After the 3-0 loss to North Texas State ended the Huskers 2022 softball season with a 41-16 record and the school’s first Big Ten Conference championship, we trudged over to the press room where the Mean Green’s coach and a couple of his players quickly popped in for a few questions then raced off to rest for a matchup with Oklahoma St. the next day. (They would lose 2-0.)
The wait would be much longer for the Huskers who remained on the field for 20 or 30 minutes. They weren’t avoiding the press or bemoaning their loss to a team they had beaten 3-0 the previous day.
They just didn’t want this team, this special 2022 squad, to be over.
Finally, Coach Rhonda Revelle entered the room and to no one’s surprise brought with her the three senior captains: Olivia Ferrell, Courtney Wallace and Karlee Seevers. Coach Revelle eventually got around to congratulating North Texas and freshman #2 starter Skylar Savage who tossed a 3-hit shutout against a Husker team who had faced arguably the three toughest starters in the Big Ten in consecutive games at the conference tourney.
It looked like these comeback kids had forged another one earlier in the day against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls taking a 2-1 lead in the top of the 4th. Yes, a throwing error by Billie Andrews with runners on 1st and 2nd in the bottom of the inning may very well have been the difference, but without the sophomore from Gretna who led the team in OBP, Slugging%, OPS (On Base% + Slugging%), HR’s, RBI, Stolen Bases, Total Bases and runs scored, they likely wouldn’t have been in a winner bracket regional game with the Pokes in the first place. As penance, in the top of the 7th she smacked her 20th homer of the year out to left into a wind that averaged around 18mph on the day with gusts close to 30mph. No one else got one near the fence on the fly all day.
But Revelle opened with a statement which left zero doubt as to what this 2022 squad meant to her:
“In my 30 years of being a head coach, in my 38 years of coaching collegiate softball, I know unequivocally that I’ve never, ever been part of a team that has travelled so much ground from building a culture to setting a standard for our work in the off-season to how we conduct ourselves during practice to what we give in our community to how we go about our business in the classroom - (It’s) just exemplary. I could not be more proud.”
After a few more questions, I asked each of the captains with the season over for only less than an hour to name just one thing at that moment they would would take with them from the experience:
Wallace: “I don’t think there will ever be another (Husker) team like this - from the love to the work we put in.”
Ferrell: “This is as close as I’ve ever been to a team. And just the love, the actual love we have for each for each other. We played for each other every single game.”
Seevers: “I’ll take away the relationships. These girls - I call them “For Lifers” because they’re my life and it’s not just this year, it’s for forever.”
Huskers 3 Penn State 1
Huskers 2 Ohio State 1
Huskers 3 Michigan 1
All Tournament Team Selections
Mya Felder, Olivia Ferrell, Courtney Wallace, Cam Ybarra
Moments to Remember
- After being shut out for 4 innings by Penn State’s Bailey Parshall despite multiple hard shots, the Huskers got runners on 1st and 2nd in the 5th and Andrews torched a double into the right-center gap for a 2-1 lead and another comeback.
- The wide strike zone being given on the right side of the plate all day vs. Ohio State was initially pointed out in the top of the first by a Buckeye hitter who drew the line in the dirt where she thought the pitch was. As any baseball/softball fan knows, that’s no-no which can get you tossed fast. This umpire chose instead to stop the game and warn everyone within hearing distance such things would not be tolerated.
- As a result of his tirade, outright complaining ceased. However, as calls remained…inconsistent.. body language and facial expressions from both teams which didn’t quite cross the line were commonplace and hilarious. High comedy.
- Ferrell, who swore after the game she didn’t see the right fielder cheating in and that she was just trying to move the runner over to 3rd if she didn’t get a hit, bopped a game-winning walk-off double over her head. It was a fine complement to her 3 innings of scoreless relief behind Wallace.
- Against Michigan, in the 2nd at-bat of the game, Cam Ybarra ripped a liner down the RF line that simply refused to drop until it had barely cleared the fence. Reminded me of an old Dan Jenkins golf story about a line Lee Trevino popped once in a presser describing a 4-iron he stung that day. “I hit that sonofabitch so straight, you coulda hung laundry on it.” (Headline - “Trevino Credits Laundry Shot for Victory”) You coulda hung laundry on Cam’s shot.
- Ybarra’s double play in the bottom of the 7th with runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out was fantastic but surviving a Michigan replay challenge literally had every Husker fan looking on in disbelief. No one was complaining beforehand, just simply assuming, “Here we go again” and figuratively putting our hands on our knees and bending over.
