When Austen Urness landed in Lincoln for her first visit to the Nebraska campus, snow covered the ground. Not exactly the conditions Head Coach Rhonda Revelle was hoping for on the weekend she hosted one of the nation’s top recruits, who just happened to hail from sunny Southern California.
But Revelle had an ace up her sleeve, something she hoped would trump the weather. Urness had previously lived in Nebraska, and she still had ties to the Cornhusker State.
“We actually got a phone call from Austen’s coach, Marty Tyson, telling us that Austen used to live in Nebraska, her sister was in graduate school at UNO and that she had an interest in Nebraska,” Revelle recalled. “That is a coach’s dream to find out that a player of her caliber is recruiting Nebraska just as much as Nebraska is recruiting her.”
But what about the weather? Not a factor at all, Urness said.
“Jumping off the plane in Nebraska, I immediately jumped in the snow and made a snow angel.”
That act melted away any concerns Revelle had about bringing in a California kid for a winter visit, and it also made her realize that Urness would be a great fit at Nebraska.
“It was a natural fit for Austen to become a Husker,” Revelle said. “She is everything Husker fans would want from a player; talented, hardworking, grateful, respectful and honored to play for Nebraska.”
Urness was born in Princeton, N.J., on Nov. 8, 1994, and her family lived in Omaha for nearly three years before moving to California. Urness started playing softball when she was seven and within a year, she was so dedicated to the sport that she was waking up at 3 a.m. to head to neighboring softball tournaments.
The sport was in her blood as her father, Troy, was a baseball player at Georgia Southern and at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
“My dad played baseball, and I wanted to be just like him, so he started me in softball,” Austen said. “He was up every morning taking me to my games. As I got older, he was able to teach me what he knew about the game. He would tell me all of his stories, and he always pushed me to do my best, no matter the result.”
The results were often good for Urness. She started playing when she was seven and moved up to travel ball when she was 10, joining Tyson’s Corona Angels program when she was 11. By seventh grade, Urness had college coaches coming to her games. When she was a freshman, she had already taken several college visits, including one to Nebraska.
“I originally thought about Nebraska because I used to live here,” she said. “I decided on Nebraska when I stepped on the campus and felt the atmosphere and tradition. I loved the coaches, the teams and the facilities.”
Urness committed to being a Husker the winter of her freshman year, before she had ever played in a high school game. One of the earliest commitments in school history – if not the earliest – Nebraska coaches knew that Urness was worthy of the early attention. Urness possessed the work ethic – she routinely arrived at Lakeside High School by 5:30 a.m. to do a Nebraska-inspired workout – and she quickly proved she had the talent.
Just weeks after committing to Nebraska, Urness took the first pitch she saw in her high school career and belted it over the fence for a home run against Redlands High School. After homering on the first pitch of her career, legends quickly spread about Urness’ abilities. As a senior, an opposing pitcher tried to intentionally walk her, but left a ball too close to the plate and Urness was able to reach it and hit it out for a home run.
Of all the legendary stories from her Lakeside career, one stood out, a story she told to the San Diego Union-Times newspaper last April. It happened in a game her senior year against Elsinore, when Urness battled through injuries to post a 4-for-4 performance with two home runs and five RBIs in an 11-8 loss. The Elsinore team was so impressed, they went out of their way to find Urness after the game.
“I’ve had a lot of really good moments at (Lakeside), but that was by far the best,” Urness told the Union-Times. “I got hurt three or four times in the game. Right when the game was over, I went out to the side. I was waiting for ice, and I was waiting to get taken down (to the hospital) because everything hurt. I was sitting in the back of the cart, and I just heard a bunch of footsteps come over and the whole (Elsinore) team came over and shook my hand on the back of a cart. It was really cool.”
It was a special moment in a high school career filled with special moments. Urness was a three-time All-CIF Southern Section first-team honoree and a two-time Sunbelt League MVP. She batted .474 in her Lakeside career with 35 doubles, seven triples, 28 home runs and 122 RBIs.
Urness was the Lancers’ starting catcher, but she also played outfield with the Corona Angels. That versatility has Urness in position for a starting role for the Huskers this spring. Revelle is convinced Urness will have an impact regardless of her role.
“Austen is a mature, intelligent and introspective young lady who has natural leadership instincts,” Revelle said. “We believe that Austen will leave her mark on this team.”
Whatever mark she leaves, Urness is anxious to begin her career, just as she was anxious to jump in the snow upon arriving in Lincoln five years ago.
“This is everything I have worked for,” she said of her upcoming freshman season. “This is the final stage, and I can’t wait to go out with a bang.”
Three Things You Didn’t Know About Austen
1) She loves math.
2) She played little league baseball during eighth grade.
3) She loves to play pranks on people.