May 2, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- With conference titles and NCAA berths in the balance, Northwestern travels to Ann Arbor this weekend to conclude the regular season against perennial rival atop the B1G standings, currently 10th-ranked Michigan.
Friday's opening contest is at 5 p.m. CT/6 p.m. local and will be broadcast via online audio only. Saturday and Sunday's games both have been moved up an hour to accommodate live broadcasts on BTN. Saturday's game now is a noon CT/1 p.m. local start and Sunday's first pitch is at 11 a.m. CT/noon local.
Northwestern enters this series on a five-game winning streak, having reached the 30-win mark with nonconference midweek victories over DePaul and UIC on Tuesday and Wednesday. NU is in a virtual tie for fourth in the Big Ten standings with Minnesota, though the Gophers have the edge in percentage points based on having played less games. Michigan is 17-2 and in first place in the league, though it is coming off a 1-2 series at Nebraska last week.
Northwestern currently occupies the No. 5 seed for the upcoming Big Ten Tournament and cannot drop below that position no matter what happens in the conference this weekend. The top four seeds at the tournament receive Thursday byes; NU and Minnesota are dueling for that No. 4 seed with the Gophers facing 12th-place Indiana and the Wildcats at first place Michigan this weekend.
NU is the defending Big Ten Tournament champion after having won the most recent staging of the event in 2008 at Sharon J. Drysdale Field in Evanston. Scheduling configuration changes resulted in the suspension of the tourney until it was re-instated this year with the addition of Nebraska -- and eventually Maryland and Rutgers -- into the conference.
Despite not playing last year, NU and Michigan have had quite the exciting rivalry in league play over the last decade. The Wildcats or the Wolverines have won nine of the last 10 Big Ten regular-season championships, with NU finishing second in the only year that did not happen (Ohio State in 2007). In its two-year absence from the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11, Northwestern was 0-4 against Michigan, but otherwise has split the series, 10-10, since Kate Drohan became head coach in 2002.
NU sophomore Amy Letourneau has continued to be one of the top players nationwide over the last month. She earned her 20th win in the circle Tuesday in an 11-strikeout performance against DePaul and is batting .531 with a 1.078 slugging percentage, eight home runs, 30 RBIs and 16 runs in NU's last 22 games.
For Northwestern's complete Michigan series game notes package, download the .pdf at the top of this page.
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