Feb. 6, 2014
ROSEMONT, Ill. - The 2014 Big Ten softball season will begin this weekend with all 12 conference teams taking to the diamond. On Friday, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin will open the year at various tournaments around the country, while Michigan and Purdue are set to begin the campaign on Saturday.
Reigning Big Ten Champion Michigan and Nebraska both appear among the top 10 of each preseason poll. The Wolverines are ranked No. 5 in both the USA Softball and National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) ballot, and the Cornhuskers are No. 9 in both rankings. Reigning Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin also received votes in each poll, while Minnesota and Iowa collected votes in the USA Softball preseason ballot.
2014 Big Ten Softball Storylines:
- The Big Ten returns 25 All-Conference performers from last season, including Big Ten Player of the Year Sierra Romero from Michigan, and Pitcher of the Year Tatum Edwards of Nebraska. Nine of the Big Ten's 12 teams will return at least one All-Big Ten player.
- Fifteen first-team performers, seven second-team standouts and seven members of the Big Ten All-Defensive Team return to their respective squads this season.
- Twelve returning Big Ten players were named All-Region performers last season, including second-team NFCA All-Americans Romero and Edwards from Michigan, and Kaitlin Richardson of Minnesota, who was named a third-team All-American.
- Seven Big Ten standouts were named to the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch list: Iowa's Megan Blank, Michigan's Sara Driesenga and Romero, Minnesota's Richardson, Nebraska's Edwards, Purdue's Andie Varsho and Wisconsin's Mary Massei.
- Prior to the start of the 2014 conference season, Big Ten teams will make at least 118 appearances against teams that finished in the top 50 of the final 2013 NCAA RPI.
- Ahead of conference play, Big Ten programs will make at least 130 appearances against teams that were part of the NCAA Tournament field in 2013.