The Nebraska softball team returns home one last time this weekend to take on the Maryland Terrapins and will look to win its second home Big Ten series of the season.
Nebraska returns from its two-game road trip against Iowa earlier in the week while Maryland continues its road trip after playing at Rutgers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Nebraska and Maryland are currently No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, in the Big Ten standings. The Huskers are 5-12 in conference play and 17-28 overall while the Terrapins are 4-13 in conference play and 20-25 overall.
The two schools have struggled against other Big Ten teams, but both can make a late season run to near the top of the Big Ten. Eight of the 14 Big Ten softball teams have six or fewer conference wins, which means that the Huskers can make a jump in the conference standings if they win this weekend.
Nebraska’s issue on offense has been inconsistent scoring. In April, the Huskers have been shut out four times and scored over five runs in a game four times.
The Husker offense struggled scoring in their last home series against Minnesota. Nebraska had six hits in each game against the Gophers, but only scored six total runs in the three-game series. Minnesota is a stronger team than Maryland, but the Huskers still cannot afford to leave runners on base.
The offense starts with senior outfielder Alyvia Simmons and junior infielder Tristen Edwards. The two are the only Husker batters to hit over .300 this season while having over 100 plate appearances. Edwards has 14 home runs and 41 RBIs this season, which makes her a threat on any plate appearance.
As seen in the wins over Iowa and Purdue, Simmons and Edwards cannot be the only ones producing for Nebraska. Freshman Lindsey Walljasper, senior Bri Cassidy and junior Samantha Owen have been key offensive players for Nebraska as all three have over 10 RBIs this season.
The Maryland offense has also struggled at time scoring runs, but has hit the ball well. The top six Maryland batters all hit over .300 with over 90 plate appearances.
The bullpens of Nebraska and Maryland have also had inconsistent play this season. For Maryland and Nebraska, giving up two to three runs in one game and double digits the next game against the same team has been a theme for the two schools.
Despite both team’s bullpen struggles, the two teams each have their own star pitcher. Nebraska senior Regan Mergele and Maryland’s Sydney Golden are the only players on their teams to throw below a 4.00 ERA. Mergele plays the closer role, but she has the ability to pitch three or four innings per game.
Golden is a starting pitcher and has the stamina to potentially pitch in multiple games as she has already thrown 123.1 innings. Golden has a 12-9 record as a starting pitcher and appeared in 27 games this season.
The pitching battle will not be decided by these two alone but by how the rest of the pitching staff plays this weekend.
Nebraska takes the advantage here as Walljasper, freshman Courtney Wallace and sophomore Olivia Ferrell all have an ERA in the fives. The three have starting experience with over 200 innings of pitching combined. Walljasper and Wallace also lead the team in innings pitched despite being freshmen.
Maryland’s pitching falls after Golden as its next three pitchers have an ERA of 5.16, 6.35 and 10.61. These Terrapin pitchers have only thrown 147.3 innings and that could spell trouble when Golden is not available to pitch.
The pitching staffs of both teams will be the difference in who wins the series. Both schools have offenses proven to hit well against other Big Ten teams, but the pitching staffs will need to limit the scoring and each team’s defense will need to play error-free.
The first game starts on Friday at 5:30 p.m. followed by Saturday’s game at 1 p.m. The final softball home game of the season starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday.