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!!!