The UNO softball team is off to a 22-3 record in 2013, the best start since 2002 and the best mark in the Summit League. Though the Mavs have yet to play a home game, UNO is already two wins away from matching their win total from 2012.
How have the Mavs been so successful? Look no further than the group of young talent assembled by Head Coach Jeanne Scarpello.
When Allie Mathewson stepped into the batter's box for her first at bat of the season, and her first at bat as a Maverick, her shoulders may have been heavy with expectation. The former Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year had an illustrious high school career that included a .542 batting average her senior year and a .462 career average overall.
Mathewson was named the honorary captain of the Lincoln Journal Star Super-State team in 2011, and twice received All-Nebraska honors from the Omaha World Herald. As a freshman at Creighton, Mathewson earned her way onto the All-Missouri Valley Conference Second Team.
But if Mathewson was feeling any pressure, it didn't show. She put whatever weight of expectations there may have been into a swing that sent a pitch over the left field fence.
Before the school year began, there was speculation Omaha softball might have been the program best equipped to succeed in the first year of full-time Summit League participation. Conference head coaches confirmed that belief last Friday when the Mavs were voted fifth out of nine teams in The Summit League preseason poll.
UNO received 38 points in the poll, just two points away from fourth-place Kansas City and six from third-place Western Illinois. North Dakota State received eight of nine first place votes, and is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference with 64 total points.
Winning seasons are something the UNO softball program has become accustomed to. Since 1988, the Mavs have had a winning season every year and average 42 wins per season during that span.
If early success is any indication, the UNO softball team will enjoy playing at the new Westside Field at Westbrook. A week after sweeping UNK, the Mavs split a series with South Dakota then beat Peru State to improve to 4-1 at home and 17-13 overall.
After dropping the first game of a doubleheader 3-0 to North Dakota at the Great West Conference Cluster on March 25, UNO head softball coach Jeanne Scarpello had had enough. It was the second time the Mavs had been shut out on the weekend and UNO had scored just 11 runs in five games.
While waiting for a full Summit League schedule next season, the UNO softball team was fortunate enough to get a conference invite for the 2012 season. After going 3-3 over the weekend at the Great Western Conference Cluster in Farmers Branch, Texas, the Mavs know they'll be playing as the no. 2 seed when the conference tournament comes up in mid-May.
The UNO softball team was set for a historic day last Tuesday. But then the weather and the Huskers rained on the parade.