Nebraska softball enjoying season-long success

UNL softball players Ashley Hagemann & Julie Brechtel

Photos, story and video by Derek Brandt, NewsNetNebraska.

Every player dreams of winning a title. This year, Nebraska softball players are looking to turn dreams into reality. The team is off to its best start in the squad’s 35 year history. At 31-10, the Huskers are poised to make a post-season regional in the NCAA tournament. They may even host a regional playoff at Bowlin Stadium in Lincoln.

One  reason for this season’s success is the strong pitching of junior Ashley Hagemann, a two-time Big 12 Pitcher of the Week award winner.  Hagemann and senior second-baseman Julie Brechtel, say the key to this team’s chemistry is their willingness to work together, both on the field and off.

“We really just take it one game at a time,” Brechtel said. “Its all a part of our process. The entire team looks at the season as if it is one pitch, one hit, one run and so on. Just one game at a time.”

“I know personally I take it week-by-week,” Hagemann said. “With school, we can’t really overlook anything. By taking it a week at a time, it allows me to focus on just these games. I couldn’t tell you who we play next week.”

“Our girls have done a great job with their philosophy,” Head Coach Rhonda Revelle said. “Sometimes taking it a game at a time is the key to keeping healthy and focused.”

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The entire team has adapted this philosophy and it seems to be paying dividends as the Huskers surge toward the NCAA regional tournament. According to Hagemann and Brechtel, the goal for this year’s squad is to host an NCAA tournament regional in Lincoln.

“My parents are banking on that because my sister graduates from high school that day,” Hagemann said. “They want us to host because it would be much easier for them to come and watch. They want to be able to be here to support us, of course.”

Brechtel’s parents will be in town from California, anticipating a regional batch of playoff games.

“They’ll be here for the whole month,” Brechtel said. “They made plans to be in town, being my senior year. I really want them to stay here longer if we make a regional, though.”

Players and fans alike enjoy when their favorite teams are able to extend a season.

“For any team, the idea of the post season is exciting,” Neil Stein, a UNL student said. “It seems in Nebraska, everything is ramped up a bit. I think even softball would see a huge boost if the team were to host a regional.”

Ashley Hagemann prepares to deliver a pitch

The Husker softball team looks at the season as three parts. Pre-season is considered the tournaments that are away from home at the beginning of the season. Next comes Big 12 conference play where the Huskers play for position for the final portion of the season, the NCAA tournament.

“It is like three different seasons, really,” Hagemann said. “The Big 12 is a crucial part to our postseason success. Once we finish Big 12, we focus on the next part.”

According to Brechtel, there isn’t so much of a difference between games, just the phases are different.

“The games are mostly the same,” Brechtel said. “There is no end of the season for us until there are no games left. That’s the way I approach every game.”

“I take it a pitch at a time,” Hagemann said. “I know the team does that too and are doing great. I have a front row ticket to watch them hit all over the place. We like to stick with our faith in each other.”

Through the first 41 games of the season, the Huskers have only played five home games compared to the 36 on the road.

“It is a little weird to never be at home,” Hagemann said. “Before practice started, we talked about how it didn’t seem like we were half way done with the season. We are getting toward the second phase of our season, but I feel like the beginning portion of the season has dragged on like it has in the past years.”

With twelve games left, that looks to be rectified as NU will play nine home games with three on the road. Is it tough to play at home after there has been so much success on the road?

“It’s definitely crazy to think we haven’t even played four or five games at home yet,” Brechtel said. “It is fun to be at home. I love Bowlin Stadium. It’ll be good to get some home games and to get back to playing here. We have great fans and usually have great turn outs.”

Brechtel and Hagemann agree that it is always a thrill to play in front of the home fans.

“It is even fun to play in front of the opposing fans,” Brechtel said. “We enjoy it, but at home, its different since you’re the team being cheered.”

The Huskers huddle after a practice at Bowlin Stadium.

There is just something about Bowlin Stadium that makes the home games worth the wait.

“We love our home field,” Brechtel said. “We know what it is like and we know what to expect. We know the wind and temperature and pretty much everything. It’s a great place to play.”

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