The ACC/Big Ten Softball Challenge occurred in Raleigh over the weekend. The weather was quite warm for the middle of February with weekend temperatures holding steady in the 70s. Since the weather was nice and the highly ranked Michigan Wolverines were coming into town, I made it a point to attend.
The Challenge was modeled after the Basketball Challenge held yearly between the two conferences. With softball, the format is a bit different. Instead of only one game between two teams, teams meet in pods to compete in a weekend of games. Four teams meet in each host city with two of them being from the same conference. Teams from the same conference did not play each other over the weekend. This set up leads to each team playing four games, two against each of the teams from the opposing conference.
I had never attended a Division I softball game before and was impressed by the facilities NC State had built right in the center of campus. Their softball field was part of a complex that included a track and soccer field right across from their impressive student center. Seating was limited inside of the actual softball stadium, which left a standing room only crowd down each of the baselines. This created a great atmosphere for a full weekend of games.
The Wolverines had a great showing on the weekend finishing 3–1 while outscoring opponents 36–6. The ACC took the challenge overall this year with its teams finishing with a 19–13 record. The Big Ten won the initial softball challenge last year with a 20–12 record. The Challenge is now tied at 1–1 between the two conferences.