Courtney Wallace threw 21 innings of donut ball over the weekend to start the season 3-0 and claim the Huskers’ first Big 10 Pitcher of the Week award since April of 2016 including wins against previously undefeated host Houston and the Virginia Cavaliers.
With Olivia Ferrell, her former other half of the Huskers’ 1-2 pitching punch of the 2022 Big 10 Championship season now looking on as one of her coaches, Wallace served notice she will be more than comfortable with big games on her shoulders once again. Never overpowering, Wallace and Ferrell would use pinpoint control, situational awareness and suffocating defense on mound to frustrate opponents.
Wallace kept that going over all three games where she scattered 12 hits over 21 innings while striking out 14 and only walking 4. And some help may have arrived in the form of 2-time All Mo Valley Conference 1st Team selection Sarah Harness, a transfer from Southern Illinois. In her debut against Lamar on Saturday, she tossed a 1-hit 7-0 shutout with 11 strikeouts…and 6 walks. I have not watched her pitch yet, but those numbers suggest a bit of heat. And another 1-2 punch to give the rest of the Big 10 pause if the walks were an aberration or she harnesses some control.
So that covers the opening weekend of the pitching and - oh, yeah. Didn’t the Huskers have the most potent bats in the conference by far last season? Well Mya Felder, Wallace, Caitlyn Neal and Ava Bredwell came out swinging to remind everyone the Husker bats will back up the aces.
And SS Billie Andrews - remember her? The junior from Gretna spent her sophomore season just obliterating everyone’s pitching. She finished the opening weekend slugging .824 with a 1.268 OPS. She also added two HR’s - to start both the Lamar and Houston games. Yep, back-to-back game opening home runs. She may be dangerous again. Maybe.
Anyway, after coming out of the gate like that, the Huskers will probably have a few easy weekends against lower competition to work out the rust, get ever-body’s engines running in sync as they comfortably work their way up to the Big 10 schedule-
Wait. They’re doing WHAT next???
So anyway, next weekend they’re heading down to sunny Clearwater, FL, for the…(I can’t make this up, I know it sounds like a December 22nd bowl game)…Tax Act Clearwater Invitational. I am 100% serious that’s the actual tournament name but not as serious as this round robin buzz saw.
On Friday, the Huskers will take on #11 Virginia Tech. Saturday they will face Texas A&M - hell yes, bring on the aTm. And they will finish things off Sunday against #6 Arkansas. So as good ol’ Jim Ross would say when Stone Cold’s music would start playing? “Bidness is about to pick up!”
I feel horrible now. I completely forgot the tourney begins on Thursday. And the Huskers do play two middling games that day while enjoying the beautiful Florida sun. Hold on, let me dig up the schedule…
3:00pm - Nebraska vs. #3 Oklahoma State (Remember them from the regional? I do. :-( )
6:00pm - Nebraska vs. #2 UCLA
Talk about “The Rock just says BRING IT!”
After the Huskers were eliminated in the regional last season, I completely and unfairly asked HC Rhonda Revelle to jump ahead and consider how she would find a way to bottle the magic from the 2022 season going forward. She fabulously dunked on me by saying 2022 just had to be its own magic and it would be up to the next team to make its own.
If the Huskers go 0-2 in those Thursday games, there’s no shock value, no one’s going to flag the season as dead - yada, yada, yada.
But if the Huskers take one or both of those games deep? Let alone walk out of that doubleheader 1-1?
Then there may be some magic brewing in their cauldron again. Stay tuned y’all.