Lincoln - With the season opener less than a month away, the Nebraska softball team held its first practice of the 2013 season on Thursday inside the Haymarket Park Indoor Practice Facility.
The practice was the first spring practice for the seven Huskers who make up the largest freshman class in Head Coach Rhonda Revelle's 21 seasons at Nebraska. Following practice Revelle said the influx of young talent brings added enthusiasm to an already exciting first day of practice.
"I think there's something about youth that amps up a coach," Revelle said. "This team, they have a lot of energy, they have a lot of focus and they have a lot of drive. They are really an athletic and focused group.
"Anytime you have athletes that are focused, the sky is the limit."
Nebraska is coming off a 33-22 season in 2012, the program's 14th 30-win season in the past 15 year. The Huskers return five all-conference performers in seniors Gabby Banda, Courtney Breault and Brooke Thomson and junior twins Tatum and Taylor Edwards. Thomason and Tatum Edwards are two-time all-conference selections while Taylor Edwards was a 2011 All-American and a finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year.
Last year's starting shortstop Mattie Fowler is also back, and Fowler practiced on Thursday as she continues her rehab from offseason knee surgery. Senior Megan Southworth and sophomore Jordan Bettiol also return, and both players have starting experience in the outfield. Rounding out the group of returners is junior Kylee Muir, a powerful left-handed hitter who is expected to see her most playing time this season after backing up all-conference players at both of her positions (first base and designated player) in each of the past two seasons.
Adding to the returning veterans are the seven talented freshmen, which include Alicia Armstrong, the Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year, Emily Lockman, the California Gatorade Player of the Year and Hailey Decker, a two-time Oregon Offensive Player of the Year. Rounding out the class are Danica Bishop, an all-county all-star last spring, Sammi Noland, a two-time All-Southern Arizona selection, Kiki Stokes, a three-time high school All-American and Dawna Tyson, a two-time All-CIF Southern Section honoree.
The 2013 Huskers open their season Feb. 8-10 at the Hotel Encanto Invitational on the campus of New Mexico State University. Nebraska's season-opening schedule changed on Thursday with the addition of New Mexico to the tournament field. Nebraska's first three games remain the same, but the schedule for Sunday, Feb. 10 has changed. NU will open play on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (Central) against Illinois-Chicago before facing New Mexico at 1 p.m.