polls.

• At one point, Nebraska played eight consecutive games against opponents ranked at game time. That marked the longest streak of consecutive games against ranked opponents in school history.

• If you include teams that moved into the top 25 after playing Nebraska, then the Huskers faced a ranked opponent in each of their first 11 games in 2017.

• Nebraska’s 10 February opponents combined to post a 92-19-1 record in the season’s opening month, winning 83 percent of their games.

• Currently, eight of the Huskers’ first 10 opponents are ranked. Nebraska’s 10 games against current top-25 teams are the most of any team in the nation.

Scouting IUPUI (4-11)

IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) is 4-11 this season but is 4-4 since opening the year with seven straight losses. The Jaguars went 2-3 last weekend, concluding the tournament with back-to-back 6-1 victories over Wright State and Austin Peay.

Offensively, IUPUI has slugged 10 home runs and is hitting .261 while averaging 3.9 runs per game. The Jaguars’ top four hitters are all seniors. Alyssa Matson leads the team with a .407 average and paces IUPUI with 22 hits, 11 runs, five doubles and one triple. Maggie Good is batting .341 with team-high totals of three home runs and 15 RBIs. Taylor Chitwood owns a .306 average with four doubles, one triple and 12 RBIs. Rounding out the quartet of senior hitters is Roni Patterson, who is hitting .262 with a team-high seven walks and three stolen bases.

Defensively, IUPUI is allowing an average of 6.6 runs per game. The Jaguars own a 5.21 ERA and have allowed 22 unearned runs in 15 games. Nickole Finch has seen the most action of IUPUI’s three pitchers. Finch has appeared in 12 of the Jaguars’ 15 games, compiling a 3-4 record with one save and a 5.50 ERA in 48.1 innings. Erica Tharp is 1-6 with a 4.69 ERA. She has struck out 17 and walked only eight, but has also allowed nine home runs. Maggie Armstrong (0-1, 8.40 ERA in 8.1 IP) rounds out the staff.

Scouting Arkansas (11-1)

Arkansas brings an 11-1 record into a Wednesday game at Oklahoma State. The Razorbacks are off to the best start in program history. Arkansas opened the year with eight consecutive victories before losing to Florida Atlantic, 3-1, last Friday. The Razorbacks bounced back from their first loss to end last weekend with three straight wins.

The Razorbacks have excelled offensively and defensively while outscoring their opponents 97-18 on the season. At the plate, Arkansas boasts a .338 average. The Razorbacks led the nation in home runs (25) and rank second in slugging percentage (.634) and fourth in scoring (8.1). Defensively, Arkansas ranks ninth nationally in ERA, and the Razorback staff is limiting opposing hitters to a .186 average with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 4-to-1.

Offensively, five Razorback regulars are hitting above .350 and nine players have homered. Nicole Schroeder leads the team with a .457 average, 16 hits, four doubles, one triple, seven homers and 22 RBIs. She ranks among the nation’s top five hitters in home runs (3rd), RBIs (3rd) and slugging percentage (5th). Autumn Russell is also hitting above .400, posting a .433 average with 13 hits in 30 at bats. Tori Cooper owns a .375 average in her seven starts with four home runs and nine RBIs. Shelby Hiers is batting .357 and has posted team-high totals of 13 walks and 18 runs in only 12 games. Katie Warrick is the fifth Razorback hitting above .350, as she owns a .355 average with four homers and 11 RBIs.

In the circle, Arkansas has primarily relied on the duo of Grace Moll and Autumn Storms. The two have each appeared in seven games with six starts apiece. Moll leads the team with 32.2 innings pitched, and she is 5-0 with a 1.50 ERA. She has struck out 39 batters and allowed only five extra-base hits in her 32.2 innings. Storms is 4-1 with a 0.79 ERA in 26.2 innings. Opponents are hitting a paltry .191 against Storms and have struck out 23 times while walking only once. The three other Razorbacks to see action this season have yet to allow a run. Katie Warrick is 1-0 over three appearances and 6.2 scoreless innings, Allison Stewart is 1-0 in 4.0 scoreless innings and Caroline Hedgcock has allowed only one base runner in her 2.0 scoreless inning.

Scouting Lamar (5-10)

Lamar enters this weekend with a 5-10 record against a challenging schedule. The Cardinals went 3-2 at their home tournament last weekend, suffering a pair of one-run losses to Kansas (1-0) and Tulsa (5-4). Seven of Lamar’s 10 losses have been one-run defeats. Against teams from a Power Five Conference, the Cardinals have lost a pair of one-run games at No. 5 Texas A&M, a one-run game vs. an Ohio State squad receiving votes in the top-25 poll, a two-run game at No. 22 Baylor and last Saturday’s one-run loss to a Kansas.

Despite its record, Lamar has only been outscored 54-50 this season. The Cardinals have hit only one home run and average just 3.3 runs per game, but they allow only 3.6 runs per game.

Offensively, Brittany Rodriguez leads the way with a .396 average. She also leads Lamar with 19 hits, nine runs, three stolen bases and one triple. Brynn Baca is batting .349, and she has slugged the Cardinals’ lone home run. Baca also leads Lamar with two doubles, 10 RBIs and a .465 slugging percentage. Corina Thornton (.333) is the only other Cardinal hitting above .300, but she has only started six of Lamar’s 12 games.

In the circle, Ciara Luna is the Cardinals’ ace. Luna is a hard-luck 1-7 this season with losses to Texas A&M twice, Ohio State, Kansas and Tulsa. Luna’s lone win came against South Dakota State. Luna has appeared in 11 of Lamar’s 15 games, making nine starts while compiling a 4.45 ERA in 54.2 innings. Laura Napoli has seen the most action behind Luna, posting a 3-3 record with a 4.45 ERA in 28.1 innings. Anissa Rodriguez (1-0, 0.87 ERA in 10.1 IP), Amie Cisneros (0-0, 3.86 ERA in 7.0 IP) and Julia Voluntad (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 1.0 IP) round out the staff.