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Like all respectable Hall-of-Fame coaches, Rhonda Revelle tries to be in the loop and exert at least some measure of influence in her team’s non-conference schedule. Only Revelle would choose to launch her 22nd season as Nebraska’s head softball coach with two games against No. 12-ranked Florida State, which returns Lacey Waldrop, a third-team All-America pitcher. I asked Revelle Monday about her opening weekend that includes both Friday afternoon and Sunday morning games against the Seminoles. Why would Revelle want her ninth-ranked team to collide twice against a team that returns eight players with at least 30 starts last season? Is Las Cruces, New Mexico, the most strategic place for Nebraska to define its national prominence in the first three days of the season?
Let’s put it this way. Revelle has reached that point in her career where she’s comfortably competitive and willing to take on the most formidable challenges. The winningest coach in Nebraska Athletics history in any sport, Revelle thinks it’s cool for a Northern school to schedule two games against a team that bathes in Florida’s sunshine every November, December and January. Besides that, 4½ hours before this weekend’s first Nebraska-Florida State game, the Huskers will take on one of their own when they play the University of Texas-El Paso, coached by Tobin Echo-Hawk, UTEP’s first-year head softball coach. Talk about an ironic twist. Echo-Hawk was the head coach of a Portland State team the Huskers beat 11-2 in five innings in Tempe, Ariz., in the first game the fabled Edwards twins ever played as Huskers on Feb. 10, 2011. Tatum Edwards hit a three-run homer in her first career at bat in that game, and twin sister Taylor went 2-for-4 with an RBI double.
Echo-Hawk: Two All-America Seasons, Another Worthy
What's that? You've never heard of Tobin Echo-Hawk? You’re not alone, but you’ll be surprised to learn that she was the first All-American that Revelle coached at Nebraska. The Colorado native, in fact, won two All-America honors as a junior and senior Husker. She easily could have been a three-time All-American because she hit an amazing .439 and slugged seven homeruns as a sophomore in 1994. In ’95, she hit .405 with a school-record 22 doubles to lead the Huskers to a then-school record 43-win season and was named a second-team All-American. As a senior, she hit .340 and scored 61 runs to earn an at-large berth on the third team.
Echo-Hawk ranks among Nebraska’s top three individuals on five career offensive charts, including hits (first, 266), batting average (second, .379), runs scored (third, 168), doubles (tied for first, 48), and total bases (third, 378). “Lori Sippel recruited Tobin the same summer I got hired as head coach,” Revelle told me. “It’s really cool that her first game at UTEP is going to be against us.”
This isn’t the first time one of Nebraska’s best all-time players has coached against her alma mater. Three seasons ago, Echo-Hawks was head coach at Portland State when the Huskers beat her team in a five-inning game in Tempe, Arizona. Echo-Hawks’ teams won four conference championships at Portland State before she accepted the head coaching job at UTEP last summer.
Husker-Seminole All-America Pitchers Matched Up
The Huskers will be heavy favorites against UTEP and will be evenly matched against Florida State. “It will be a battle between two All-America pitchers…our Tatum Edwards against their Lacey Waldrop,” Revelle said, admitting that her excitement for another season-opener is matched only by the calmness she feels about the way her players have gone about their business leading up to the season.
“They’re committed,” she said. “They truly have the physical skills and the mental, emotional, life skills and beyond, so we don’t have to manage people’s behavior all the time. I think that’s what’s exciting when these young women are governing themselves.”
In addition to Nebraska’s two games against Florida State and one against UTEP, the Huskers will play a single game on Saturday at 5 p.m. against New Mexico State, the host team for the Hotel Encanto Invitational in Las Cruces.
Tatum, Taylor Extol the Virtues of Living in Nebraska
The Edwards twins, pitcher/utility infielder Tatum and All-America catcher Taylor, are not surprised that Nebraska again will compete against a former Husker All-America player who’s still a head coach. They were freshman starters the last time Revelle’s team played against her first All-America player. “It’s a small world, and I think it’s really cool we get to play against one of our best players of all-time again,” Tatum said.
Taylor agreed. “Everywhere we go, there’s always something like this happening,” she said. “When we lived in California, there were all kinds of Husker fans and Nebraska stickers everywhere.”
And guess what? “I feel like I just got here and started playing,” Tatum said. “We’ve both learned that there truly is no place like Nebraska. We had a bond and a relationship with Nebraska before we ever got here and it’s grown stronger every year.”
The twins love to go to the beach, the ocean and the mountains whenever they return to California. “But you can’t find better people than Nebraskans or a better place to improve every day as a person, a student and an athlete,” Taylor said. “I know for a fact we wouldn’t be the people we are today if we hadn’t moved here.”
Revelle: Edwards’ Twins Seem Like Midwesterners
Oh, how the years go by. “When I first recruited those two, I thought they acted like they grew up in Nebraska,” Revelle said. “It just always seemed like they had a Midwestern spirit about them. They fit here really well. I know how much they love the beach and ocean when they go home, but I think they exude the Nebraska culture that they’ve lived in and grown to love.”
Here’s the kicker. Both twins cherish Nebraska so much that they don’t want to move when they graduate from college. They want to continue to live in Lincoln and someday, they can envision not having to go to California to see their parents. “Our parents love Nebraska just as much as we do,” Tatum said.
“I think they’d love to live here, too,” Taylor added. “Every time they come here, they feel just like we do…Lincoln feels like home.”
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