Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 Big 10 Conference Forecast

Team that might surprise us all: Northwestern
Lots of celebratory high fives coming from NU this season.
(Virtual powerhouse of energy Emily Allard finally seems to be good to go in her recovery from 2012 off-season surgery, and that's going to be a HUGE boost for the Cats... pitching-wise, Amy Letourneau may have been something of a surprise to B1G opponents at the start of last season, but they soon found out that she was not going to be easily beaten. Expect that to continue this year. (The success, not the surprise.) Even though opponents *may* be better prepared this season, I fully expect the success that earned Letourneau 1st-team All-Conference honors last season to continue. In addition, any time you have the experience of Kate & Carol Drohan leading your program, you're in good shape.)

Team that might surprise us all: Penn State
(I had a hard time coming up with a disappointing team, so I decided to throw in a second team with some good things I expect to see. The changes taking place in State College under Amanda Lehotak's tutelage, even thus far in this her first year, are evident and all on the good side of things. Any time a program like Penn State can bring such a well-respected coach like Coach Lehotak, it's going to make an impact on the program, both immediately and long-term. And don't forget that one of the best pitchers in recent memory, Megan Gibson, is coaching the Nittany Lion hurlers, so there's going to be good things happening in the circle, too. On the opposite & negative side of things, the graduation of slugger Cassidy Bell is definitely going to be an impact that's felt, as she was their biggest offensive weapon.)

Player of the Year: Taylor Edwards, Nebraska
Pitcher of the Year: Sara Driesenga, Michigan / Sara Moulton, Minnesota
Coach of the Year: Carol Hutchins, Michigan

Conference Champs: Michigan Wolverines

Players to Watch:
Emily Allard, Northwestern – Like I mentioned above, Allard is a spark plug for the Northwestern team. She sat out last season as she recovered from surgery the season before, but I believe she is fully healthy now & ready to go! Despite the fact that she hasn't played in over a year, she's shown such incredible talent & promise in the past, I list her as one of the top three or four shortstops available for the professional draft, if she opts to go that route. She's excellent both offensively and defensively, so she's a weapon Kate Drohan will be very glad to once-again be able to pencil into her lineup on a daily basis.

Megan Blank, Iowa – The junior shortstop's biography on the school's website lists her most impressive statistic - a .413 career batting average entering this season. But the impressive numbers don't stop there for Blank. She hit .437 last year alone, with eleven home runs and a .766 slugging percentage. That's great for any player, much less a middle infielder in a conference like the Big Ten. Just as impressively, her BB/SO ratio was greater than 3/1. She's a budding star, and this could be the year she hits the level of greatness.

Sara Moulton, Minnesota  – The Gophers were my #3 team that could surprise folks, but I decided just to go with the usual two up top. The biggest reason I would have put them in that spot and why I've predicted them so highly in the conference is Moulton. I honestly cannot understand why she doesn't get more love on a national-coverage basis than she does... especially notable statistics from her 2013 campaign include a 1.57 ERA in more than 275 innings & an opponent's batting average of .199. Any time a pitcher manged to hold opposing hitters (from both sides of the plate) to a BA of less than .200, it's an accomplishment. I see a lot of potential in Moulton, and with this being her senior season, she could also be playing for a high draft choice in the NPF draft. I predict statistics much along the same lines as last season, with a few more strikeouts possible.

Kaitlyn Richardson, Minnesota  – I would normally combine two players from the same team, but what Moulton means to the Gopher pitching staff, Richardson is for Jessica Allister's offense. She came in with a great season in 2012, and I'd say she topped it in 2013. Quickly climbing the ranks to be considered one of the absolute best in the game (as if there's much higher to climb coming off an All-American campaign), Richardson's 2013 line of .430/10/43 was great, but I think a bit of a hike in the latter two categories is entirely possible, maybe even probable.

Conference Projection:
1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Minnesota
4. Northwestern
5. Penn State
6. Wisconsin
7. Iowa
8. Illinois


  1. I like the conference projections, Go Blue!

  2. Illinois 8th? Our girls look great even though we are young I am putting them in the top 5 especially since we have pitching this year...finally!

  3. nebraska was truly inspiring last season. top-to-bottom big ten conference is mighty tuff.