LINCOLN — Most of Nebraska's softball players know what they're about to get into this season.
That wasn't the case before the start of the 2013 season. So many freshmen were about to jump cleats-first into their inaugural season of collegiate softball.
Fast-forward 59 games and the Huskers were in the women's College World Series for the first time since 2002. They lost dramatic one-run white-knucklers to Washington and Florida.
Beginning Friday, the lessons learned from those stormy nights in Oklahoma City will be tested as the Huskers open the 2014 campaign with four games in Las Cruces, N.M.
NU coach Rhonda Revelle said the time has come for the preseason No. 9-ranked Huskers to get the season started.
“Last year, we had so many freshmen in starting roles, there was an unknown for them of what the game was like at the collegiate level,” Revelle said. “Now that they've experienced some success, their expectation of what's going to be in front of them and what they need to do to get better is pretty clear.”
Revelle and her staff have been through everything they wanted to review in the three weeks of preseason drills.
With less than a handful of sessions to go before the Huskers open their season at 10:30 a.m. Friday against Texas-El Paso at the Hotel Encanto Invitational, there is still time to review.
“We're to the point now we have three practices left and we've been able to go to all of our hitters and all of our pitchers and all of infielders and outfielders and say 'give us your lists' at this point,” Revelle said. “Now it's just about maintaining and prepping and getting our signals in.”
The Huskers will face No. 12 Florida State on Friday and Sunday in the three-day tournament, as well as host New Mexico State on Saturday. Nebraska has won 13 consecutive games at the NMSU softball complex dating to 2010.
Nebraska will play in six weekend tournaments before their home opener March 19 against Iowa State. Last season the Huskers had their best road record in program history, going 17-7.
Weather conditions in January were good enough that the Huskers were able to have five outdoor sessions for the outfield and take batting practice in Bowlin Stadium four times.
“It helps tremendously,” Revelle said. “It's a great advantage for the outfielders. Anytime they can see a ball in the sky, just that whole depth perception (helps). We've been able to see not only live ball in sky but actually live ball in sky off of BP.”
The Huskers have one of the country's best 1-2 starting pitching combinations in senior Tatum Edwards and sophomore Emily Lockman. Sophomore Danica Bishop also could figure into the rotation more this season.
“Both Emily and Tatum have been in some big games, won some big games at pressure moments,” Revelle said. “It's one thing to do it at the club level or the high school level, but now they have that in their DNA.”
* * *
Video: NU softball seeks return trip to WCWS