About a month ago, Meghan Beaubien looked more out of character than ever before. In Michigan’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchup against North Carolina on Feb. 15, the sophomore left-hander took the circle during the bottom of the fifth.
With the score tied 3-3, Beaubien collapsed, giving up three hits, two walks and five earned runs. Michigan coach Carol Hutchins pulled her out in the same inning but the damage had already been done. The Wolverines proceeded to lose, 8-3.
“My biggest takeaway is definitely to let go of the results and the outcome and just focus on the process, just relaxing and playing our game,” Beaubien said two days after that performance.
Exactly one week later, Michigan trailed 2-1 against a formidable Stanford team. During the bottom of the sixth, Hutchins wanted to give the Cardinal a different look, substituting freshman right-hander Alex Storako out for the opposite-handed Beaubien.
The result: two hits, two walks, four earned runs, five batters faced in .1 innings pitched.
However, when Beaubien started, it was much of the opposite. In her 12 starts so far, she has allowed more than two runs only twice.
Though Beaubien claimed that these multi-run innings were a result of mentally struggling in the circle, Hutchins thought it to be an issue with the speeds of her different pitches.
“We need to have a better off-speed pitch right now,” Hutchins said on Mar. 9. “That’s because when you’re a pitcher of (Beaubien’s) caliber, that’s a pitch that can really make you great. It’s been a pitch that’s been great for her. It’s been inconsistent this season.”
In the final non-conference series of the season against Kent State this past weekend, Beaubien had phenomenal outings as the starting pitcher for the first two games, allowing four hits without a walk or earned run in eight total innings.
But Beaubien’s biggest challenge of the weekend came toward the tail end of the weekend.
Holding a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth during Sunday’s second game, Storako began to struggle. With two outs and two runners on base, she hit a batter which ended her night.
Hutchins, rather than turning to a fresher pitcher in sophomore right-hander Sarah Schaefer, turned to Beaubien with the bases loaded, trusting her to finish off the inning without letting the Golden Flashes inch back.
Beaubien attacked Kent State’s Brenna Brownfield, striking her out as she watched the ball hit senior catcher Katie Alexander’s glove – exactly what Hutchins had been asking for the entire season – ending the inning.
In the seventh, Beaubien forced a fly out while striking out Megan Turner and Kristyn Eckl with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches, earning her first save of her sophomore campaign and helping complete a sweep of the Golden Flashes.
Now, after three consecutive performances without giving up an earned run as a relief pitcher, including one against then-No. 9 Louisiana State, Beaubien is scorching. She’s found her swagger as a starter. But most of all, she’s started to mold into a reliable reliever as well.
And if the Wolverines have any plans for a conference championship, the pitchers will have to continue to attack and Beaubien knows well that she’ll be leading the pack.