Nebraska softball freshman Billie Andrews was penciled into the lineup as the starting shortstop from day one.
She has stayed there as an infield staple for a young Huskers team looking to make some noise in a competitive Big Ten. Over a third of the Nebraska roster is freshmen, and Andrews entered Lincoln as perhaps the most prolific out of high school.
Despite Andrews’ talent, it wasn’t just her ability and knack for the spectacular that earned her the starting spot. Head coach Rhonda Revelle instead pointed to Andrews’ work ethic and understanding of the team’s culture as the deciding factor.
“Billie wasn’t given the starting spot, she earned it,” Revelle said. “She has bought into what we are building here and comes to practice every day ready to work and she truly practices the way she plays which really shows.”
Andrews entered Nebraska as a standout from Gretna High School, where she was a four-year letter winner compiling a .434 batting average over 116 games with 57 home runs and 139 RBIs. The Omaha World Herald also recognized Andrews’ ability, naming her to the All-Nebraska First Team her sophomore, junior and senior year.
Andrews finally broke out despite a slow start and is now flashing a .302 batting average as well as a team-leading 12 RBI through her first 16 games as a Husker. This all comes in the shadow of a struggle to start her Nebraska career.
Prior to her breakout performance against the Nittany Lions, Andrews was batting just .158 and had struck out 15 times.
However, Andrews remained confident despite her slow start . She credits the coaching staff, primarily hitting coach Diane Miller, for helping her keep her spirits high and continue to make adjustments to her offensive game.
“One thing that coach Miller and I have talked a lot about is the process and trusting it despite the struggles,” Andrews said. “I have really been able to see the small improvements that we have been working on, and I knew that it is going to click and I will be able to see the work pay off.”
Defensively, Andrews has shown off her skills, with a 94% fielding percentage while also helping the Huskers’ nine double plays, the third highest team mark in the Big Ten. Andrews credited her success early on to her buying into the culture that Revelle and the coaching staff worked to build at Nebraska.
Andrews’ four errors may seem to exhibit defensive struggles to the naked eye, but Revelle admitted that Andrews can hurt herself on the stat sheet due to her impressive range from the shortstop position.
“Billie just gets to some balls that other players wouldn’t be able to get to,” Revelle said. “She will get to balls in the hole and be forced to make a difficult play or fumble with a tough play that would simply go through for a base hit. So some of those errors can be very misleading and don’t represent how great of a defender she is.”
That desire to be at her best on the diamond stems from a deep sense of gratitude to the team’s pitching staff, as Andrews feels that it is her responsibility to be the best she can to help assist her teammates on the bump.
“I feel like when I’m out there I have a responsibility to help out my pitchers who are working hard,” Andrews said. “I want to make all the plays for them when a ball comes my way no matter how difficult the play, I wanna be able to make every play that I can for them.”
Despite such a large role being thrust onto Andrews’ shoulders, the freshman stays grounded, and is focused on getting better each day. That mentality is another major component of the culture that is being built by the coaching staff at Nebraska, according to Andrews.
“I just try to be the best teammate that I can be and come to practice every day looking to work hard and get better,” Andrews said. “The coaching staff talks about getting 1% better each day and it builds up over time as we improve as a team. I really have tried to buy into that and I feel like it has helped to build a great culture here as a team.”
The Huskers started at 6-6, but now sit at 9-7 after a great stretch of ball. Revelle is confident in her young team going forward.
With a young team anchored by Andrews, the Huskers are looking to grow together and continue a stretch of competitive play in which they’ve won six of their last eight games. Only one of those losses came by more than three runs — a 7-0 loss to Purdue on March 13. The ability to keep games close and battle until the final pitch has Revelle encouraged by her freshmen-centered team.
“We have a really young team overall with most of our upperclassmen lacking significant game time,” Revelle said. “We have a group that are buying into what we are building together and all coming to practice each day ready to work and are seeing the improvements that they are making each day, and Billie has been right in the middle of that.”