NU is Daily’s pick for revenge in Ann Arbor against Wolverines

Coley Harvey

Softball

First Round

No. 2 NU (37-14, 15-3 Big Ten)

vs. No. 7 Purdue (34-23-1, 10-10)

Purdue has won its final three conference games, including an 8-0 shutout of fourth-seeded Ohio State on May 1. The Cats are shooting for their third shutout of Purdue this year. In the schools’ previous two meetings in a doubleheader April 17, the Cats beat the Boilermakers 9-0 and 7-0.

Daily’s Pick: NU

No. 1 Michigan (52-4, 15-2)

vs. No. 8 Michigan State (25-27-1, 7-9)

Michigan State got trounced two weeks ago when it visited Michigan. Michigan hit three home runs in the first of the two-game series. The Spartans currently are riding a four-game winning streak, but their momentum may not be enough for tonight’s prime time game versus the No. 1 team in the nation.

Daily’s pick: Michigan

No. 3 Iowa (46-11, 12-6)

vs. No. 6 Penn State (34-20, 10-9)

Penn State is one of the tournament’s least likely wild cards. Freshman Ashley Esparza has the third best batting average in the conference with a .406 mark. But what Penn State has offensively, Iowa can match with its pitching. Lisa Birocci has the conference’s third lowest ERA at 1.14 and has more strikeouts-looking than any other Big Ten pitcher.

Daily’s pick: Iowa

No. 4 Ohio State (32-16, 9-7)

vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (30-21, 11-9)

During the opening weekend of conference play, Wisconsin swept Ohio State 2-1 and 9-7. In both games, it was a late-inning score that propelled Wisconsin to the win. Senior Kris Zacher, who is hitting .400 with a .676 slugging percentage, was key in both victories. In two games against Minnesota last weekend, she had three hits, three RBIs and two home runs.

Daily’s pick: Wisconsin

Semifinals

No. 2 NU vs. No. 3 Iowa

With a 19th national ranking for NU and a 22nd ranking for Iowa, this game should be a lot more interesting than the 11-1 beatdown the Cats put on the Hawkeyes at the beginning of conference play. Fans can expect a pitcher’s duel in this matchup. Birocci pitched a complete game and struck out six in her 2-0 loss to NU and has struck out more batters than both NU pitchers Courtnay Foster and Eileen Canney this season.

Daily’s pick: NU

No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 1 Michigan

Wisconsin will find itself understaffed and overworked in comparison to a better-rested Michigan team. With Michigan’s conference-leading offense, this game will be over quickly.

Daily’s pick: Michigan

Championship

No. 2 NU vs. No. 1 Michigan

So it all comes down to this. The powerhouses of the Big Ten — No. 1 and No. 2 — will face off in a grudge match on the same field where the Big Ten regular season champion was decided. In two games last weekend, the Wolverines knocked off the then-conference leading Cats, 3-0 and 8-7. The second game was by far the one game this season NU would love to forget. Leading 4-2 entering the top of the sixth, NU gave up six runs to Michigan. A positive of that game for NU, however, was junior Sheila McCorkle’s two-homer, four-RBI performance.

After a week of practice where coach Kate Drohan said the Cats “went back to executing fundamentals,” NU should have more offensive production than usual Saturday night. Michigan’s offense should be strong as well, as the Wolverines lead the Big Ten with a .324 team batting average, 341 runs scored and 84 home runs.

While NU’s first game against Michigan was a pitcher showdown, the championship game with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line will mirror the second game’s slugfest.

Daily’s pick: NU

— Compiled by Coley Harvey