Nearly a year after its last game, the No. 17 Michigan softball team dropped its 2021 schedule on Tuesday, a campaign chock full of doubleheaders and Big Ten grudge matches.
Kicking off the season with a doubleheader against Purdue on Feb. 26, the Wolverines will take the field for the first time since Mar. 6, when they lost 3-2 to UCF in eight innings.
The first homestand will be against in-state rival Michigan State starting April 2. The last game played at Alumni Field was a 2-1 loss to James Madison University in an NCAA Regional on May 20, 2019.
Michigan will wrap up the regular season with four matchups against Rutgers starting May 14.
The schedule features almost exclusively weekend games, a Thursday matchup against Nebraska on Mar. 11 being the exception.
Games will be played in a Big Ten bubble in Leesburg, Fla., through Mar. 14, while the rest of the season will consist of home and away games. Start times for the games have not yet been released.
Instead of competing against non-conference foes, Michigan will take on familiar Big Ten opponents throughout the season due to the ongoing pandemic. Only one of those teams, No. 24 Minnesota, was ranked as of Jan. 26.
While the NCAA’s cancellation of the 2020 season prevented the Wolverines from beginning conference play, they led the Big Ten in 2019 with a 22-1 conference record. With more conference games than a usual season, they will likely look to replicate that success.
Condensed schedules are common for college softball teams, but the Wolverines face a different kind of beast as 24 of their 44 scheduled games will come as doubleheaders. Michigan is familiar with playing multiple games a day, but that usually only occurs in tournaments.
The Wolverines will likely work toward a spot in the Women’s College World Series, with selection Sunday occurring May 16.