An electric home crowd could provide the jolt the Nebraska softball team’s offense needs this weekend.
The Huskers are holding their first regional tournament at Bowlin Stadium since 2007. Stanford and Tulsa open play at 4 p.m. Friday with NU facing Missouri Valley champion Northern Iowa at 7.
Competition continues Saturday with the finals set for 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner advances to the super regionals.
“It’s so awesome to be able to host at home,” sophomore first baseman Mattie Fowler said. “We’re really excited to come out and play on Friday in front of our home crowd. Hopefully, we get a lot of people there.”
Nebraska is hitting just .252 and has scored only 10 runs in its past five games, including three against a Penn State staff that ranks 273rd out of the 290 teams nationally in ERA. For the season, the Huskers are averaging 5.2 runs per game.
While most of the team has struggled, freshman Hailey Decker has been the exception, hitting .429 during a career-long seven-game hitting streak. She has a .714 slugging percentage and a .455 on-base percentage and is hitting .191 higher than the rest of the team.
No one is panicking, though.
The Huskers have been working on their hitting in practice. Nobody is making any big changes, Fowler said. They’re just working on their mechanics.
“The great thing about slumps, you know they are going to end,” she said. “Hitting is contagious, so hopefully we’ll get on a run in the postseason.”
Coach Rhonda Revelle said the Huskers have gone back to the basics: seeing the ball, being on time and landing the barrel on the ball.
Then she had time for a light moment.
“We are bathing our bats in an energy drink and lighting candles to break out of our slump,” she said. “All kidding aside, our approach has not changed a lot. There are points in every season that scoring runs is challenging. … It is the nature of the beast in our sport. And, as we get deeper into postseason, the pitching that we will face gets better and better.”
That lack of hitting was costly in Nebraska’s 1-0 loss to Minnesota last weekend in Lincoln in the Big Ten tournament, which Wisconsin won. It hurt not to win the title at home, where the Huskers have won 36 of their past 42 games dating back to 2011, and the Huskers are determined to do better. They’ve never won a regional at Bowlin in four tries in the past 12 years.
“It gives us a little more fire to come out and play in the postseason,” Fowler said.
Many times, the Huskers look to Fowler for that fire. She has 10 game-winning RBIs, including three in the seventh inning or later.
Fowler, who is hitting .256 with four home runs and 20 RBIs out of the seventh spot, said her heroics are always a team effort.
The Huskers have won 11 games on their final at-bat.
“We can do some damage one through nine in our lineup,” she said. “It will be fun to see what we can do.”
The Huskers don’t know much about Northern Iowa, which won the Valley tournament title and is 26-24. They’ll just concentrate on what they need to do to win.
For NU, that starts in the circle with pitchers Tatum Edwards (26-8, 1.85 ERA) and Emily Lockman (14-5, 1.73 ERA).
“Our pitchers have been solid all year long and they’ll come out and set the tone,” Fowler said.
While the offense has struggled some, the pitching staff has a 1.48 ERA in the past five games and the defense is fielding at a .987 percentage.
The Huskers need to bring that all together to prevail.
“In the postseason, all bets are off,” Fowler said. “Everyone is playing to win another day.”
Two Huskers make region first team
Nebraska pitchers Tatum Edwards and Emily Lockman were chosen as All-Midwest Region first-team selections on Thursday.
Edwards was a pitcher/utility selection, while Lockman was a pitcher. Senior Brooke Thomason was a second-team outfielder.
Edwards has a 26-8 record with a 1.85 ERA, while Lockman is 14-5 with a 1.73 ERA.
Creighton senior Amy Baker also was a first-team pick. Junior pitcher Becca Changstrom was on the second team.
Baker became the career leader in the Missouri Valley and Creighton record books with 58 home runs and 167 RBIs. Changstrom won the pitching triple crown in Valley play with 13 wins, 133 strikeouts and a 1.34 ERA.
UNO center fielder Allie Mathewson was the only Summit League player picked for the first team. She posted a team-high .395 average in her first year with the Mavericks.
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