UNO has a new showcase for its first meeting as a Division I opponent with the Nebraska softball team.
The teams are scheduled to play at 5 p.m. Tuesday. It will be the University of Nebraska at Omaha's home opener and first game at Westside Field at Westbrook near 80th and Western Streets.
UNO partnered with Omaha Westside High School on the field, which the Warriors will use in the fall.
More than $1 million was spent on the facility, Mavericks coach Jeanne Scarpello said, which is an upgrade from Claussen-Westgate Field, where players had to contend with noise from I-80 and trains. Scarpello is looking forward to her players actually being able to hear what she says.
"It's just a nicer setting. It's quiet, it's a great coaching environment, there are batting cages right next to the field, nice dugouts, a good-sized press box and running water," Scarpello said. "This is a huge improvement for our players."
An extra bonus, Scarpello said, is that both schools have the same colors, so there are lots of red and black accents.
UNO has played 18 games on the road, and Scarpello said the Mavs are excited to return home and take on a team the caliber of Nebraska (15-12), which has gone 5-1 while outscoring its opponents 43-2 the past two weeks.
With the exception of fall games, UNO and the Huskers, who open Big Ten play Friday against Northwestern, haven't met since 1982.
"This is what you play for," she said. "You want to play against top competition, and that's what Nebraska brings us."
Scarpello is excited about what her team has done at the Division I level. UNO is 10-8 and has won its past six games by a combined score of 25-4.
UNO likely won't win 45 games this season, as it has done at the Division II level, but Scarpello said the Mavs are competing hard on every pitch while learning that while they may not be able to handle a Top 25 squad, there are plenty of Division I teams they can hold their own against.
"Every team we play we learn. We keep growing every game," she said. "Where we were the first day of the spring season, we'll be a completely different team by the end because we keep evolving."
Pitching has been key for the Mavs. Sophomore ace Dana Elsasser, freshman Kat Barrow and junior college transfer Ashton Hughes have compiled a team ERA of 1.60. They've allowed three earned runs in the past eight games.
"Dana Elsasser, she's done a great job," Scarpello said. "She's lowered her ERA a lot."
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