SB: Big Weekend series with Minny

Submitted by MGoSoftball on April 18th, 2014 at 1:19 PM

First place in the Big Ten Softball standings is up for grabs this weekend when #12 (2nd B1G) Minnesota comes to town to face our beloved Wolverines.  We are ranked #3 in both polls and 17th in the latest RPI.  Games will be played Friday 6pm, Saturday 7pm (BTN) and Sunday 1pm (BTN Delayed).

Now, the winner of the series is not guaranteed the regular season standings winner; however, a clean sweep by the Leaders and Best will certainly make things very difficult for the next challenger, Purdue.  We play Purdue later in the spring so we certainly are in the driver's seat.

We are coming into the weekend series 12-0 in the B1G, 34-6 overall with a 20 game winning streak.  Minny comes in with a 10-3 B1G record, 32-6 overall. Minny has 3 loses in the B1G to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Thus far in the B1G, we lead the league in BA at a whopping .364; followed by Northwestern at .328 and Purdue at .306.  We are also leading the B1G in ERA at a stellar 1.51; followed by Minny at a respectable 1.80 and Nebraska at 2.18.

Minny leads the league in HRs at an impressive 47, followed by Nebraska at 43 and then us at 38.  They also lead the league in least number of HRs surrendered.  So the Minny pitching staff is formitable and will give us some trouble.

The key in this weekend's series will be our pitching.  Minny is second to us in slugging % at .502.  We are at .535.  If our pitchers can have at least a good day; then we should win all 3.  If we let them get their bats hot; then it will be more difficult.

My prediction:  We will all 3 with an overall score of 18-5.  Megan will get an opportunity to shine, most likely on Sunday.  She will do great.  Haylie and Sara should have their usual "lights-out" performances.

Now for the 'Way too early World Series" predictions:  We will certainly host a home series but the question is can we improve our RPI enough to get into the top 8 to host a Super Regional?  At present, it looks 50/50 on us being in the top 8.  If we win out the rest of the season, then there is no question that a #3 ranked team should be in the Top 8 for the World Series.  However, if we lose to anyone but Minny this weekend, our chances fall dramatically.  We would need some serious help to remain in the Top 8.

My WS Prediction: We get a 7 or an 8 seed and host a Super Regional vs the other Regional Host Tennessee or Kentucky.

I will have an open thread for Saturday's game as well.  Go Blue!!!


Hail To The Blue

April 18th, 2014 at 1:49 PM ^

I just spent like 45 minutes writing my own softball preview, so I'm gonna add it to this one if you don't mind. Good write-up!

The time is upon us, softball fans - it's Minnesota weekend. This series has been circled on the schedule since the beginning of the year, and neither team has disappointed. The #3 Wolverines ride a 20-game win streak into the weekend, having won every game since dropping three straight in California against Arizona State, Washington, and a shocker against Houston. Michigan (34-6, 12-0) plays host to #12 Minnesota (32-6, 10-3) who has dropped single games against Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Nebraska in B1G play. 

The story of Minnesota's season has been their pitching. Senior Sara Moulton has been dominant all season, and she leads the conference in strikeouts with 188. Moulton and Michigan lefty Haylie Wagner are tied for the lead in wins with 19, and Moulton is second in ERA behind Wagner with 1.68. Behind Moulton, the Gophers have a National Freshman of the Year finalist in Sara Groenewegen, who is a perfect 11-0 and is striking out opposing batters at an insane rate, with 126 Ks in 77.1 innings (1.63 per inning). 

Michigan has a pitching staff that is more than capable of matching up, however. Wagner has been a model of perfection with a 19-0 record: 4-0 against ranked teams, 3-0 against top-five teams (Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona). Her pitching style is a bit different than that of Minnesota, relying on hitting her spots and forcing opponents to mishit the ball. She only has 87 K's in 110 innings, so she pitches to contact a lot more, but it clearly works for her. The Wolverines have their own National Freshman of the Year finalist in Megan Betsa, who is 10-3 with a 1.84 ERA. 

The difference in this game could be on the offensive side of things. Minnesota is hitting .285 as a team while Michigan is markedly better at .364. Another advantage for Michigan: there is only one Sierra Romero, and she'll be wearing Maize and Blue tonight. Romero leads the nation in three offensive categories: batting average with .519, on-base percentage with .651, and runs-per-game with 1.33. She has one more home run this year (11) than she does strikeouts (10). She's slugging an absurd .904 with 50 RBI. Sierra Lawrence has also had a hot bat lately, with 6 HRs and 45 RBI. U-M's table setters (Lyndsay Doyle and Nicole Sappingfield) have been fantastic also; both hitting over .400 and getting on base at a good clip to set the table for the meat of an already loaded lineup.

The importance of this series cannot be overstated: winning one is imperative, winning two is great, and winning all three is ideal. Taking at least two out of three secures our position in the drivers seat going forward, with series against Purdue, Illinois, and Wisconsin left to go. You can catch Saturday night's game on BTN at 7 PM, the REAL Under The Lights III. Go Blue!   

Edit: here is the intro that airs on the video board at Alumni Field. Pretty sick.

Smash Lampjaw

April 18th, 2014 at 5:11 PM ^

One of my favorite things in softball is tracking the careers of kids my daughter played against, and hoping they do well. One of those is Gopher Hannah Granger. If I read the stats correctly, she is having a good year with the stick, so I wish her well in a losing cause. Others in that category are our own lead-off star Lyndsay Doyle and Purdue's Lilly Felcho. Good luck to all of them, but Go Blue.