The 12-team, single-elimination tournament begins Thursday with first-round games and continues through Saturday’s championship game. This year’s tournament will be held at Goodman Diamond on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. The tournament champion will earn the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
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Favorites to Win It All
Michigan will enter the tournament as the No. 1 seed following its 20th conference title and 10th in the past 11 seasons. The Wolverines clinched the outright Big Ten Championship on May 5 with a victory over Ohio State. Michigan finished the regular season with a record of 43-10 and went 18-3 in conference play. Meghan Beaubien has led the way in the circle for the Wolverines. The freshman left-hander posted a 32-3 record in the regular season with a 0.90 ERA and 245 strikeouts in 195.1 innings pitched. Beaubien is a front-runner for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Wolverine offense posted a .310 team batting average through the regular season with junior Faith Canfield on top with a .404 average of her own.
The defending tournament champion Minnesota is the No. 2 seed this year. The Gophers finished 36-15 in the regular season and 17-4 in conference play. Similar to Michigan, the Gophers have relied heavily on one arm in the circle. Sophomore Amber Fiser has logged 217.2 innings on the mound this season for the Maroon and Gold. The right-handed pitcher holds a 1.48 ERA and has recorded 216 strikeouts so far this season. Fiser is in the hunt for the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year accolade. The Minnesota offense finished the regular season with a .287 average. Freshman Ellee Jensen is leading the squad with a .404 average on 55 hits.
Indiana enters the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Hoosiers concluded the regular season with a 25-29 overall record and went 17-6 in conference play. Indiana went 3-0 against tournament No. 4 seed Ohio State and picked up a conference win against Michigan. Gabbie Jenkins has had the hot bat for the Hoosiers this season. The sophomore is hitting .366, with 63 hits and is tied for the lead in the Big Ten with six triples. Emily Goodin and Tara Trainer have shared mound time this season for Indiana. Goodin holds a 2.23 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 106.2 innings pitched. Trainer owns a 2.53 ERA and has 208 strikeouts in 188.1 innings pitched. Indiana has proved that two is greater than one and has utilized both pitchers through the 2018 season. They are our dark horse pick in the tournament where games and innings can get long for teams who plan to ride only one pitcher until the end.
Top Players to Watch
Kelsey Jenkins, Wisconsin
The senior is leading the Big Ten in batting average on the season with an impressive .420 average. In 131 at-bats, Jenkins has recorded 55 hits, 18 2B, 32 RBI, and has drawn 44 walks. Playing in front of her home crowd this week, we can expect Jenkins to give it her all.
Lilli Piper, Ohio State
The junior is second in the Big Ten in batting average with .409. In 149 at-bats, Piper has recorded 61 hits, 48 runs scored, 56 RBI, 14 2B, 19 Home Runs, and 23 walks. Piper has been the driving force for the Ohio State offense this season. Opposing pitchers will need to step up to the challenge and keep runners off base when Piper steps into the batter’s box.
We project another championship showdown between Michigan and Minnesota. It would be the first time the two teams have met on the diamond this season. Both teams have relied heavily on one pitcher throughout the regular season and Big Ten play. Beaubien for Michigan and Fiser for Minnesota are neck and neck in season statistics on paper. Spectators can anticipate a pitcher’s duel if the championship comes down to this matchup. The Minnesota offense has proved to have more depth than Michigan this season. Therefore, we predict Minnesota will walk away with the tournament championship title.
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