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Emily Lockman is a 5-foot-6 Nebraska sophomore right-handed softball pitcher from Corona, Calif. She was the 2012 California Gatorade Player of the Year. She was a first-team high school All-American before deciding to come to Lincoln instead of Florida or Notre Dame, plus Fresno State and Cal State-Fullerton in her home state. The draw for her leaving the West Coast and coming to Nebraska was easy because Lincoln felt like home the first time she stepped on campus on an unofficial visit. “I knew this was the place for me,” she said. “I felt comfortable. I knew I was surrounded by all the right resources and the coaches were the best part of the atmosphere. So were the rest of the people I met. I couldn’t picture going anywhere else after that first visit.”
Why would one of the nation’s best pitching talents consider somewhere else after she could sit down and discuss the art of her craft with Nebraska Head Coach Rhonda Revelle and Husker Associate Head Coach Lori Sippel? To use a word that Lockman has adopted as her Energy Bus word of the year, she is “flourishing” like never before. Last year, she became the only freshman pitcher in Nebraska history to be a first-team all-region pitcher and one of only two freshmen pitchers to achieve that honor nationally.
Coaches Stoke Lockman’s Emotional Fire
It was a milestone, but let the record show that Lockman is not only flourishing on the mound, but also in her heart, and her two primary Husker coaches get credit for that. In her 22nd season as Nebraska’s head coach, Revelle is the Huskers’ all-time wins leader in any sport. An NFCA Hall-of-Fame member, she lights a match that stokes Lockman’s fire. “Coach Revelle prepares me more than anyone I’ve ever met in my whole life,” Lockman told me this week. “She loves each of us with everything she has. Her knowledge and experience are overpowering. I’m so grateful to be able to play for a head coach like her. We just love each other as a team, and we truly are one. We are together and we think as one unit. We don’t go one-on-one because we have 16 players who all band together.”
In her 25th season at Nebraska, Sippel was the head softball coach for Team Canada at the 2008 Olympics. An International Softball Hall of Fame Inductee, she has produced 21 all-region pitchers in the last 20 seasons after Lockman and All-American Tatum Edwards repeated their respective all-region honors for the second straight year this spring. Success seems to follow Sippel, the 1988 Academic All-American of the Year. When Sippel talks, Emily listens.
Sippel Has an Answer for Every Problem
"She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met," Lockman said of Sippel, who also has coached 22 all-conference pitchers in the last 16 years at Nebraska. "She’s an Olympic medalist, and she can tell stories for days, and I’ll listen to her and learn something new from her every day. Every time I have a problem, she has an answer." Revelle and Sippel would be part of Lockman’s imaginary Mount Rushmore. So would her parents, Kelly and Don Lockman, as well as Marty Tyson, who coaches the Corona Angels, a nationally prominent club softball program Her list also includes Dawna Tyson, a 5-foot-5 Husker sophomore who replaced injured first baseman and team leader Mattie Fowler. Dawna is Marty and Donna Tyson’s daughter.
Even though she’s on the sidelines, Lockman considers spirited leader Fowler a key catalyst for the 19th-ranked Huskers competing for their second straight trip to the Women’s College World Series this weekend. Nebraska needs to win a best-of-three series against No. 2 NCAA seed Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Game One in the Super Regional is 8 p.m. Thursday and will be televised nationally on ESPN. Game Two begins Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPNU, and if the Huskers and Crimson Tide split the first two games, an 8 p.m. start will follow Friday’s first game and create another interesting viewing opportunity on ESPN.
NU Won Four Games in Less than 23 Hours
After winning four NCAA games in less than 23 hours last weekend to earn a spot in the national limelight, Nebraska is undaunted about visiting a No. 2 seed in its own back yard without having a top-16 seed itself. “Our mindset is to go in and fight every pitch and win as many pitches as we can,” said Lockman, who has won 10 consecutive decisions, Nebraska’s longest individual win streak since 2011. She also has thrown four shutouts in her last eight starts. Dating back almost six weeks, Lockman has allowed more than one run just once in her last 10 appearances. She has posted a 1.27 ERA in the 66 innings she’s pitched during that stretch.
The Huskers, of course, are on roll and seem to flourish on the road, going 18-4 this season away from home. Nebraska is also 8-3 in road games against teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Even though the Huskers have the nation’s youngest team among the 16 programs still competing for a spot in the College World Series, Nebraska snapped Missouri’s streak of six consecutive regional titles with two lopsided wins Sunday at Mizzou. In getting that done, Nebraska became just the second team in NCAA history to lose a regional opener and then come back through the loser’s bracket to win a regional by defeating a national seed on its home field.
One of Two Unseeded Sweet 16 Teams
The Huskers were also one of only two unseeded teams to advance to this year’s NCAA Super Regional. Michigan and Minnesota join Nebraska as Big Ten teams still in contention for a spot in the Women’s College World Series. A Husker upset win over ‘Bama would produce the Huskers’ first back-to-back WCWS appearances in 26 years.
