Nebraska vs. Texas- Friday May 15th, 3:30 PM
How they got here: The offense has been the main force behind the Huskers. The unit ranks 14th nationally in run per game entering May 9th at 7.11. It is both an efficient unit with a 13th ranked on-base percentage, and a powerful one, ranking 32nd in slugging. Lately, the Huskers have been playing some of their best softball. The team's loss in the Big Ten conference title game was just its third since mid-April.
Who to know: Nebraska’s offense is generated by a big three of catcher Steph Pasquale, center fielder Kiki Stokes and third baseman MJ Knighten. All three are slugging over .600 on the season. Knighten is probably the best pure hitter of the group, leading the conference in hits and finishing top-5 in average. Stokes provides power, tying for a team high 11 home runs, and speed, leading the team in steals.
Outlook: The Husker offense should allow the team to hang around, but it is the pitching which is a real red flag. Nebraska’s collective ERA was 4.60 with opponents hitting .291. In fairness, just three other teams in the Big Ten posted an ERA less than three, so the numbers could be a bit inflated. Still, the offense will likely have to carry this team to the next round.
How they got here: ASU survived a tough Pac-12 schedule (three Pac-12 schools are national seeds and hosting regionals). The Sun Devils offense is potent, ranking in the top-50 in average, slugging, and on base percentages. ASU has been a solid 7-4 in its last 11 games including, a walk-off win in the season finale against nationally seeded UCLA to finish third in the Pac-12.
Who to know: A key for the Sun Devils, at least in the first game, is the performance of Breanna Macha. Macha is a solid option posting an ERA just under four with 137 strikeouts. Offensively, Haley Steele is tied for 12th nationally with 67 RBIs. Steele is also one of four players on the Sun Devils with double-digit home runs on the year.
Outlook: For at least the first game, Arizona State might have a slight edge if Macha is pitching. However, they run into the same problem that Nebraska has with potentially suspect pitching depth. The good news is that ASU has had success against better teams including series wins over national seeds UCLA and Arizona so they shouldn’t be star struck entering the regional.
Texas Southern vs. No.5 LSU - Friday May 15th, 6 PM
How they got here: The SWAC Tournament Champions, TSU got hot at the right time with just two losses since the start of April. An impressive feat considering Texas Southern was seven games under .500 as of March 2nd. The Lady Tigers have been able to win with both offense and pitching during the impressive stretch, though the pitching as a whole has been the backbone throughout the season.
Who to know: Jasmine Fulmore has won her last six decisions and leads Texas Southern in ERA and strikeouts, despite starting the year as a reliever. TSU has also gotten solid seasons out of Sammantha Jimenez and Madison Staton. Offensively, Thomasina Garza ranked 30th nationally in batting average hitting .445
Outlook: The question for TSU is about where will the power will come from, both on offense and from the pitching. Offensively, the Lady Tigers do not stack up with the rest of the teams in the regional. The TSU pitching has been good, but there does not appear to be a power pitcher in this group with not one pitcher recording more than 100 strikeouts.
How they got here: Although LSU is a national seed, they have limped to the finish line, losers of six of its last nine including their only game in the SEC Tournament. Still, LSU was one of the top teams in the nation during the regular season including series wins over now, No.1 overall seed Florida and two separate stints as the No.1 ranked team during the regular season. LSU ranks near the top in most major offensive and pitching categories.
Who to know: LSU’s most potent offensive player is Bianka Bell. The First Team All-SEC selection, Bell finished the season in the top five in the conference for hits, runs scored, RBI’s, doubles, and total bases. Perhaps even more remarkable is the despite those accomplishments, she is still second on the team in home runs and RBIs to Sahvannah Jaquish.
Outlook: LSU picked a bad time for a losing streak. What stands out during the last few games is how the offense has struggled, having scored two runs or fewer in five of their last eight regular season games. At the end of the day this is an All-Star team with more first team All-SEC members, four, than any other team in the conference. If the team plays up to it’s numbers, they should cruise through the regional.
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