Preview, analysis and predictions for the Ann Arbor regional round

Friday, May 17, 2019 - 10:51am

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins and her team will host this weekend's NCAA Tournament regional.

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins and her team will host this weekend's NCAA Tournament regional. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

After capturing the outright Big Ten regular season championship and conference tournament title, No. 15 seed Michigan earned the right to host the NCAA Tournament double-elimination regional round. The Wolverines will welcome James Madison, DePaul and Saint Francis (Pa.) to Alumni Field this weekend. The Daily breaks down the Ann Arbor regional:

Daniel Dash, Daily Sports Writer

Predicted champion: Michigan

The Wolverines are 15-0 at Alumni Field this season for a reason. Hosting a regional has been a goal of theirs all season long, and after taking home the Big Ten Tournament title, there’s no reason to believe Michigan is ill-prepared for the moment. Now in her 35th season, coach Carol Hutchins knows what it takes to win in May, and I expect the Wolverines to do exactly that in the regional.

Michigan’s X-factor: Longevity

Longevity in the circle is a must-have for Michigan this weekend. Hutchins has shown no hesitation in pulling freshman right-hander Alex Storako and sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien quickly if she doesn’t like what she sees. In the regional, the Wolverines will need consistent innings out of each pitcher to fend off the possibility of one over-fatiguing, especially after watching Beaubien pitch over 15 innings just a week ago.

Potential upset: DePaul

DePaul could throw a wrench in the region by taking down James Madison on Friday. During the regular season, the Blue Demons led the Big East in both batting average and fielding percentage while finishing as a close second in ERA. They have a pair of ace-caliber pitchers in Natalie Halvorson and Krista Dalgarn, who proved capable of performing on a national scale by beating Northwestern, Harvard and Houston — three other NCAA Tournament teams.

Lane Kizziah, Daily Sports Writer

Predicted champion: Michigan

The Wolverines know how to play at Alumni Field. While Michigan’s offense struggled early in the season — a problem that resurfaced against Illinois last weekend — its home opener marked a shift. The Wolverines found their footing and their bats began to swing. Coming off of their Big Ten Tournament win, there’s no reason they’ll slow down now.

Michigan’s X-factor: Natalie Peters

Senior outfielder Natalie Peters has been a force in Michigan’s lineup for years. While she’s been always been consistent baserunner, a couple of slams in the Big Ten Tournament brought her impact to a new level. Peters hit at a .500 clip on the weekend and nabbed a few important catches in the outfield. In many aspects, Peters embodies the Wolverines as a whole: a well-rounded player coming into her own at the right time.

Potential upset: None

Each of these teams is coming in with very different end results from their regular season. While James Madison challenged Michigan early in the year, the Wolverines’ stark improvement and a home field advantage will let them blow past the Dukes.

Lily Friedman, Daily Sports Writer

Predicted champion: Michigan

Coming off a hot Big Ten Tournament and a win against No. 7 seed Minnesota, the Wolverines have the momentum to carry them through this weekend’s matchups at Alumni Field. Michigan’s home field advantage, with Alumni Field’s 2,650-seat capacity and loyal fan base, also gives it a leg up that has allowed them to stay undefeated at home throughout the regular season. Even with James Madison coming to Ann Arbor, the Wolverines play well at home, and that should carry on this weekend.

Michigan’s X-factor: Meghan Beaubien

Beaubien has been lights out recently. Despite giving up a home run in the Big Ten Tournament final against Minnesota, Beaubien — especially in the first two games of the tournament — threw strike after strike, shutting down Illinois’ hot offense and limiting Wisconsin's as well. Though Beaubien didn’t throw against the Dukes in their meeting with the Wolverines earlier this season, she’s proved her endurance and skill, and that strength in the circle will be pivotal for Michigan if they face James Madison.

Potential upset: None

It’s been a long season. Every team played over 45 games, and at this point, the teams that solidified themselves in the regular season seem poised to take the cake this weekend. That being said, any team can win any day, but expect the teams that cemented themselves during the regular season to dominate in Ann Arbor.

Akul Vijayvargiya, Summer Managing Sports Editor

Predicted champion: Michigan

Beaubien and Storako showed they could pitch against the Big Ten’s best teams on relatively little rest. With three games in three days this weekend, the Wolverines should feel secure about their pitchers being rested and ready to play at their best level. Combining this with a better offense and home field advantage will make Michigan a tough out.

Michigan’s X-factor: Alex Sobczak

The Wolverines are getting heavy production from the top of their lineup. Peters, senior second baseman Faith Canfield, and freshman outfielder Lexie Blair took home All-Big Ten Tournament Team honors while junior third baseman Madison Uden also had a great showing this past weekend. But the one player that had a tournament to forget is Alex Sobczak — she batted a .100 mark with only one RBI. Sobczak hasn’t had a multi-hit game since Apr. 13 against Ohio State or a home run since Apr. 21 against Illinois. As the cleanup hitter, that must change for Michigan to find offensive stability.

Potential upset: None

The red-hot Wolverines are coming into the tournament having won 31 of their last 32 games. Though James Madison beat Michigan earlier in the season, it played in a weak conference and therefore will not be prepared for the improved Wolverines. However, the Dukes, with their experience in beating teams inferior to them, will fare just fine against DePaul and Saint Francis (Pa.).