Lockman will play a pivotal role in meeting that challenge, and Revelle and Sippel both have confidence in her ability to deliver. “Rhonda and I are pretty much in all the bullpens,” Sippel said. “I kind of build the pitchers, and Rhonda calls the game. Emily has had double barrels coming at her as both a freshman and a sophomore. It’s helped her get two postseasons under her belt. Last year, I think there was some naivete’. Sometimes, you have the cape on and you don’t really know what you don’t know, and that’s okay. That allows you to be free. Sometimes we need her to be that person. Emily’s kind of quiet, but she’s competitive. That big smile of hers kind of sucks you in, but when it comes to winning something, she certainly wants to be the one in the circle. She can be really tough.
Lockman Much More Precise than Last Year
"Emily’s a good listener," Sippel added. "She knows where she is now and where she wants to be. Going through her second postseason, she’s getting some starts, but not all of them. You see the competitor in her. She wants to get the call and get the ball in her hand. I want that in all three of our pitchers (including Tatum Edwards and fellow sophomore Californian Danica Bishop). I want all three to be mature in handing it off and respect that the game is tough and be inside each other’s hip pocket. We’re a staff and we win as a staff and a team. We want more quality pitches from everyone, and they all know that.”
Revelle agrees. “Emily is a fighter,” Nebraska’s head coach said. “She’s just like ‘Give me the ball and I’m going to go out there and give you all I have’. It’s that mindset that leads her. What’s gotten better is her vision of what she’s trying to do with the ball and how she wants to attack a hitter. She’s much more precise than she was a year ago. Lori does a phenomenal job doing all sorts of things and communicating all aspects of the game – the physical, the mental and the emotional. Emily can read hitters and if any have a loop in their swing, she does a nice job. We call it throwing into the window. Her greatest strengths are her heart for the game and her heart for the team.”
Coaches Don’t Want Pitchers to Over-Think
Revelle can’t help but remember how Lockman stepped up last year as a freshman in Eugene, Ore., to help the Huskers upset the Ducks in their own stadium. “She always wants to make sure that she can stand and deliver for her team,” Revelle said. “Just yesterday, when we were talking at the end of practice, you could tell that Emily’s mind was focused on what’s ahead this weekend. She wants to get it done for her team.” Lockman says Revelle teaches her how to love yourself so you can love your teammates and “give your all” every day in practice. Sippel encourages pitchers to “just take in the game,” Lockman said. “She doesn’t want us to over-think. She wants us to be calm and get cozy with the uncomfortable.”
Flourishing on the Mound and in Her Heart
Lockman, the sophomore, is finally figuring out what both coaches have been preaching since she arrived at Nebraska. To flourish on the mound, you also have to flourish in your heart. She’s become closer with fellow pitcher Tatum Edwards and her twin sister, catcher Taylor Edwards. “We all connect with each other,” Lockman said. “It doesn’t matter who is pitching. What matters is the amount of love that we have for each other. It’s incredible, and I think that we learn from each other every day.”
Flourish is a perfect word to insert into the conversation. “When (The Energy Bus author) Jon Gordon talked about flourishing in his speech when he came to Lincoln, it really sparked me getting to hear him live,” Lockman said. “He kept using the word, so I went home, looked it up and tried to understand what flourish really meant. Flourishing isn’t just about being successful. It means to go above and beyond. Coming into this year, I had a lot of people doubting me. I decided I was going to flourish and go above what I even thought I could do. Every day, it’s growing more and more with me. I’m doing the little things that add up to be bigger things. When you do that, everything kind of takes care of itself – for you and the people around you.”
When the Game Starts, It’s Zero-Zero
Sippel calls it a process and that’s why she continually tries “to throw different things out there and see what sticks,” she said, knowing that Nebraska faces an almost identical test at Alabama that parallels the challenge the Huskers met in the Super Regional at Oregon last year. “Alabama’s the No. 2 seed and we aren’t seeded,” Sippel said. “But when the game starts, it will be zero-zero, regardless of those numbers. That’s where Emily thrives. She can get herself in the right mindset early and make one pitch at a time. I don’t know if she sees pressure, but I think it’s something she can overcome. She does a pretty good job having that poker face and being able to compartmentalize what’s important and what isn’t. It helps her poise. She doesn’t let the process get to her.”
Despite the disparity in seeding, it’s interesting to note a comparative fact about the SEC’s regular-season championship team, which played in the NCAA’s No. 1 RPI conference. Nebraska and Alabama share four common opponents from this season – Arizona, Florida State, Houston and Missouri. The Crimson Tide went 5-4 against that group. Nebraska posted a 4-2 record against the same four teams. “Numbers don’t count,” Sippel said. “They don’t mean anything anymore. It’s all about playing and believing in each other.”
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