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Tuesday’s 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. doubleheader games against South Dakota will mark the 20th season home opener for Rhonda Revelle, but if you want to know the truth, Nebraska’s head softball coach already has experienced the sounds and smells of another home opener.
“I actually got to do a little bit of that with last week’s baseball home opener because we were out on our practice field, and I could smell the hot dogs grilling and the popcorn popping,” Revelle said before Monday’s practice. “We could hear the National Anthem, so we paused for it. Then he could hear the ping of the bat and the smack of a glove.“
The sounds and smells were right next door, and Tuesday, the sights will join them in the Huskers’ first home softball game of the season after 25 on the road. Revelle knows there’s no place like home, but Monday she had no idea that Tuesday foe South Dakota was the school her team swept last year to produce her historic 700th career win at Nebraska. All but eight of her 742 career wins have been at Nebraska, and she needs just 34 more victories to pass former baseball coach John Sanders as the all-time wins leader at Nebraska.
If you’re looking for an historical footnote to Tuesday’s Nebraska-South Dakota matchup, consider this: On Wednesday, Nebraska crews will begin the demolition of the scoreboard at Bowlin Stadium and begin the installation process for an 18-foot wide by 10-foot high scoreboard. The new screen with all-red LED digits will be unveiled when the Huskers host Northwestern in their first-ever Big Ten Conference softball game on Friday, March 23rd.
This rendering shows the new softball scoreboard that will be ready for the Big Ten home opener.
“That scoreboard is so old (see photo at the top), they don’t even make bolts to replace it anymore,” Revelle said. “It’s kind of like an old vinyl record player. It’s absolutely nostalgic. It was at Buck Beltzer Field when Darin Erstad was a player here, so I thought when we take it down, maybe we should just deliver it to his house as a welcoming gift for his first season as a head coach here.”
Huskers Hop Scotch All Over
Scoreboards haven’t exactly been Nebraska’s greatest ally through the first 25 road games that have taken the Huskers to tournaments in Tempe, Ariz., Las Cruces, N.M., Cathedral City, Calif., College Station, Texas, and Stillwater, Okla.
That grueling stretch of 25 road games began on Feb. 9, and even though her team feels “a little dinged right now,” Revelle said, “I know as we pull out of it, we’re going to be better served for it. That just has to be what our philosophy is.”
One thing I’ve always respected about Revelle is her willingness to play the best to be the best. Some coaches in the game are motivated to have high winning percentages and schedule accordingly. Some seek to build confidence with easier schedules. “I’ve found that sometimes that’s false confidence,” Revelle said, fully aware that many also pad their schedules as ammunition for job retention.
“For some people, it might be the legacy they want to leave with the percentage of wins they have,” she said. “For me as an alum here, there’s a higher calling. Would we love to have a higher winning percentage? Absolutely! But what I do know is even though we’re sitting here at 13-and-12 and we’re all a little bit surprised and disappointed with that number, there’s no team we’re going to face this year that is going to surprise us.”
Revelle can say that because the Huskers already have played 14 games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in national polls. They’ve also played 16 contests against teams which were in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve always maintained the philosophy to begin with the end in mind,” Revelle added. “That’s a double challenge in a climate like this because a lot of times we just haven’t had enough time outside. We can’t step on the field and be mid-season ready like maybe some other programs which can be outside throughout their preseason.”
The good news is Revelle has never used that as an excuse. “It’s a situation that’s kind of a fine balancing act because you don’t want to debilitate the confidence of the group,” she said. “Every year, you think about the kind of maturity and experience you have and then go from there.”
Free Admission, Plus $1 Tickets Using Baseball
Tuesday, students in eighth grade and younger get into the NU-South Dakota softball games free. Those attending the 1:35 p.m. Nebraska-South Dakota State baseball game at Hawks Field can use their tickets and see the softball game for just $1.
Tuesday’s weather forecast is outstanding for mid-March – sunny with an expected high temperature of 77 degrees and no chance of rain. Winds could range from 15 to 25 mph, enough to enhance everyone’s experience of the sights, sounds and smells of a season-opener.
“My favorite smell is fresh-cut grass,” Revelle said. “We’re not quite there yet here at Nebraska, but there’s nothing like sitting in the dugout right after the grass has been mowed and the sprinklers are on and everyone else is kind of gone. Just taking a moment like that feels sacred.”
Almost as sacred as playing a tough schedule every season to sharpen her players’ competitively.
Playing tough competition without fear of losing “really is an interesting concept,” Revelle said. “You watch the men’s NCAA selection show last night, and you hear the grumbling about the seed Missouri got. I think they were penalized for not playing a tougher non-conference schedule. If you look historically at our overall softball RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), we’re in the top 50 every year and generally, we’re in the top 30, regardless of our record. I think that speaks volumes.”
Fans who can’t squeeze Nebraska baseball and softball into their schedules Tuesday might consider leaving work and heading straight to Bowlin Stadium. By the time you get out of your car, you’ll smell the hot dogs grilling and the popcorn popping, and on your way to the gate, you’ll hear the ping of the bat and the smack of a glove, calling you, of course, to take advantage of a spring break day where school is out and the Huskers are in ... to play two ... a perfect day for Rhonda Revelle, who loves softball so much, it never gets old.
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