Nebraska returns to Stillwater, Oklahoma, in a familiar situation. For the second-consecutive year, the Huskers will open postseason play at Cowgirl Stadium, home to one of the most hostile crowds in college softball.
“I think it’s going to help a lot,” senior pitcher Courtney Wallace said about having the experience of playing in Stillwater again. “With their fans and their outfield, knowing how it’s set up, what they are going to say. Even playing on that dirt, I think will be nice for us.”
However for the Huskers, the storyline throughout the season has been the pitching staff. Head coach Rhonda Revelle has had to rely heavily on Wallace, who has eclipsed the 200-inning mark. The most recent pitcher for the Huskers to carry that kind of workload was Tatum Edwards in 2013. She pitched 253 innings.
When it comes to having a workhorse in the circle, not many Power 5 teams can say they have an ace who has thrown that many innings.
Alabama, Minnesota, Auburn and Michigan are the only programs who have a pitcher with 200-plus innings under her belt.
“I will say this, and I don’t think this has gotten enough attention, in today’s collegiate game the fact that we had to play all but three weekends of our season with two pitchers, nobody is doing that,” said Revelle. “Nobody in the postseason field has had to ride two pitchers the entire season.”
She isn’t wrong. Alabama has used four pitchers this season, Minnesota and Auburn have both used three and Michigan didn’t make the postseason.
“There are so many things that go into that, not only the wear and tear mentally and physically on your pitchers, but also the preparation when we face opponents three times and they are having to prepare for five (pitchers). It’s a really different prep and I think the fact that we are in [the tournament], there are 242 teams that aren’t and let’s make the narrative something positive, we’re playing in Regionals.”
All-Midwest Region team (@NFCAorg):
🥉 @KatelynCaneda pic.twitter.com/pE5X95kzZU
— Nebraska Softball (@HuskerSoftball) May 18, 2023
Nebraska will begin the postseason with the Wichita State Shockers on Friday evening at 6 p.m.
She may not be a top three finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year but Sydney McKinney leads the nation in batting average and hits for the second time in the last three years. She is arguably one of the best players in world right now and sets the tone at the top of the lineup and in the field at shortstop.
She is the NCAA Division I active leader in hits and at-bats and became the first player in program history to eclipse 300 career hits. She is the program record holder for all-time hits, batting average, runs and total bases. She also owns the single-season record for those as well.
Addison Barnard, from Beatrice, Nebraska, is the only active DI player with 60-plus home runs and 50-stolen bases.
Other players to watch for include Sami Hood, the American Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, AAC Rookie of the Year Alex Aguilar, Zoe Jones, Lauren Lucas, Lauren Howell and Bennington-native Taylor Sedlacek.
For the second straight season we place 𝙁𝙄𝙑𝙀 on the NFCA All-Central Region Teams, tying a school record!
1st Team » Syd
2nd Team » Addie
3rd Team » Alex, Lu & LoLo
📰 | https://t.co/rxl2OOhNut pic.twitter.com/pYIVdzOQiO
— Wichita State Softball (@GoShockersSB) May 18, 2023
If the Huskers play the No. 4 seed UMBC, it will be the first meeting in program history for the two schools. UMBC has never played the other three teams in the Regional before.
The Retrievers have won four-consecutive America East Conference titles under head coach Chris Kuhlmeyer and are led in the circle by senior Courtney Coppersmith.
Coppersmith is the all-time program leader in strikeouts (1,019) and shutouts (34) and became the first player in conference history to be named Pitcher of the Year four times.
Complementing Coppersmith is Kya Matter who has pitched more innings than Coppersmith and brings a record of 13-5. Both pitchers have earned run averages under 1.80.
Other players to watch for the Retievers are Ashley Della Guardia, Karly Keating, Madison Wilson, Shanel Stott and Emily Riggs.
STOP AND WATCH: The @UMBCSoftball Team wanted to use their @NCAASoftball Press Conference today to speak up about mental health and suicide prevention. It's ok to get help. You're not alone. pic.twitter.com/UmvgnbJBAs
— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) May 18, 2023
The host, Oklahoma State, unlike the other three teams has been struggling of late. The Cowgirls have lost 11 of their last 13 games but that didn’t stop the selection committee from tabbing them as a top-eight host for the third-straight season.
Guiding the Cowgirls into the postseason is a familiar name to Big Ten fans. Rachel Becker, a Purdue transfer, ranks in the top 10 nationally in batting average, doubles, on-base percentage and hits. The other half of the middle infield is Kiley Naomi, the current DI leader in games played (259).
But, the most important factor the Cowgirls bring with them is Kelly Maxwell. The left-handed pitcher is a member of the United State Women’s National Team and is the Big 12 Conference leader in hits allowed per seven innings (3.61), strikeouts (198) and strikeouts per seven innings (11.3).
NFCA All-Region Cowgirls 🤠#AllOne | @NFCAorg pic.twitter.com/50KyVy9o6I
— OSU Cowgirl Softball (@cowgirlsb) May 18, 2023
On paper, the Shockers may look like the favorite to win the Regional. They swept two games against the Huskers and beat the Cowgirls twice earlier in the year.
The action starts at 3 p.m. with the Cowgirls and Retrievers on ESPN+. The Huskers and Shockers will follow on ESPNU.
Giddy up, it’s going to be a wild weekend in Stilly.
Maren covers softball for Hail Varsity and co-hosts the Behind the Plate with Maren and Nate podcast.