The Nebraska softball team will return home to play No. 18 Minnesota this weekend after winning its three-game series at Purdue last weekend.
The Huskers’ record sits at 15-24 overall with a 4-8 mark in the Big Ten heading into the three-game series against the Gophers. Minnesota is off to a strong start this season as it is currently 29-10 overall this year and in third place in the Big Ten with a 10-1 record in conference games.
This won’t be the first time Nebraska faces a top-tier Big Ten opponent this season. The Huskers already faced Northwestern and Michigan, which are first and second in the Big Ten, respectively. Nebraska was swept in both series.
Nebraska’s offense has struggled at times this season, but the Huskers’ bats woke up in the series against Purdue. Nebraska scored 20 runs in the series against the Boilermakers and compiled 28 hits.
The Huskers will need offensive production like that when they match up against Minnesota’s pitching staff which is one of the best in the Big Ten. The Gophers rank third in the conference with a team ERA of 1.93. Minnesota pitchers are holding opposing batters to a hitting percentage of .201 — good for third-best in the Big Ten — and rank fourth in the conference in strikeouts with 300.
The ace of the Gophers’ pitching staff is junior Amber Fiser. She has amassed an 18-6 record and a team-best 1.40 ERA in her 27 pitching appearances this season. Fiser also threw 14 complete games and is responsible for about ⅔ of Minnesota’s strikeouts with 199.
On offense, the Gophers like to swing for the fences. They have 45 home runs this season and a team slugging percentage of .501, both good for third in the Big Ten. Minnesota also hit 60 doubles this year, second-most in the Big Ten.
The two players who hit the hardest in Minnesota’s lineup are freshman utility player Natalie DenHartog and sophomore infielder Hope Brandner. They have combined for 23 home runs, about half of the Gophers’ team total for the year. DenHartog and Brandner also have the two highest slugging percentages at .773 and .746, respectively.
Nebraska holds the advantage in speed and has proven its ability to play small ball this year. The Huskers have the second-most stolen bases in the Big Ten this season with 60 and have only been caught stealing nine times.
Senior outfielder Alyvia Simmons and junior infielder Tristen Edwards lead the way for Nebraska in this category with 12 and 11 stolen bases, respectively. This could be crucial to the series as Minnesota makes its opponents earn every base they get. The Gophers have the fewest errors in the Big Ten and opponents have only successfully stolen on them 10 times this year.
Game one of the series begins Friday with first pitch scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Game two will be Saturday at 1 p.m. and the series will conclude with game three at noon on Sunday. Games one and three will air on BTN while game two will be shown on BTN Plus.