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Alabama softball to take on Michigan in Super Regionals

This game is huge. A lot of people are talking about it. Two high-profile programs are preparing to compete against each other in a massive showdown. It’s Alabama and Michigan, and this time it isn’t football.

The Crimson Tide will play the Michigan Wolverines in a best-of-three Super Regional series in Tuscaloosa beginning on Thursday. The winner will advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

The second overall seeded Alabama softball squad will play the first game beginning at 7 p.m. at Rhoads Stadium on Thursday. The second game of the series will be at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. If a third game is necessary, it will be played later that evening.

Michigan enters the weekend following a clean sweep of its competition in the Louisville Regional. The Wolverines finished the weekend with a flawless 3-0 record to advance to Tuscaloosa. Michigan began the regionals with a 3-2 victory over Kentucky, and then followed that up with a 2-1, eight inning victory against Louisville before beating the Cardinals 4-0 in the championship game.

Michigan is now 9-0 in the month of May, and will be looking to add to that phenomenal stretch of play this weekend. Freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner has been nothing short of stunning in the circle for the Wolverines. She won the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year award this season and became only the second player in the Big Ten’s illustrious history to win Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the same season.

During the regular season, Wagner posted a 1.46 ERA and a record of 32-5. She pitched 26 complete games and struck out 153 batters while allowing only 14 home runs. Wagner led the Big Ten in ERA, wins, appearances and runs allowed. Simply put, in one season she has already become a force to be reckoned with from the circle. She has been just as potent during postseason play. Wagner pitched in all of Michigan’s games in Louisville and posted a 0.64 ERA. She threw complete games in all three appearances.

Wagner isn’t Michigan’s only weapon. Senior first baseman Amanda Chidester won her second straight Player of the Year award in the Big Ten. She held a .351 batting average during the regular season with nine home runs, 45 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .591. Her numbers were down during the first weekend of the tournament, so she will certainly be looking to turn things around this weekend. Chidester managed to bat just .300 during the Wolverines’ three games with three hits, one RBI and one run.

Michigan’s coach isn’t too shabby, either. Head coach Carol Hutchins won her 13th Coach of the Year award this season. Hutchins, who is in her 28th season in Ann Arbor, has a record of 1,209-407-4 during her tenure with Michigan. She led the Wolverines to its only NCAA championship during the 2005 season.

Alabama will certainly have its hands full this weekend. The Tide has played stiff competition all season in the Southeastern Conference, but Michigan brings a new challenge to a Crimson Tide team that has seemingly seen it all. A 9-0 record in the month of May and a confidence that is soaring through the roof will make this Tuscaloosa Regional one that should be highly competitive and entertaining.

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