The Nebraska softball team opens its fall schedule by hosting South Dakota in a Sunday doubleheader at 1 p.m. In a change from the original schedule, the games will be played at the Doris Bair Softball Complex, located on 48th Street, just north of Superior. Admission into the doubleheader is free and the game is being played off campus because new grass was planted at Bowlin Stadium this summer and due to a lack of rain, the field is not yet playable.
The doubleheader will give fans their first glimpse at Nebraska's talented newcomers. The Huskers' 17-player roster features seven freshmen. Nebraska must replace lost starters at first base, left field and center field from last year's team that finished third in its inaugural season in the Big Ten Conference.
The Huskers must also replace ace Ashley Hagemann, who earned all-region recognition in both 2011 and 2012. Over the past two seasons, Hagemann started 77 of NU's 110 games, pitched in a total of 95 contests and threw 537.2 innings, 75 percent of the team total.
While Nebraska has some holes to fill, the Huskers have several talented returning players, in addition to a promising freshman class full of potential.
"We do have some key players to replace from last season, and although our season is still five months away, we're looking for some of our younger players to step up during the fall and prove they're ready to contribute," Head Coach Rhonda Revelle said. "We feel very good about our freshman class, and we have a lot of faith in our new players to come right in and make an impact for this team.
"Fans will see a lot of new faces out there, but we have a solid veteran presence as well. We return several players who have started for us their whole careers and have experienced individual and team success."
Overall, the Huskers return six starters from last season. Seniors Gabby Banda and Brooke Thomason have each started for the last three years, while junior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards have started the past two seasons. Junior Courtney Breault also returns after starting the last three seasons, including battling through an injury to start 46 games in her first year at Nebraska last season. Previously, Breault started 95 games as a freshman and sophomore at the University of Arkansas in 2010 and 2011.
Sophomore Mattie Fowler is back after starting every game on the left side of the Husker infield as a freshman in 2012. Fowler will miss the entire fall season due to an injury. Senior Megan Southworth also returns for Nebraska. As a sophomore in 2011, Southworth started a team-high 29 games in left field. Junior Kylee Muir and sophomore Jordan Bettiol round out the group of nine returning letterwinners for Nebraska, with Bettiol earning 20 starts in 2012.
Nebraska's returning players have combined for seven all-conference awards in their careers. Tatum Edwards has earned all-conference honors in each of her first two seasons, while Taylor was an all-conference selection, a third-team NFCA All-American and a USA Softball National Player-of-the-Year finalist as a freshman in 2011. Thomason has also earned a pair of all-conference accolades in her career while Banda and Breault earned the first all-conference recognition of their careers last season.
Adding to the returning talent is the highly-regarded freshman class that includes a pair of Gatorade Players of the Year and two high school All-Americans. Beatrice native Alicia Armstrong as Nebraska's Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, when she broke the state's single-season batting average record by nearly .100. Fellow infielder Hailey Decker was the Oregon Offensive Player of the Year as a junior and senior, and she was one of the youngest of the 42 high school players invited to try out for the U.S. Junior National Team in 2010. Dawna Tyson rounds out the freshmen infielders. The younger sister of former Husker Tori Tyson, Dawna was a four-time all-league selection and a two-time All-CIF Southern Section honoree for Corona High School in Corona, Calif.
Kansas native Kiki Stokes is Nebraska's lone freshman outfielder. Stokes was a three-time NFCA High School All-American for Olathe East High School, including earning first-team honors following both her junior and senior seasons. Sammi Noland is one of two catchers on the roster. A three-time state champion for Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson, Ariz., Noland was also a member of the AZ Desert Thunder team that won the prestigious ASA Gold National Championship this past summer.
Danica Bishop and Emily Lockman round out the Huskers' large freshman class as Nebraska's two pitching recruits. Bishop was a late find for the Huskers, as she battled through injuries during her prep career for Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif. A right-hander, Bishop was selected as an Orange County Coaches' All-Star following her senior season. Meanwhile in Corona, Calif., Lockman earned honors as the state's top player while pitching Norco High School to the school's first No. 1 national ranking. Lockman was a first-team high school All-American and she was named California's Gatorade Player of the Year, after post a 31-2 record with a 0.35 ERA as a senior.
Following this Sunday’s doubleheader, Nebraska continues its fall season with a doubleheader at Creighton on Sunday, Sept. 23. NU then wraps up its fall season by hosting the Husker Fall Classic at Bowlin Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Oct. 7