After getting the final Penn State hitter to ground out in Sunday’s 17-0 rout, senior right-hander Megan Betsa turned and pointed to her sophomore second baseman Faith Canfield as she trotted off the field.
Betsa had just recorded her fifth career no-hitter, but as she high-fived her teammates before shaking hands with the Nittany Lions, she didn’t even crack a smile.
As far as no-hitters go, Sunday’s was about as nonchalant as they come.
“I actually didn’t know today,” Betsa said. “I actually didn’t feel as good today as I have felt in previous games.”
Eight days prior, Betsa no-hit Kent State in the same circle at Alumni Field. In between, she has been as dominant as they come. In that span, including both no-hitters, Betsa hasn’t allowed a run while striking out 59 batters and walking just seven in her 29 innings of work.
After Friday night’s 3-0 shutout of the Nittany Lions, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins complimented her ace while remaining critical of her team’s offensive effort.
“We’re fortunate to win the game in my opinion,” Hutchins said on Friday. We win the game because of Megan Betsa.”
On Sunday, though, Betsa got her fair share of help.
The Wolverines’ offense erupted, plating 17 runs in just four innings at the dish.
“We got more patient at the plate,” Hutchins said. “Once you get a couple runs and you get some people get some big RBIs, it frees everyone else up and they don’t feel the pressure. In a 0-0 game, there’s pressure — all perceived pressure.”
Katie Alexander got the hit parade going, with a double that snuck inside the left-field line to drive in Canfield for the first run of the game. Junior first baseman Tera Blanco then followed that up, sitting back on a fastball and turning on the pitch to send a no-doubt, three-run shot over the left-field wall.
The home run was a positive sign for Blanco, who now has two home runs in her last four games and has generated more solid contact recently.
That would do it for Penn State’s short-lived starting pitcher, Marlaina Laubach, who was removed after recording only one out.
The Wolverines would go on to bat around in the inning and score five times, and are now averaging 2.7 runs in the last seven games in the opening frame. Additionally, Michigan has scored in the first inning in five of its last seven games.
“Especially when you’re up in the series, they’re just trying to get a game from you, (scoring in the first inning) puts a stake in it,” Hutchins said. “You could feel that Penn State was pretty deflated after the first inning. It was important. There’s nothing like getting your lead-off hitter on base.”
After being held scoreless in the second inning, the Wolverines’ offense — which was relentless on the day — put another eight runs on the scoreboard. The inning was highlighted by a bases-loaded bloop double off the bat of Canfield that scored three runs. The double was her sixth hit and accounted for her fifth and sixth RBI of the weekend.
The production is nothing new for Canfield, who has enjoyed a breakout campaign atop the Michigan lineup. She has arguably been the most consistent hitter for the Wolverines all season, with her average now sitting at .359 and 22 RBI.
And the runs just kept coming.
Four more in the fourth inning brought the total to 17 on the day, a new season high for the Wolverines. The blowout was a collective team effort, as 11 players had at least one hit for Michigan and eight contributed at least one RBI.
But this day, just as many have recently, belonged to Betsa.
In the eight days since the no-hitter against Kent State, Betsa has seemed unbothered by any adversity thrown her way.
Midweek back tightness didn’t seem to faze her. Sparce run support on Friday didn’t stop her from throwing a shutout gem. And on Sunday, not even a 30-minute delay and a rain-soaked Alumni Field could slow down the red-hot Betsa.