- After Andrews was unintentionally intentionally walked with 2 down in the top of the 8th (extra innings), Ybarra engraved her name on the MVP trophy by ripping another Shrike missile, this time off the fence in right center scoring Billie to grab the lead.
Huskers 3 North Texas State 0
Oklahoma State 7 Huskers 4
North Texas 3 Huskers 0
All Tournament Team
No idea. If there was one and we had someone on it, Google failed me.
Moments To Remember (Obviously fewer)
- North Texas was the first “taking care of business” game of the tournament as the Huskers jumped to 2-0 lead in the 1st and never looked back. Ferrell threw 5 1⁄3 solid innings on her way to a regional line of 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings thrown scattering only 3 hits.
- I know I mentioned it above but Andrews jacking that dinger into the wind was nothing short of impressive. The bright spot for me on a chilled, windy 0-2 day.
- See above for Rhonda’s and the seniors’ quotes. It was a privilege to be there when they opened up about how special this team really was to them.
SOME STATS & NUMBERS
- Nebraska ranks first in the conference in batting average (.320), hits (450), home runs (74), RBIs (303), total bases (768), slugging percentage (.546) and on-base percentage (.399).
- They also led the conference in ERA.
- Their .523 slugging% set a new team record
- Of their 41 victories, 18 were of the come-from-behind variety. The 4 or 5 of you who actually read all of the CN Road Trip articles know this, because I never shut the hell up about calling them the Comeback Kids. As Coach Norman Dale once said, “I apologize to no one.”
- They won their 1st Big Ten tourney title and it was also their first since winning the Big 12 in 2004.
- The Huskers finished the season 4-0 in extra inning games.
- Their appearance in Stillwater marked their 25th selection to the NCAA tournament.
- Olivia Ferrell notched her 20th win of the season in the lone regional victory against NTSU. It was her 1st 20-win season, easily the best of her Husker career and happened in a year which was supposed to her first as a grad assistant. Not that there’s a shortage of them, but convincing Ferrell to return for the “super senior” season proved to be one of Revelle’s best decisions.
- This was Nebraska’s 1st 40-win season since 2014.
- As I’ll go into a little more below, the loss of some special seniors will not leave this squad shorthanded. Aside from the returning starters, look for Kaylin Kinney to burst onto the scene in a big way next season. She’s listed as a pitcher, and I don’t know what the actual post-season stats were, but as a hitter the last two weeks, she was the very definition of clutch. Always found her way on base when they needed it most.
SOME LATE HONORS FOR HUSKER SOFTBALL NATION
Cam Ybarra - Selected as a 2022 3rd Team NFCA (National Fast Pitch Coaches Association) All-American
Courtney Wallace - Selected as a 2022 NFCA Gold Glove Recipient (awarded to one player in the nation at each position) Errors in 2022 - 0.
When I asked Coach Revelle what she would do when it came time to move on to preparations for 2023 and how she would try to bottle the magic from this season going forward, she immediately responded that “we need to let this season be its own magic”.
I have to admit I got goosebumps and a big damn smile from being dunked on there. And the Husker cupboard is far from empty. Here’s who comes back (Sorry, with respect to the Billy Beane/Bill James crowd, gonna keep the stats simple here):
Mya Felder - Jr - 1B - .373-4-37
Abbie Squier - So - LF - .364-7-24
Billie Andrews - So - SS - .330-20-51-18sb
Sydney Gray - So - 3B - .313-11-44
Ava Bredwell - Fr - C - .301-2-15 - Big 10 Freshman of the Year
Courtney Wallace - listing her here since she now has the super senior option for next season as Ferrell did this year - and of course Coach Revelle is 100% correct in saying 2022’s magic needs to be its own. But if you can bring a little bottle of it with you to 2023, nothing wrong with tucking that into a side pocket for the flight, right?
Full disclosure - one of the deciding factors in chasing these Huskers for a couple of weeks was having coached Olivia in hockey off and on from age 7 through around 17. She and my daughter spent years in the rinks together and her father Bruce was always one of my favorite hockey parents from our icy family. So that’s why I saved a picture of a conference champion and her proud daddy for last:
By the way, Liv will take her spot as a grad assistant for the Huskers in 2023. When I asked what her goals were as far as coaching, she said first off that she probably couldn’t find better role models to learn from. (Rhonda Revelle and Husker legend Lori Sippel. Good start.) And that her goal was to someday lead her own D1 softball program.
Hmmmm. Rhonda appears to have a fire burning still which suggests she’s nowhere near retirement. And Olivia has…goals. And maybe another small bottle 2022’s magic?
I enjoyed this season and will enjoy watching this potential future of the program play out.