Feb. 7, 2013
The 2013 Big Ten softball season opens this weekend with 11 conference squads taking to the diamond. Beginning Friday, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin open the year at various tournaments around the country, while Minnesota opens the new campaign on Saturday. Penn State is the final conference team to begin the new year, opening the season on Feb. 15.
Reigning Big Ten Champion Michigan appears among the top 15 of each preseason poll, checking in at No. 13 in the USA Softball rankings and No. 15 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) poll, while Northwestern is also receiving votes in both rankings.
2013 Big Ten Softball Storylines:
- The Big Ten returns 28 All-Conference performers from a season ago, including Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Haylie Wagner, from Michigan who along with Penn State's Cassidy Bell were named unanimous first-team All-Big Ten honorees. Each Big Ten squad will return at least one All-Conference honoree from a season ago.
- Ten first-team performers, 10 second-team standouts and eight third-team honorees return to their respective squads this season.
- Eight returning Big Ten players were named All-District performers last season, including Northwestern's Marisa Bast, who was named a third-team NFCA All-American.
- Five Big Ten standouts were named to the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch list, one of four conferences with five or more players selected to the list: Michigan's Haylie Wagner, Michigan State's Kylene Hopkins, Northwestern's Emily Allard and Marisa Bast and Penn State's Cassidy Bell.
- Prior to the start of the 2013 conference season, Big Ten teams will make 122 appearances against teams that finished in the top 50 of the final 2012 RPI, including 75 versus teams that were rated among the top 25. Seven Big Ten programs are scheduled to face 10 or more teams that finished among the top 50 of the final 2012 RPI.
- Entering the season, Big Ten teams are scheduled to make 74 appearances against teams among the preseason top 25 of the NFCA and USA Softball rankings, including nine squads that are slated to face six or more preseason top-25 squads prior to the start of Big Ten play.
- Ahead of conference play, Big Ten programs will make 140 appearances against teams that were part of the NCAA Tournament field in 2012, an average of 11.7 per team. Of those 140 non-conference contests against 2012 tournament teams, 27 will be against teams that advanced to the Women's College World Series.
- Every Big Ten team will play at least 19 games away from home to start the season, including eight teams that will play 25 or more games away from home to begin the new year.