The Nebraska softball team hopes Michigan doesn’t ruin its party this weekend.
The Huskers host the Big Ten leaders at 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
Saturday’s game will be shown on BTN and is the centerpiece of NU’s second World’s Largest Softball Tailgate. A record 1,752 fans attended last year.
The event begins at 10 a.m. with free hot dogs, chips and pop while supplies last. It will feature inflatables, balloon artists, face painting and a live pregame radio show. Softball players and other NU athletes will sign autographs.
“There is a lot of great festivities, the game is on TV and the sun is finally out with some warmth,” NU coach Rhonda Revelle said. “There is a lot of excitement in the air.”
NU will try to put a lid on the Wolverine offense, which leads the country with 7.6 runs per game and ranks second with a .351 batting average. That hot hitting has fueled 22 straight wins. The Wolverines (40-7, 16-0) need just two more to clinch their sixth straight Big Ten title.
Michigan has scored 105 more runs than any other Big Ten team.
“They are solid all the way around. They are scoring runs like nobody else’s business,” Revelle said. “On paper, we match up pretty well. I think it’s going to be a good battle all the way around.”
The Huskers (35-10, 12-4) are hitting .294 with a .399 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage. They’ve hit 11 homers in their past seven games.
At four games back, it may be a long shot to catch the Wolverines in the standings. But equally important for NU is to stay in the top four in the Big Ten for a first-round bye in the postseason tournament. The Huskers also would like to protect their No. 10 RPI ranking, which puts them in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
As daunting as Michigan’s numbers may be, Revelle said there will be no backing down.
“It’s not about who has the best athletes,” she said. “It’s about who comes up with timely hits or pitches or executions. Or who makes the fewest mistakes. I think it’s an evenly matched series.”
In other weekend series:
>> UNO will honor seniors Ashton Hughes, Molly Negrete and Lindsay Redding between games Saturday with Western Illinois.
The teams meet in a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday, both at noon. It’s the Mavs’ final Summit League home series.
The Mavs (32-5, 10-1) are alone in second place behind unbeaten North Dakota State (12-0). Western Illinois is 13-19 and 7-12.
>> After dropping a 6-0 decision to Nebraska on Wednesday, Creighton hits the road for a weekend series with Missouri State.
The Bluejays play a doubleheader Saturday and a single game Sunday, both at noon.
Creighton (26-13, 12-3) is in first place in the Missouri Valley. Missouri State (18-26, 9-10) has won three of its last four.
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