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This Week in Michigan Softball: Rivalries renewed and a trek to Purdue

Michigan, a Big Ten contender? It’s more likely than you think.

NCAA SOFTBALL: MAY 23 Playoff Regional - Michigan v Washington Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a string of midweek wins and weekend series victories, it’s time to ask — are the Michigan Wolverines softball team back in the hunt for a Big Ten title?

It’s not impossible. Despite the current leader Northwestern cruising at the top with a dominant 10-1 conference record and Michigan sitting 3.5 games back from that, the Wolverines are slowly but steadily climbing their way back into contention.

First thing’s first, a victory against rivals Michigan State on Wednesday, and starting a three-game series this evening against the Purdue Boilermakers.

Here’s this week’s trip around the diamond in the world of Michigan softball.

Recapping the week

After the severe storm threat washed this game out last week, the Wolverines finally got in their road trip to East Lansing on Wednesday. Things didn’t start out as well as they would have hoped, as a bobbled ball at the pitcher’s circle allowed a Michigan State run to score with two outs in the second inning. The following inning, the Spartans added another run — this time an earned one — off a bases loaded fielder’s choice pushed their lead to 2-0 through three innings.

The lead didn’t last long, as Michigan wiped the slate clean and took a lead of its own by scoring three runs in the top of the fourth. Audrey LeClair got things rolling with an RBI triple that drove Ryleigh Carricaburu home, while a throwing error from Michigan State second baseman Mandy Esman and an RBI single from Lexie Blair scored the second and third runs, respectively.

The Wolverines capped off their scoring in the sixth inning, with Blair adding another RBI with a double to left-center field, and an additional run scored via an RBI single off the bat of Keke Tholl.

The Spartans never had a chance to answer the five runs from Michigan, as Lauren Derkowski and the Wolverine defense clamped down and didn’t allow a Spartan baserunner past first for the final four innings of the contest.

Final: Michigan 5. MSU 2.

Scouting the Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilermakers have had it rough in their first 11 conference games. Of their four conference series this season, they have been swept in a three-game slate twice and swept in a two-game slate once, with their lone series victory being against Rutgers.

What makes the Boilermakers a rather puzzling team is the fact there’s not anything that at face value has contributed to their 2-9 conference record. They aren’t a strong team by any means, but with three batters — Tyrina Jones, Alex Echazarreta, and Kiara Dillon — batting above .310, and Echazarreta sitting with a team-leading .940 on-base plus slugging, their line up isn’t particularly weak. Similarly, their top three pitchers aren’t fanning opponents left and right, but ace Mo Wimpee has a somewhat respectable 3.00 ERA through 21 appearances.

All in all, Purdue is a team that’s more likely to give a scare than it is to get a win. The Wolverines will have to fight for it, but exiting the weekend with six straight conference victories isn’t a pipe dream — and could launch Michigan back into serious conference title contention.

Weekend schedule (All times in EST, television and streaming options where applicable)

Friday, April 13 at Purdue (5 p.m., B1G+)

Saturday, April 14 at Purdue (2 p.m., B1G+)

Sunday April 15 at Purdue (1 p.m., B1G+)