The No. 2 Michigan softball team has just one conference series left before the end of the regular season.
And it’s not one the Wolverines will overlook.
Michigan (16-2 Big Ten, 49-4 overall) will face Michigan State in a home-and-home series Friday and Saturday to look for its 50th win of the season.
Two wins this weekend would also secure the Wolverines’ 14th Big Ten title.
“I just want us to keep getting better — getting better habits and playing better softball,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said earlier this week.
Senior first baseman Dorian Shaw added: “At this point, it’s really great that we’re starting to play better softball overall.”
The last time the Wolverines broke 50 wins in the regular season was in 2005 — the same year they were crowned NCAA Champions.
“It’s interesting to only have lost four games,” Shaw said when asked about what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. “And I know there are a lot of other games that we could have lost that we managed to pull out and win.
“It’s the mark of a tough team but a team that’s still learning.”
The Wolverines will honor six seniors at Alumni Field on Friday night as part of Senior Night: Alycia Ryan, Marley Powers, Brooke Ward, Nicole Guska, Shaw and Michigan’s main weapon this season, pitcher Jordan Taylor.
Taylor, who was named one the 10 finalists for the 2011 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on Thursday, has been quite the weapon this year for Michigan. With a 27-3 record on the season, Taylor still leads the Big Ten with a 1.36 ERA.
“One thing you can say for Jordan about what she has done for us throughout the year is she’s been consistent,” Hutchins said earlier this season. “She has been in her process in every game, and we rely on her.”
Taylor heads into the last conference series of her collegiate career with nine complete-game shutouts this season, including back-to-back efforts over national powerhouses Arizona State and Arizona. She is also the only Michigan pitcher in program history to strike out over 250 batters in each of her collegiate seasons.
There’s no doubt Taylor will be on the hill for at least one of this weekend’s matchups.
The Spartans (6-12, 27-25) will come to Ann Arbor on Friday, looking to upset their in-state rivals in their fourth straight home-and-home matchup. Michigan leads Michigan State in the all-time series, 69-27.
The Spartans are coming off a 3-2 comeback win over Purdue, lead by their star — and their biggest threat against the Wolverines — Lindsey Hansen.
Hansen, a senior, currently leads the Big Ten in both home runs (20) and total bases (139). She also sits in second place for slugging percentage with an impressive .908.
Cassie Layne, who leads Michigan State on the rubber, holds a 15-15 record this season with a 2.95 ERA — not quite the even matchup with Taylor. Layne will look to Hansen and the Spartan offense to try and outscore the Wolverines for an upset.
It will be up to the Michigan defense — lead by Taylor — to stay consistent and on its toes, or else the Wolverines might not make it over the hill to capture win number 50 and the 2011 Big Ten title.