As the weekend opened, sixteen teams were left standing: Michigan, Missouri, Florida State, Utah, Oregon, UCLA, Alabama, Washington, Auburn, Arizona, James Madison, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Louisiana-Lafayette. After this weekend, eight elite teams will remain.
But a tough challenge awaits before the Wolverines can claim one of the spots in the Women's College World Series. The Missouri Tigers (42-14) come into town on a bit of a hot streak to take on Carol Hutchins' Wolverines (49-5). Both teams are nursing ambitions of glory and legacy, but this will be the final set of games for one of them. The Tigers bring a formidable lineup and some good pitching to this weekend's rubber match.
|AB||R||H||HR||RBI||BA||OBP||SLG%||OPS||SB||SO / BB|
|Taylor Gadbois||CF||179||53||72||1||18||.402||.460||.453||.913||54-59||22 / 18|
|Emily Crane||RF||164||64||68||17||61||.415||.534||.829||1.363||25-28||7 / 38|
|Sami Fagan||SS||160||58||68||11||54||.425||.560||.688||1.248||26-29||8 / 44|
|Amanda Sanchez||3B||168||25||62||6||42||.369||.456||.530||.986||3-3||14 / 21|
|Chloe Rathburn||DP||170||26||56||14||58||.329||.374||.641||1.015||5-6||17 / 11|
|Regan Nash||LF||137||33||47||0||12||.343||.396||.358||.754||22-24||21 / 10|
|Kolby Romaine||2B||64||10||10||4||12||.156||.194||.359||.553||1-1||9 / 3|
|Kirsten Mack||C||145||29||37||4||22||.255||.368||.372||.740||4-4||15 / 23|
|Rylee Pierce||1B||146||36||47||7||29||.322||.431||.527||.958||12-13||33 / 25|
The Tigers have a .328 team batting average (compared to .356 for Michigan) and a 3.03 earned run average (Michigan's is 1.98). The combination of power and speed is very good: 70 home runs on the year and 163 stolen bases. Luckily, Michigan has a veteran catcher it can rely on in Aidan Falk.
It's also worth noting that no one in the field of sixteen is batting better than Michigan's Sierra Romero, who is one of three finalists for National Player of the Year honors. And, few have a pitcher with as high of a ceiling as Megan Betsa when all her pitches are working.
Still, at the end of the day, it's not about the talent; it's about teamwork and the tenacity to get the job done. Lately, Michigan has had that. They'll need to bring that same level of focus this weekend - Missouri is too talented to toy around with without getting burnt. Getting some of Michigan's slumping hitters back in a groove wouldn't hurt our chances, either. There's a reasonable chance that will happen.
Anyway, Game 1 starts today at 3:00 PM, with Games 2 and 3 happening tomorrow. Feel free to spend some time here for an open thread later on.