UNO coach Jeanne Scarpello forecasts a hitting display when Nebraska and Washington tangle in the opener of the Women's College World Series on Thursday.
And don't expect to see many fielding miscues, especially by the Huskies.
The Mavericks played both teams in March, losing 10-2 in five innings to the Huskies in the Colorado State Classic and twice to the Huskers, 3-2 and 4-0.
“I just think both teams, they are there for a reason,” Scarpello said. “They usually have all three areas of the game working for them.”
Start with offense.
Both teams have strong hitters, Scarpello said. As soon as you get past one threat in the lineup, up pops another.
Washington is hitting .309 and averaging 5.9 runs per game. Nebraska is hitting .312 with runners on base in the NCAA tournament and .339 with runners in scoring position. Eighteen of its 31 RBIs have come with two outs.
“Washington at the top has a little more speed,” Scarpello said, starting with junior outfielder Victoria Hayward. She sparks the team with a .380 average, five triples and 21 stolen bases, adding six doubles, five homers and 21 RBIs.
Both teams also shine on defense.
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The Huskies have the second-best fielding percentage in the country at .981, which Scarpello called remarkable. Washington, which allowed 2.7 runs per game, has given up two in its five NCAA tournament games.
“You can put the ball in play on them, but they make the plays,” she said. “They don't give you extra outs. That's a huge advantage for any team.”
The Huskers, with a .970 fielding percentage, have turned a nation-leading 48 double plays, 22 more than any other team in Oklahoma City.
“Nebraska does one heck of a job in getting out of jams with double plays,” Scarpello said.
Last but not least, pitching.
Kaitlin Inglesby and Bryana Walker handle the bulk of the pitching chores for the Huskies. Inglesby is 22-7 with a 1.87 ERA in 16813 innings. She has thrown 12 complete games, including four shutouts.
Walker is 19-7 with a 2.81 ERA in 172 innings. She has started a team-high 33 games and struck out 196. Opponents are hitting .217 against her, but have homered 25 times.
The Huskies have an ERA of 2.56, while NU is ninth in the country at 1.78.
Junior right-hander Tatum Edwards, the Big Ten pitcher of the year, has started five of Nebraska's six NCAA tournament games, throwing a complete game each time. She's 30-9 with a 1.81 ERA. Freshman Emily Lockman, who pitched NU past Oregon in the final game at the super regional, is 15-5 with a 1.74 ERA.
“NU has Tatum, who has had one heck of a year,” Scarpello said. “That freshman has done a heck of a job.”
Both teams have done a good job of preparing for the WCWS by playing tough competition. Nebraska is 45-14 and Washington 43-15.
Scarpello, who led her team to a 36-7 record, said it's tough to pick a favorite. Both teams have players who have come through with spectacular plays in clutch situations.
But anything can happen in a national tournament.
That being said, Scarpello said she'll be cheering for the home-state team.
“You want to finish with your best at the end, and they definitely seem to be doing that,” she said. “I think it's going to be a fun game to watch.”
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