As Michigan junior right-hander Megan Betsa watched the ball land in right centerfield, the Western Michigan bench jumped to its feet. A new sense of life emanated in the Bronco dugout, but only for a fleeting moment.
Without hesitation, Betsa walked back to the circle, received a command from the Wolverine dugout, and tossed a first-pitch strike. Before long, Western Michigan’s Ivy Schaaf was trudging back to the dugout, as Betsa struck her out to put an exclamation point at the end of a dominant, one-hit performance.
“I think I did a really good job of staying in my process,” Betsa said. “I got rid of bad thoughts really quickly, which is something I haven’t done very well this season.”
Betsa’s 14 total strikeouts proved more than enough as the Michigan softball team (22-2) eased past the Broncos, 8-0, in six innings at Alumni Field on Thursday.
The second-ranked Wolverines started quickly as senior centerfielder Sierra Lawrence drew a walk and immediately stole second base.
With Lawrence in scoring position, senior shortstop Sierra Romero — who is hitting near .500 — ripped a double into the outfield to bring her home.
Whereas the Wolverines’ 14-1 win over Eastern Michigan last week featured an outburst of runs in the early innings, the offense needed more time to click at the plate against Western Michigan (9-13).
“I thought we could have swung a lot better,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “I would like to see us be more attacking and hit the ball harder and farther.”
Junior third baseman Lindsey Montemarano answered Hutchins' call. The junior has struggled with a batting average hovering below .200, but she rectified her problems against the Broncos.
With senior pinch runner Mary Sbonek on second base, Montemarano laced her fourth double of the season into left field to increase the Wolverines' lead to 2-0.
“I think the biggest competitor for me is myself and my mind,” Montemarano said. “I’ve let that control too much because I want to do so well, so bad … but I need to remember the game doesn’t change, and playing at home allows (me) to calm down.”
With two outs in the third inning, Montemarano proved to be a timely hitter once again as her single scored senior right fielder Kelsey Susalla to make the score 4-0.
“Well, (Montemarano) had to start somewhere,” Hutchins said. “I told her today, ‘If you want your batting to go up, swing.’
“We just need her to be more aggressive, and I was really pleased she came out swinging at the first pitch.”
In the fourth inning, sophomore first baseman Tera Blanco, hitting a staggering .446, drove in the ever-on-base Romero and junior left fielder Kelly Christner.
With a six-run cushion and a no-hitter in hand, Betsa went back to work in the fifth and sixth innings. Strikeouts continued to pile up, and Michigan’s fielders had little reason to move.
Though Betsa lost her no-hitter in the sixth inning, her commanding outing set the stage for a run-rule victory.
“A no-hitter is something difficult to do,” Betsa said. “It was just one hit, not anything major, so I just moved onto the next pitch.”
In the bottom of the sixth, freshman pinch hitter Natalie Peters started the inning with a single. Romero advanced on a fielder’s choice before making her way to second on an error. With runners on second and third, Blanco finished the game with a double that scored both Peters and Romero.