LINCOLN — Days before the season opener, only a third of Nebraska softball's starting lineup can be written in ink.
When asked Monday who appears to be certain starters, Husker coach Rhonda Revelle specifically mentioned three players — two fifth-year seniors and a freshman.
Preseason Big Ten player of the Year Tristen Edwards will anchor the outfield in center field, while fellow senior Cam Ybarra (second base) and Gretna freshman Billie Andrews (shortstop) also are set to start.
That makes the middle of Nebraska’s defense the strongest part of the team heading into Friday’s season-opening doubleheader against Indiana in Leesburg, Florida.
The Huskers also will play doubleheaders against Michigan State on Saturday and Ohio State on Sunday. All 14 Big Ten softball teams will be in Leesburg this weekend and March 11-14 before four-game weekend series at home venues begin March 26.
Big Ten teams will play a 44-game conference-only schedule, which has all teams playing multiple games against each other.
Revelle said competition for playing time has been so fierce that multiple players have earned the chance to play at catcher and the corner infield and outfield spots.
“We have a lot of competing going on,” Revelle said. “If you look at opening day, you’re going to see three or four positions that are going to hold steady as we go.
“But then you’re going to see four or five positions that we’re going to be rotating people in and out because people have earned playing time instead of just by default.”
The Huskers plan on using a two-catcher system this season, and first and third base will be rotated in early games. Revelle said “if someone separates themselves” in early action, those players could secure more consistent spots in the starting lineup.
Nebraska, like most Big Ten teams, hasn't had outdoor practice time because of the snowy winter. Revelle and her staff have focused on how they’ve used the time that normally would have been used for games and practices during the past 11 months.
“You could say it would set us back, but I actually think it sprung us forward,” Revelle said. “Everybody else was shut down. We took about two weeks where we just grieved the loss of the season. Then we got back to work to whatever we could work on.
“We’re outside going to and from our car before and after practice. No, we have not been outside. But we’re fortunate we’re going to be able to get an outdoor practice Thursday at our competition venue, so that will be nice.”
Edwards said Monday that one of the most difficult adjustments over the last year has been the lack of competition against anyone but Husker teammates. She also said there was no doubt she would return for this extra season if the opportunity presented itself.
“Just getting the opportunity to come back itself was amazing,” Edwards said. “I have lived for Nebraska softball for a really long time. Not being able to play other people in the fall, seeing different faces, that has been tough.”
Revelle certainly is glad Edwards is back.
“I was really hopeful that she would say yes,” Revelle said. “She has had some other opportunities and she’s far along in her academic work and she’s had to pump the brakes to not graduate. She just feels like she has unfinished business, not only on the field but in the clubhouse.”