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Five things to know about the Big Ten softball tournament at Goodman Diamond

May 11, 2018 GMT

Here are five things to know about the Big Ten Conference softball tournament being played Thursday through Saturday at Goodman Diamond:

1. The format

The top 12 of 14 conference teams qualified for the four-round, single-elimination tournament. The top four teams in the standings — league champion Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana and Northwestern — earned byes to Friday’s quarterfinals.

After four first-round games Thursday and four quarterfinal games on Friday, the two semifinals and championship game will take place Saturday. All games are on Big Ten Network.

The tournament champion gets the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The selection show is at 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

2. At the top

Michigan (43-10, 18-3 Big Ten) and Minnesota (36-15, 17-4) finished one game apart in the standings, and they’ve combined to win 13 of the previous 20 playoff championships.

The Wolverines have won nine and the Golden Gophers four, including the last two.

Northwestern and Iowa are the only other teams that have won more than one tournament championship. The University of Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State have all won the title once.

3. Dominance on the mound

It’s not hard to see how Michigan and Minnesota got to the top of the conference this season and why they could maintain those positions in future seasons: Both have dominating young pitchers.

Minnesota sophomore Amber Fiser led the league with a 0.85 ERA in 19 conference appearances. Michigan freshman Meghan Beaubien wasn’t far behind at 0.93 in 17 outings.

Beaubien, a left-hander, struck out a league-best 117 batters in 90⅓ Big Ten innings.

4. Power at the plate

Defending Big Ten player of the year Kendyl Lindaman of Minnesota made a strong case for a repeat, batting a league-best .512 in conference games, the highest average for a league batting champion since 2014.

The sophomore catcher added 10 home runs to tie for the lead.

UW’s Kelsey Jenkins was second in batting average in conference games at .462. She was the only player not from Minnesota or Michigan in the top five.

5. First time in Madison

The Big Ten tournament has been at a different location each year since it resumed in 2013, and UW’s Goodman Diamond is hosting for the first time.

The Badgers are 10-2 this season at their home stadium, which opened in 1999 and has a capacity of 1,600.