LINCOLN — It turns out that Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards was preparing to take over as the Huskers’ new ace well before this point in her career, even though she wasn’t asked to pitch too often here.
Ashley Hagemann logged 75 percent of the innings for NU’s softball team during the last two seasons, while Edwards contributed significantly as a utility hitter. Edwards belted a team-high seven home runs and started every game in 2012, all while managing to quietly monitor Hagemann’s demeanor, mechanics and strategy.
Now that Hagemann’s graduated and Edwards appears to be the most likely successor, there’s no apparent anxiety for the right-handed junior.
“I learned a lot (from Hagemann),” Edwards said. “I got to see a lot from her. I’m excited to put my own taste on things, and I’m excited to fill her shoes.”
She got her first official chance this year to impress the coaching staff when the Huskers began practicing for the 2013 season Thursday afternoon. They don’t play a game until Feb. 8, but there’s plenty of lineup-related uncertainties to be sorted out before then.
The competition’s open at second base, shortstop and center field — though no battle is as important as the one between Edwards and freshmen Danica Bishop and Emily Lockman. The Huskers have had a first-team all-conference pitcher in four of the last seven seasons.
“Probably the biggest question (for us) is on the mound,” said coach Rhonda Revelle, who begins her 21st season as coach this spring.
Edwards pitched sparingly for Nebraska during her first two years, but she sort of reconfigured her approach during the offseason. Conditioning was stressed, as was her confidence. She altered the grips on a few of her pitches, even taking some elements from Hagemann’s arsenal. Edwards also tweaked her wind-up, hoping for more quickness to the plate — she said that’s still a “work in progress.”
That, though, might be the theme for much of this NU team.
The Huskers missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in four seasons last year, but they’re set to face a challenging non- conference schedule right from the start in 2013. And they may be without sophomore Mattie Fowler, who’s still recovering from offseason ACL surgery.
Over the next few weeks, Revelle said she’d like the players to get comfortable hitting live pitching and build on-field chemistry with one another.
Revelle said the Huskers are more athletic than last year, but extremely young, which means preseason could be a bit unpredictable.
“That combination is exciting, and a little scary at times,” she said.
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