As freshman shortstop Ella McVey’s line drive sent junior utility player Audrey LeClair on a victorious sprint for home, it was quite the high note to close out the Michigan softball team’s home-opening evening against Kent State.
But despite that aversion of a crushing defeat, the low-note ending of fifth-year left-hander Meghan Beaubien’s night will still shake some heads.
The elder of the Wolverines’ pair of aces, Beaubien has had a tough start relative to senior right-hander Alex Storako’s dominance. Beaubien brought a 4-5 record home from season-opening travels, and steadying the ship in a familiar environment was a clear goal going into her start in the second game of the doubleheader.
Beaubien’s overall performance on the mound did just that. She headed into her last inning with only two walks to her name. And with three more outs, the outing would have become her ninth no-hitter — a surprising state of affairs considering that the Golden Flashes already had two runs on the board.
“Meghan’s really started to get back into the flow of her elite pitching tonight,” Michigan associate head coach Bonnie Tholl said. “She wasn’t perfect and had a few walks, but anytime you give a team additional opportunities offensively, it’s tough for a pitcher to overcome at times and so we saw her give up one big hit.”
When it comes to the hit, “big” was an understatement.
With a full count and the pressure of a final inning at play, Kent State infielder Alex Fiske smacked one of Beaubien’s pitches with empty count-level confidence. The moment it left her bat, there was no doubt it was headed over the right field fence.
It wasn’t just a fatal stab to the Beaubien no-hit campaign, but a game-altering event. With the Wolverines having scored only three runs of their own, the solo shot was enough for Kent State to tie the game.
Although Beaubien’s single falter had great effect, the level-headedness of an experienced coaching staff helped her prevail.
“The one thing that we forget in that moment is that Meghan had nine strikeouts,” Tholl said. “And so she was outstanding up to that point.”
Tallying fewer strikeouts as of late — even in her past two wins — that number is indicative of the return to consistency sought of Beaubien. The moment that ended her night also doesn’t discount her reliability in getting out of multiple high-pressure innings, even despite the slip-ups in the field around her.
And the coaching staff’s even-keeled thought process spread towards the team’s performance as a whole. Michigan isolated the home run as Kent State’s only hitting action to retire the side. Then, the Wolverines executed at the plate themselves in the bottom of the inning to earn a double-header sweep, carrying that mindset.
“That’s something we harp on a lot,” senior outfielder Lexie Blair said. “Those are little barriers that we talk about, focusing on ‘one-pitch softball, one heartbeat, Michigan softball’ is the biggest focus for this year and just being present.”
But when Beaubien exited the game and Storako entered to secure the win into her record, it’s hard not to see it as a letdown for the former.
Michigan, though, continues to stress the positives.
“[Beaubien]’s doing what she’s supposed to do on the mound,” Tholl said. “She did that tonight for us, and we just need to shore up our defense for her and have a few more quality at bats and then we’ll be functioning on all cylinders.”