LINCOLN — It won't be the Nebraska softball team's home field when it heads to Oregon for this weekend's super regional. And the Huskers have lost 10 straight road games against Pac-12 opponents.
But NU coach Rhonda Revelle expects a healthy swath of red at the Ducks' Howe Field at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Oregonians for Nebraska, she said, “are a pretty noisy group.”
Two Huskers (junior Kylee Muir and freshman Hailey Decker) hail from Oregon — that's as many as the Ducks have — and Revelle spent her childhood in Eugene.
“We're excited to see where she grew up,” senior All-Big Ten outfielder Brooke Thomason said. “Most of us haven't been there.”
Said Revelle: “I may run them by my old high school, or who knows, where I played ball — if it's on the way. It's gorgeous there.”
And rare territory for Nebraska.
NU has never played in the state. Though most of the Huskers traveled on summer youth club teams, the traditional western circuit involves California, Arizona and a big tournament in Colorado.
Despite playing in the College World Series before, NU has never encountered a super regional, either. Since the NCAA created the best-of-three series in 2005 to gain entry into the CWS, the Huskers haven't qualified for it. This is as far as Nebraska's been, Revelle said, “in a long time.”
The Huskers are ready, Revelle said, for higher stakes. Thomason agreed.
“Pretty calm, cool and collected so far,” the Overland Park, Kan., native said. “We're excited to go to Oregon and play Nebraska softball. We'll play our game. They're a good team — but we're just as good.”
What does “Nebraska softball” look like?
Thomason pointed to the Huskers' regional wins — one against Northern Iowa and two vs. Stanford. Early, aggressive offense. A consistent defense that covers well and makes the opponent work for runs. And the typically strong pitching from Big Ten pitcher of the year Tatum Edwards and her freshman understudy, Emily Lockman.
“Last weekend we were really good at hitting early in the count, and we were hitting good pitches,” Thomason said of NU's offense, which scored 21 runs in three games after scoring 10 runs in the previous five. “We definitely want that mentality when we go to Oregon.”
The Ducks' fielding percentage is 49th nationally — vulnerable enough for the Huskers to puncture if the lineup can locate pitches from ace Jessica Moore.
On defense, Nebraska (43-13) will have to contend with a balanced Oregon attack that's ranked ninth in batting average and 13th in home runs. The Ducks (49-9) also have 35 more stolen bases than the Huskers.
“They are so balanced,” Revelle said.
Revelle said Edwards (29-8, 1.83 ERA) is ready for the challenge after pitching the first three postseason games of her career. Two years ago, Edwards played on Nebraska's regional team, but Ashley Hagemann had all of the innings.
“She threw a shutout in her first postseason game,” Revelle said. “She handled the adversity of a lightning delay and two rain delays, too. She's grown. She's grown as our team has grown.
“She's earned the right to pitch in that game this Saturday.”
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