LINCOLN — Her team full of young pups, the early season schedule daunting, Nebraska softball coach Rhonda Revelle figured the Huskers might hit one or two potholes.
The deepest, as it turned out, was a six-inning litany of mistakes against the very squad — No. 3 national seed Oregon — that 14th-seeded NU must beat in Eugene this weekend to reach its first College World Series since 2002.
The Huskers hope Saturday's 7 p.m. opener of a best-of-three series looks dramatically different from a late-February Duck walk all over NU.
At a tournament in California, Oregon popped Nebraska 11-2, scoring six runs in the first two innings. The Huskers committed two errors and Big Ten pitcher of the year Tatum Edwards issued four walks.
“We didn't play well in any aspect of the game,” Revelle said. “It was almost like we were over the top with the bigness of the moment.”
Said senior outfielder Brooke Thomason: “Everyone has that one game that doesn't go the way you expected it to, and that was the Oregon game.”
And yet Revelle said that tournament — in which NU lost to No. 1 Oklahoma and 2012 CWS qualifier California — was precisely what a team with seven freshmen and four seniors needed.
A week later, the Huskers knocked off OU, handing the Sooners one of their four losses this year. Nebraska started strong in the Big Ten, took two of three from league power Michigan, and dominated its regional last weekend, beating Stanford twice by large margins.
“I wouldn't call our girls young anymore,” said Thomason, a captain and the best of the small senior class. “They've had a full year.”
One that NU doesn't want to end yet. Oregon — undefeated at home this year — is about as tough of a Super Regional assignment as the Huskers could have drawn. Aside from an average fielding defense, the Ducks are arguably the nation's most complete team, especially on offense, where they have the same number of home runs (79) as stolen bases.
NU will counter with Edwards, who threw one of her poorer games of the year against the Ducks the first time. But in three regional wins — her first extended regional appearance as a pitcher — Edwards stepped up, Revelle said, growing as the team grew.
Revelle thinks 43-13 Nebraska can hang with the Ducks.
“We have all components of the game,” she said. “We have pitchers who can keep us in any game. We have hitters who can hit it out of the park. We have other parts of our offense that can win with speed. And they're not shocked on the big stage.
“You look at it on paper, Oregon has a slight advantage. But paper doesn't play the game.”
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