As Big Ten play begins, Huskers aim to get back into the swing of things offensively
Softball can be a fickle sport sometimes.
Nebraska has been reminded of that during a current seven-game losing streak.
Two weeks ago, the Huskers were ranked 18th nationally in scoring offense, and ranked in the 130s in pitching. The arms had one of their better weekends last week at a tournament hosted by Kansas, but the NU offense endured a streak of 22 scoreless innings and three straight shutouts.
“It’s been an interesting tale,” NU coach Rhonda Revelle said.
It’s also been quite a learning experience for a Husker lineup that is searching for its offensive identity. For many Huskers, the nonconference season was their first chance to contribute at a regular rate.
In NU’s most recent game, a 1-0 loss to Kansas on Sunday, seven of the Huskers’ nine hitters in the lineup were first-year starters or pitchers who are not regulars at the plate. It included freshman Lindsay Walljasper, sophomores Rylie Unzicker and Sarah Yocom, junior Bree Boruff, Pacific transfer Samantha Owen and senior Bri Cassidy, who spent most of her first three years as a flex player.
Freshman outfielder Peyton Glatter has also gotten at-bats while the Huskers’ lone four-year starter, Alyvia Simmons, battles a thumb injury.
Nebraska was hitting .307 before traveling to Wichita State two weeks ago. The Huskers are hitting .171 during their current seven-game skid, which included two no-hitters.
“The biggest thing that happened to us last weekend is we weren’t attacking in the zone,” Revelle said. “We almost got shell-shocked with our offense not continuing to do what it’s done. We didn’t have enough experience in that lineup to just turn it around.
“We’ve got talent, it’s just really young and inexperienced talent, so I feel like when we hit some adversity, we haven’t figured out how to navigate it masterfully yet.”
The next turn on the schedule takes the Huskers to Big Ten power Michigan, where All-American and 2018 Big Ten pitcher of the year Meghan Beaubien awaits.
And yet, the Huskers are not hitting the panic button. In fact, Revelle says, the younger players continue to show a strong competitive spirit.
“I couldn’t be more proud and pleased with how they’re approaching the game and how they’re going about the work,” Revelle said.
“It’s still trying. When you get to this point of the season and you’re not playing a lot, it’s really trying, especially for a kid that for the first time in their life isn’t starting every day to continue to work, but you know what? You come to our practices, and I don’t think you’d be able to tell who’s playing and who’s not based on how they’re working.”
Revelle said the Huskers have had three great weeks of practice and no wins to show for it. But this weekend’s Big Ten opener provides a chance for a young Husker team to grow. In fact, this appears to a crucial stretch for a 10-13 Husker team that is ranked 122nd in the RPI standings. NU plays three games at No. 25 Michigan (16-10) before the start of a nine-game homestand that begins Tuesday against Drake.
“What’s most crucial more than anything is that we go out and just fight,” Revelle said. “Play the underdog role at (Michigan’s) Alumni Field where they draw a big crowd, and really we have nothing to lose. Hopefully that will bring us up to go fight.”
Nebraska and Michigan will play Friday (3 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (noon).