The only ones that matter

Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 10:40pm

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins stresses a one-pitch mentality with her team.

Michigan coach Carol Hutchins stresses a one-pitch mentality with her team. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

It didn’t matter that Michigan could only score one run all game.

It didn’t matter that Florida State had two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh in a one-run game.

It didn’t matter that with a full count, and two outs, a single mistake could make or break the game.

For the No. 20 Michigan softball team (5-4), it was all about one pitch — the one being thrown.

“I thought that in the game last night, we were really one-pitch focused,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “That’s how we were just caught in our moment. One pitch — that usually equates to good softball.”

Good softball would be an understatement for the Wolverines’ selfless defense. After shutting out Notre Dame (6-3) earlier Saturday, the team recorded its second shutout of the day with the 1-0 win against the eighth-ranked Seminoles (8-1).

In order to protect the slimmest of leads, the performances of the defense showed grit and determination that allowed Michigan to make its only run the winning run — an RBI single by senior first baseman Tera Blanco.

However, the remaining innings turned into fruitless attempts to add to the Wolverines’ lead, causing them to fall back on their only constants of the weekend trip: pitching and infield play.

Pitching in her fourth career start, freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien had a perfect game heading into the seventh inning with seven strikeouts.

However, her hitless night came to an end quickly, as Seminole third baseman Jessica Warren hit a ball down the middle, narrowly escaping the grasp of freshman shortstop Natalia Rodriguez, who dove up into the air for a chance at the fly ball. The tip of her glove brushed the ball, which pushed it further from the clutches of pursuing outfielders. However, the defense regrouped to prevent any extra bases.

With a groundout to second base, Beaubien put Florida State on its last legs. Facing the highest leverage situation of her college career, she allowed another single before a wild pitch pushed the two runners to second and third base with two outs.

As Seminole designated hitter Zoe Casas walked up to the plate to bat, Beaubien found herself in a familiar situation. In her first inning pitched for Michigan — the seventh inning of the season opener against Alabama-Birmingham, a 7-0 win — she encountered multiple runners in scoring position, two outs and mounting pressure. However, this time, there was no seven-point cushion to act as a safety net in case of her mistakes — instead a measly one-run lead.

Yet, Beaubien took it one pitch at a time.

Four pitches, two balls, two strikes.

On the fifth pitch, she raised a look of triumph on her face, only to be shocked at the call of a ball — loading the count.

With the potential make-or-break pitch determining whether the Seminoles would have one more go at bat, Beaubien saw the pitch at hand as she saw any other pitch.

“You have to always be one-pitch focused,” Hutchins said. “That’s all we ask for, just be in your moment. So she’s a very talented pitcher. But you still have to just stay in your moment … You have to just go out there and work hard to do your part.

“That’s all we want from Meghan. That’ll make her great.”

Now with her back against the wall, Beaubien did what she’s always known — pitch.

Throwing a rising change-up, she baited Casas to swing, sealing the game on a strikeout.

Running to the mound brimming with joy, the Wolverines didn’t care that they were forced to make a full-count pitch or could only score one run from the first play of the game. They cared that the run and pitch that came were the only ones that mattered.