During Nebraska’s first game of the season, Billie Andrews broke a tooth while slipping in home plate.
That didn’t faze the second Husker, who homered twice later in the game against Omaha.
A cracked tooth or an opposing pitch, little can slow Andrews down more than a month into the softball season. The Gretna graduate has hit 16 homers, which is already a school single-season record for a sophomore, and she’s on course to break Ali Viola’s single-season record of 22.
Andrews has always had the power element in her arsenal — she hit nearly 60 home runs in high school — but even Andrews didn’t see it coming.
“At the start of the season, it really clicked for me, and I guess I surprised myself,” she said.
Yes, things click offensively for Andrews, who is off to one of the best starts in program history.
Andrews broke his team-best .415, recently had a 23-game hitting streak and those 16 home runs — nine in the opposite field — lead the nation.
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Some of them have been moonshots, including two that went through the scoreboard that dominates Bowlin Stadium’s left field a few weeks ago.
Andrews leads the Big Ten in slugging (.979) and runs scored (32), and is second in RBIs (35). His 23-game hitting streak was the best by a Husker since Taylor Edwards (25) in 2014.
Confidence has a lot to do with Andrews’ early success. But much of it dates back to the offseason.
When Andrews wasn’t in Lincoln, she was at home in Gretna punching with her sister Brooke, a Huskers junior. While at Lincoln, Andrews took many vision training courses.
The Huskers have a pitching machine that delivers balls with numbers on them. The batters try to figure out what the numbers are.
Now Andrews sees the ball very well and doesn’t miss much after hitting seven home runs as a freshman.
“(I) just take it at bat and pitch and stay present in the moment and just knowing that every at bat is a new opportunity,” said Andrews, who is hitting a whopping .979.
A big plus for Rhonda Revelle during the recruiting process, Andrews had the tools to make an immediate impact in college and she did just that, becoming one of only two freshmen to be named to the Big Ten team.
Second year crisis? Andrews brushed that notion off in his first at bats of the season, a cracked tooth and all.
“It feels really good to know that every season I can continue to gradually improve and still be myself…prove myself and know that I’m capable of succeeding,” said Andrews, who also provides a solid glove at shortstop.
Now comes the next challenge for Andrews and the Husker bats, who have combined 43 homers. Nebraska will open the Big Ten game at No. 19 Michigan on Friday.
The Wolverines have three pitchers with ERAs of 0.71, 1.71 and 2.22, including Alex Storako (0.71), who is 13-0 with 138 strikeouts in 78 1/ 3 innings. She was the 2021 Big Ten pitcher of the year.
“I’m excited to play against the Big Ten teams,” Andrews said. “We’re just excited to get back out there and face those pitchers that we’ve seen before (and) prove ourselves in the Big Ten and against those highly competitive teams.”
Interestingly, the top two home hitters in the nation are Nebraskans. Andrews entered No. 1 at 16 on Wednesday, and Beatrice graduate Addison Barnard is second at 13 with Wichita State.
Photos: Nebraska softball hosts doubleheader against Wichita State, South Dakota State
Contact Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or [email protected] On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.