It was a cruel April Fools’ Day.

The last time Iowa came to Ann Arbor to take on a top-ranked Michigan softball team, it was April 1, 2005, and the Hawkeyes pulled out a shocking 5-2 victory at Alumni Field.

The upset snapped the Wolverines’ team-record 32-game win streak, giving Michigan just its second loss of the season. Michigan went on to win the national title two months later.

This weekend, No. 1 Michigan (9-1 Big Ten, 41-3 overall) will have a target on its back against Iowa again, as the two squads square off in a two-game series taking place on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Michigan has a two-game lead on third-place Iowa (7-3, 25-16), and the Wolverines have already beaten second-place Indiana, so if anyone is going to snatch a conference title out of Michigan’s grasp, it will likely be the Hawkeyes.

And with just five conference series remaining, this weekend could determine quite a bit in terms of standings.

Historically, the matchup has been just about as even as it gets. The Wolverines hold a 49-53-1 all-time record against Iowa — the Hawkeyes are the only Big Ten team that have played over .500 ball against Michigan.

But the Wolverines’ senior class knows success against Iowa, with a 5-1 record since arriving in Ann Arbor. That experience could play a key role in what Michigan hopes is a bounce-back weekend of softball.

The Wolverines are coming off a tougher-than-expected sweep of middling Penn State, gutting out a pair of 5-4 wins on Wednesday. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins acknowledged that the team didn’t have its best performance and can’t expect to beat top-tier teams with that type of play.

“We were lucky to get out of there with two wins,” Hutchins said on Wednesday. “We aren’t playing our best one-pitch softball at the moment.”

Iowa comes to town playing impressive softball, having won six of its last seven contests. The team is led by last week’s Big Ten Player of the Week, junior catcher Liz Watkins — her second such award of the year was given after she batted .625 with a 1.500 slugging percentage to lead the Hawkeyes to a 3-1 record during the week.

All season long, Watkins has done it all, smacking nine home runs, tallying 35 RBI and throwing out an impressive 16 base runners from behind the plate.

Still, Michigan boasts the conference’s best ERA (1.57), is second in batting average (.330) and is the favorite in the heavyweight Big Ten matchup.

Junior center fielder Bree Evans is leading the team in batting average (.422) and hits (65) and is on a tear of late.

“That’s why (Evans) is at the top of the order. That’s why she’s been there for the past three seasons now,” Hutchins said.

But if Michigan plays like it did against the Nittany Lions, it might have a tough time coming out on top.

“We talk about putting everything behind you, because yesterday doesn’t have anything to do with today,” Hutchins said last week. “I tell my kids, you don’t get too high and you don’t get too low. The season is a journey and it’s a long journey and you have to stay even-keeled. You get too high on yourselves and somebody will burst your bubble.”

No tricks, no April Fools’ jokes, Hutchins is looking to hold onto the No. 1 ranking with a gimmick-free weekend of softball.

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