The Michigan softball team has gone 21-7 in non-conference play and has climbed to No. 14 in the USA Today/NFCA and the Softball polls. This weekend, it will start the Big Ten season and play its home opener with a series against Purdue (11-15). The Wolverines hold a 39-2 all-time series lead over the Boilermakers with 13 straight wins since 2007. Michigan looks to defend the Big Ten title that it has claimed the past five seasons.

The Block ’M’ softball beat has put together a preview for the opening of conference play. Get to know the team with details of who to look for at each position, a breakdown of the other Big Ten teams and profiles on sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga and sophomore catcher Lauren Sweet.

Positional Preview

The Michigan softball team’s fate in the Big Ten rests in one left hand and one right hand — those belonging to sophomore pitchers Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga, who share duties in the circle this year. Here’s a look at who will be behind them on the diamond.

Sizing Up The Big Ten

As the only ranked team in the Big Ten, the No. 14 Michigan softball team is a favorite to win its sixth consecutive championship. The Wolverines (21-7) look in form as the conference slate begins, having won eight of 10 games, including an upset of No. 2 Arizona State. But coach Carol Hutchins’ team will face stiff competition this spring.

Sara Driesenga

Sophomore pitcher Sara Driesenga spent her weekend getting three wins against three ranked programs, resulting in Big Ten Pitcher of the Week and NFCA National Player of the Week accolades. She’s been a key part of Michigan’s success early this season — consistently delivering strong outings in the circle while also contributing with her bat.

Lauren Sweet

Behind the plate, Sweet’s responsibilities go beyond catching a ball and throwing it back to the pitcher. Sweet has been a brick wall for the Wolverines, committing just five errors in her role as starting catcher — just three all last season. She completed her freshman season with a Big Ten Freshman of the Week award and a .988 fielding percentage.

Michigan vs. Purdue

Despite Big Ten softball foes Penn State and Michigan State cancelling a would-be series in East Lansing, this weekend due to inclement weather, No. 14 Michigan plans on taking the field at home for the first time Friday for its first games outside of Florida or California this year.

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