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Nebraska Softball 4.19

Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle gives outfielder Alyvia Simmons a high-five on April 19 at Bowlin Stadium.

Rhonda Revelle knows of one lineup change she'll need to make for the Big Ten Tournament.

Nebraska's softball coach also serves as the team's third-base coach. But after a foul-ball liner off the bat of one of the hardest hitters in the Big Ten connected with her foot Sunday at Wisconsin, Revelle will be coaching from the dugout when the Huskers (21-30, 9-14 Big Ten) open play against Illinois (31-22, 9-14) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Bloomington, Indiana.

"I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and I thought I was going to continue coaching," Revelle said of when junior Tristen Edwards fouled a pitch in her direction early in Sunday's regular-season finale. "But I think adrenaline took over for four steps and on the fifth step, I couldn't walk anymore."

An MRI revealed Revelle has two broken bones in her foot. She's fighting through it this week while wearing a protective boot.

Revelle's Huskers will continue to fight, too.

A 12-game losing streak sidetracked Nebraska's regular season and put it out of contention for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. And from March 9 to April 12, Nebraska lost 15 of 18 games.

It could have spiraled more from there, but the Husker seniors were determined to get the needle pointed in the right direction and the underclassmen were motivated to get better. NU is 6-3 in its last nine games, and it has led late in eight of those games.

Revelle made sure the Huskers remained motivated, even after they fell out of contention for an at-large NCAA berth. The coaches preached less focus on the scoreboard and more focus on "internal scores" from every practice, from every game and between every inning.

"The thing that I'm most proud of this year, when a lot of teams would have checked out or cashed it in, we really started to make some improvements, and I'm really proud of that," Revelle said. "I feel like we've been very competitive down the stretch."

Several Huskers have taken a leap offensively. Edwards is hitting .500 over her past nine games. Sophomore Rylie Unzicker is hitting .412, senior Bri Cassidy is hitting .385, seniors Madi Unzicker and Alyvia Simmons are hitting .318 and freshman Peyton Glatter is hitting .304 during that same stretch.

"We are big believers in that intentional work always shows up," Revelle said. "That's always one of our standards. There was a point, about the time you could go this way or that way, the older players said, 'You know what? We're going to lead the charge and continue to work and be very diligent about our work.'

"There have been gamedays when (hitting coach) Diane Miller's had nine or 10 people ask for individual hitting sessions."

Nebraska faces a steep uphill battle this week in Bloomington. The Huskers will play an Illini team with a strong offense. The winner gets Big Ten regular-season champion Michigan (40-11, 22-1) — and likely All-American pitcher Meghan Beaubien — in Friday's quarterfinals.

The Huskers must win the conference tournament to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year. Revelle said the Huskers are loose heading into Bloomington.

"Let's walk into Indiana with the expectation that we can win this thing," Revelle said. "That's how I want them to approach it."

Some other tournament notes:

* Nebraska, the eighth seed in the tournament, took two of three against Illinois earlier this season. All three games were very competitive, and NU rallied late in both of its wins.

* The Huskers have finished 0-1 at the single-elimination tournament the past two seasons.

* With Revelle limited to the dugout, assistant Lori Sippel will coach at third base when the Huskers are batting.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.

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Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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