As the weather heats up, that can only mean one thing: Spring Big Ten Championships. Thus, in the second week of May, softball fans rejoice as the Big Ten Tournament is finally here. This year’s field could be a tough one for any team to navigate as many teams are peaking at the right time. To preview, let’s look at each team, by seed, and preview their odds to win the Big Ten Championship.
- The Michigan Wolverines, the #1 seed in the tournament, are #1 for a reason. Their hitting never lets up, their pitching is some of the best in the nation, and they find ways to beat everyone they face. Top pitcher Sara Driesenga has a 1.88 ERA in 30 starts this year, and appearing in all, but ten games this year, has shut down some of the best hitters in softball all season. She averages over a strikeout per contest and can single handedly carry a team to a championship in this tournament. Odds of Winning: 2-1
- The Minnesota Golden Gophers, the #2 seed, have two of the best hitters in the Big Ten. Kaitly Richardson and Tyler Walker both hit over .400, and can cause havoc for any team. The pitching for Minnesota, however, leaves something to be desired for a team that has fared so well this season. Sara Moulton is their premier pitcher, with an ERA of 1.62 and 260 strikeouts. After that, the Golden Gophers really do not have a shut down reliever. If a team can get to Moulton early and knock her out of the game, the Gophers would have a hard time winning. Odds of Winning: 5-1
- When your top four hitters hit over .300 (Taylor Edwards, Alicia Armstrong, Brooke Thomason, Jordan Bettiol), you know you have a chance to challenge any team for the championship. That is the position the Nebraska Cornhuskers find themselves in. When all three of your pitchers have an ERA under 2 (Emily Lockman, Danica Bishop, Tatum Edwards), those thoughts of challenging for a tournament championship change from a chance to what could be a strong reality. Nebraska should be playing on the final day of the tournament. Odds of Winning: 4-1
- Mary Massei, hitting .433 with 35 RBI’s, has consistently been the best hitter for the Wisconsin Badgers all season long. She finds ways to get to pitchers and has helped the Badgers to a #4 seed. The one-two starting punch of Cassandra Darrah and Meghan Mcintosh, with 250 combined strikeouts, has got the Badgers feeling like they can make a run in the Big Ten Tournament this season. Odds of Winning: 5.5-1
- The Northwestern Wildcats have played their way into the #5 seed this year, despite losing their last three games of the year to #1 seed Michigan. The Wildcats could almost field an entire team of .300 hitters, as seven hitters are over .300. The pitching for the Wildcats lacks, as they have a team ERA of 3.68. The offense is great, but they are only forcing opponents into an ERA of 4.59. That is a little too close for comfort, making a title run bleak, but not impossible. Odds of Winning: 8-1
- The Fighting Illini have been on a tear of late, winning 11 of their last 12 games. The team is really coming around at the right time, hoping to roll their way right along in the Big Ten Tournament. With Alex Booker leading the team in batting and Shelese Arnold leading the team on the mound, Illinois could make some noise in the postseason this year. That said, their pitching is not the strongest, posting a team ERA of 3.56. If anything undoes this team, pitching could be the culprit. Odds of Winning: 12-1
- The Michigan State Spartans finished the year with a 9-10 record in Big Ten play, really struggling to get anything going offensively. Their averages were not bad, as Kylene Hopkins batted .401 this year, with two others over .300 (Jayme O’Bryant, Alyssa McBride), but they were unable to string along hits to score many runs. The team only scored five or more runs six times in their 19-game Big Ten slate, lacking the ability to make plays in the clutch. Odds of Winning: 18-1
- One of the better teams on paper, the Ohio State Buckeyes, has really had trouble winning games this year. Their batting shows the team has the ability to let loose offensively, with six players batting over .300. Their pitching is led by Alex DiDomenico, who has a 2.48 ERA and 162 strikeouts, however, the team really does not have a great option beyond that. That is not to say the rest of the Buckeyes pitchers are bad by any means, but none of the remaining four pitchers have an ERA below 3 or have the ability to shut down an opposing team. Odds of Winning: 25-1
- The Iowa Hawkeyes (8-15 in conference play) have struggled this season, but not without winning their last five games to end the regular season. As a team, they are hitting .283, and Megan Blank has belted 11 home runs this season, impressive for any player. Her .436 average is nothing to blink at, either, as she has shown that she can hurt any pitcher she comes up against. The Hawkeyes pitching has been mediocre this year, posting a team ERA of 3.36, averaging less that 4 strikeouts a game. Odds of Winning: 35-1
- Purdue softball, losers of six in a row, is hoping to turn it around in the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers have been unable to find that dominant hitter in their lineup, as Andie Varsho, who is a .411 hitter, is one of their few dominate athletes. The Purdue pitching staff features Lilly Fecho and her 2.95 ERA. However, one of her weak spots is that she has given up 30 doubles and 14 home runs. If Purdue wants to win a couple games in the tournament, they will need to find some offense and the pitching staff will need to keep the ball in the park. Odds of Winning: 50-1
- The Penn State Nittany Lions, a 5-17 Big Ten team, locked up the #11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. This team is young, so their experience level is not quite what other Big Ten teams are. A team with less than seven seniors will have some growing pains, and that is exactly what Penn State experienced this year. A team with an ERA of 6.08 and a batting average of .265 (while opponents hit .315) is going to struggle to win games on a consistent basis. Given a couple years, Penn State could make some noise in Big Ten play, but that may take some time. Odds of Winning: 100-1
- The Indiana Hoosiers come into the conference tournament as losers of 14 straight and losers of 21 of their last 25. The primary reason for their #12 seed is their lack of hitting. Their team average is a lowly .237 while they allow opponents to hit .293. Their pitching, surprisingly, has been fairly decent, with a team ERA under 4. The Hoosiers have not been able to find firepower in their bats, with 19 home runs as a team. Another reason the Hoosiers struggled this season is they failed to turn one single double play all year long. Medial fielding and poor execution caused this team to struggle all year long. Odds of Winning: 200-1
This is what I think. How about you guys? Who do you feel has the best chance to win the Big Ten tournament or make a splash in any way?
Tags: Big Ten Big Ten Tournament Illinois Fighting Illini Indiana Hoosiers Iowa Hawkeyes Michigan State Spartans Michigan Wolverines Minnesota Golden Gophers Nebraska Cornhuskers Northwestern Wildcats Ohio State Buckeyes Penn State Nittany Lions Purdue Boilermakers Softball Wisconsin Badgers