BIG TEN SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT

6 p.m. Friday vs. Rutgers/Purdue in Bloomington, Ind. • BTN

Gophers seek fourth straight conference title

Preview: The No. 3 seed Gophers (39-11) will enter the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday, facing the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 6 Rutgers and No. 11 Purdue. Both semifinals and the championship game are scheduled for Saturday, with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The NCAA selection show airs Sunday on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. The Gophers are eighth in the RPI rankings and hope to host one of the 16 region tournaments.

Teams to watch: Much like the regular season was a tight three-team race, expect the same from the tournament. No. 1 seed Michigan (40-11) and No. 2 Northwestern (42-9) will pose the biggest threats along with the Gophers. Michigan didn’t play the Gophers or Northwestern during the regular season, while the Gophers won two of three from Northwestern to end their regular-season schedule.

Top players: The best batter in the conference is Wisconsin junior designated player/first baseman Kayla Konwent, who has a. 479 batting average, a .918 slugging percentage and a .600 on-base percentage. Gophers junior Amber Fiser tops the pitcher rankings, with her 1.25 ERA and 281 strikeouts.

History matching: The Gophers have won the past three conference tournaments and could equal Michigan’s longest streak in the 1990s with a fourth title this year. That would be the Gophers’ sixth trophy.

MEGAN RYAN