After unveiling the first half of the Daily Iowan Big Ten softball power rankings on Wednesday, the final edition is set. Here is how the top half of the conference shakes out.
The Spartans have one of the best batting units in the Big Ten. They lead the Big Ten in triples (20) and are second in home runs (60), trailing only Minnesota (61). Michigan State also has the third highest batting average at .317. The offense is a nightmare for all teams, especially with smart base running. Spartan speedster Ebonee Echols leads the Big Ten with 11 triples and will be someone to watch in the tournament.
The Huskers play some solid softball against tough opponents but have proved to be susceptible to lesser opponents. They could have clinched a first-round bye if they had taken care of business against Purdue. They are strong in the batter’s box but have a glaring issue in the circle. Their pitching ranks 10th in the Big Ten. Regardless of that, this team is still going to be a major threat in the tournament.
Illinois has one of the most efficient offenses in the Big Ten, led by senior Nicole Evans. It is the only team that was able to steal one win away from the Gophers in conference play. After the Gophers, the Illini went on a 10-game winning streak and looked like the only team that could rival Minnesota. Unfortunately, momentum is the name of the game, and they have only won two games since that streak. It will be interesting to see which team shows up in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
Ohio State is one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes do not always sweep teams, but they only lost Big Ten series to Michigan and Michigan State. They are not flashy on offense, but they get the job done. Their pitching is third in the Big Ten, and their defense is second. The Buckeye defense will lead them in the tournament and may give Michigan and Minnesota a run for their money.
Statistically speaking, the only team better at batting and pitching than Michigan is Minnesota. The Wolverines only edge Minnesota when it comes to defense. Michigan has the least number of errors in the Big Ten with 25, and the next closest is Ohio State with 43. Its defense is incredible, led by pitcher Megan Betsa, who owns the second-best ERA in the Big Ten at 1.18 and leads in strikeouts with 370.
If the Gophers do not win the Big Ten Tournament, it will be an amazing feat by whoever defeats them. Minnesota has dominated all season, only losing one game in conference play, and they have the best batting and pitching in the Big Ten. Senior Sara Groenewegen (Big Ten Pitcher of the Year) has an unbelievable 0.60 ERA, and Kendyl Lindaman (Big Ten Freshman and Player of the Year) has a batting average of .432, both tops in the Big Ten. Not to mention, the Gophers are riding a 22-game winning streak — talk about momentum. They are clear favorites to repeat as champions.