Wednesday, May 06, 2009
As a Michigan alum, I'm so excited about tonight's Wolverine doubleheader against Ohio State that I made the adjoining logo! The twin-bill, which starts in Ann Arbor at 5:00 Eastern, will in all likelihood decide the Big 10 championship. Each team is 14-2 in conference play. If either team sweeps tonight, it would take a two-game lead over the other (16-2 vs. 14-4), with each team having two games left (UM vs. Michigan State, and OSU vs. Penn State); even if UM and OSU ended up tied at 16-4, however, a sweep tonight would give the Wolverines or Buckeyes the head-to-head tie-breaker (assuming that's how the Big 10 does things). Should UM and OSU split tonight, all bets are off!
As I noted in my summary of this past weekend's action (see posting immediately below), there are no hotter teams in the country at the moment than the Wolverines (18 straight wins) or Buckeyes (16 wins out of 17). At the risk of oversimplifying, one could say that the key foci will be Michigan's pitching and Ohio State's hitting.
The Wolverines' Jordan Taylor and Nikki Nemitz have each received Big 10 Pitcher of the Week honors in recent weeks. According to a UM news release, Nemitz "ranks second in [the] nation with [a] 0.76 ERA." The presence of two strong pitchers gives longtime Wolverine Coach Carol "Hutch" Hutchins a great deal of flexibility. I would expect tonight's starting duties to be split between Taylor and Nemitz, with either available for relief if the other gets in trouble. Michigan's offense has some pop, with 1B Dorian Shaw, OF Angela Findlay (younger sister of Samantha Findlay who finished her UM career a year ago), and Designated Player Amanda Chidester. However, Michigan has faced three of the nation's elite pitchers this season -- UMass's Brandice Balschmiter, Florida's Stacey Nelson, and Washington's Danielle Lawrie -- and the Wolverines have been shut out in all three games.
For the Buckeyes, SS Alicia Herron (this past week's Big 10 Player of the Week) and OF Courtney Pruner have been a wrecking crew, recently blasting Northwestern pitching in an OSU sweep. Kim Reeder and Lindsay Bodeker seem to be sharing the Buckeye pitching duties, so perhaps each will start one of the games tonight.
If you can't get to the games or watch it on the Big Ten Network, online gametrackers are readily available. Here are some links for readers who would like to study up in greater depth:
UM-OSU preview from the official Big 10 softball page
Preview from OSU athletics site
Preview from UM athletics site
Announcement (May 4) of Ohio State shortstop Alicia Herron as the Big 10's Player of the Week, and Michigan's Jordan Taylor as Pitcher of the Week
Game 1 goes to Michigan, 6-3...
...as does Game 2, with Jordan Taylor's complete-game, one-hit pitching leading the way for a 5-2 Maize and Blue victory.