#2 Nebraska vs. #4 Michigan
Big 10 Softball Tournament Championship
10:00AM CST Saturday
TV: B1G Network
Streaming: Fox Sports App
UPDATE - Starters are Olivia Ferrell (19-6, 2.13) and Alex Storako (23-7, 1.65)
UPDATE - BIG Ten genius (#sarcasm) strikes early! #2 seed Nebraska will be the visiting team against #4 Michigan today. Why, you may ask? Because of a rule that the team which has been visitor more often in the tournament gets to be the home team in the final & Michigan was visitor against Northwestern.
UPDATE - This will almost be a true Michigan home game. The stands are full and outside of the reserved seats behind the 1st base dugout, it’s basically all Michigan. No surprise.
No lead has felt safe against the Huskers (39-14, 17-5) this week. Whether it was waiting several innings to blow by Penn State or answering a 1-0 Ohio State lead immediately before finishing them in the bottom of the 7th for their 17th and 18th come-from-behind wins of the season, the Huskers treat overcoming adversity like getting a bad parking spot at a busy mall. We’ve gotta walk a little farther? Meh.
Standing between them and their first Big Ten Championship are the Michigan Wolverines (36-15, 14-8) who stunned top seed and regular season champ Northwestern with a 2-run HR by Taylor Bump in the top of the seventh to punch their own ticket to the finals.
The Huskers swept the two games played in Ann Arbor at the end of March with the third being cancelled due to what I can only assume is the kind of lousy weather one could expect in Ann Arbor at the end of March. Olivia Ferrell gave up a couple of runs with Courtney Wallace grabbing the save in the opener in a 3-2 win. Wallace then went the distance after a rough 1st inning in the second game for a 7-4 victory.
Why Nebraska will win:
- As much fun as it is to drink excessively and take heart medicine, the Huskers are due to take the early lead and cruise to a victory in at least one game.
- However, if Michigan does grab the lead…well, you’ve seen what happens.
- With Wallace and Ferrell splitting the innings yesterday, both should be fresh for the final.
- While the Michigan batters hit for decent average, the Huskers hit even higher and swing much heavier bats led by Billie Andrews and Sydney Gray. The law of averages says we’ll see a Husker HR today.
- The mix of talent, youth and experience feels built to finally bring this home.
Why Michigan might:
- Michigan took a big chance resting their ace Alex Storako (23-7, 1.65 ERA) against Northwestern on Friday. She struck out 280 batters in 174 innings this season and will be fresh.
- After blowing out Maryland, then winning in last inning fashion against Northwestern, they might be having some team of destiny vibes of their own.
- That two game sweep by Nebraska to open Big Ten play honestly feels like ancient history at this point.
- Michigan is the dominant fan base here and they are everywhere. This is going to feel like a road game. Also, their coach, Carol Hutchins, will very likely become the NCAA’s winningest coach next season (the all-time leader retired after 2021 and she’s only 5 wins behind).
Notes from Game 2 vs. Ohio St.:
- OSU’s Lexie Handley made her 3rd consecutive start in 3 days on Friday. The difference in wear and tear on the arm in fast pitch softball compared to baseball almost makes pitcher another regular position. Almost. It seems as if most teams roster only 4 or maybe 5 pitchers. But could get by with two or three.
- The Huskers look very, very sharp in the red pinstripes.
- I wore my Savannah Bananas jersey to the park Friday (If you love baseball and don’t know who they are, check Tik Tok & YouTube. Just do it.) and got quite a few “nice jersey!” comments. None more so than from a group of Ohio State players coming off the bus who just went - well - bananas. Said one, “I am just soooo OBSESSED with them!” On an unrelated note: Dads? Don’t let your daughters anywhere near the Savannah Bananas.
- The home plate ump’s strike zone was a bit bizarre unless the inside chalk of the lefty batter’s box is part of your strike zone. A Buckeye coach griped about a call out there early on and the ump proceeded to stop the game and issue warnings to most of East Lansing.
- While there were no more outward complaints about the odd strike zone after that umpire performance, there were plenty of interesting body language and facial expressions from the players which didn’t quite cross the line while still making their displeasure pretty obvious. High comedy.
- Sitting behind the Nebraska radio guy, I knew he felt the same way about these pitches when he would occasionally unleash this call: “Handley delivers a fastball..(pause)..and it’s called a strike.”
- Not that it affects the game but just to stir the pot for everyone, a BTN commentator referred to Michigan as “we” last night on a segment previewing today’s game. Really enjoyed when that happened in the middle of an NU-Iowa women’s hoops game this season as well. Thanks again, BTN. I thought I’d throw that in there for anyone looking for that “Us against the world” vibe today.
- I’m very excited for this. A full season of 2021 Husker football has steeled me for anything, but as I said yesterday, these ladies have of vibe and a swagger I’d like to bottle and give the men’s big three teams. I’ve been calling them the Comeback Kids, but these “kids” are playing with the poise of seasoned veterans. I fully believe there will be a Husker celebration here in East Lansing tomorrow. GBR