After posting a 3-0 record and allowing just two earned runs in 20 innings pitched, including back-to-back complete game shutouts against Michigan State and Ohio State, junior right-hander Megan Betsa was named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association National Pitcher of the Week on April 19.
And in her two starts against Maryland (3-14 Big Ten, 11-35 overall) this weekend, Betsa was similarly effective for No. 2 Michigan (15-2, 37-4), striking out 16 batters en route to two wins and a 0.63 earned-run average.
If there was anything in her performance that was a cause for concern, it was the number of walks — Betsa issued eight free passes to the Terrapins.
“I think I struggled a little bit more with my walks this weekend, which came from not getting ahead of the hitters and not being able to throw my pitches,” Betsa said. “I think if I can just get back to that, I’ll be fine.”
Added Michigan coach Carol Hutchins: “I’d like to see her be ahead in the count a little better, and she just struggled with that a little bit this weekend. I expect she’s not always going to be on her best game, so I thought she got through it without her best game.”
After a start to the season that was marred by inconsistency, Betsa has worked on making a mental adjustment in lieu of any physical change to her pitching motion.
“(I’ve worked on) focusing on myself instead of the opponents,” Betsa said. “I think in the beginning of the season, I was too worried about if they had prepared for me and if they were warming up in (batting practice) and focusing on rise balls and changeups, instead of just going out there and throwing my game. I haven’t been too caught up in that recently, and I think I’ve gotten the results I’ve wanted by just throwing my pitches and focusing on the zone.”
Hutchins hasn’t had to coach up her star pitcher too often besides the occasional visit to the circle.
“I think Megan knows what to do,” Hutchins said. “I really trust her savvy. I think she’s a great student of the game and the mental game. My goal is to try and stay out of her way and to help her stay out of her own way. But she (has) done a pretty good job of it.”
The result of Betsa’s new mental perspective has been evident — her cumulative ERA has decreased nearly one full point since the beginning of conference play, and she now ranks second in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings.
Betsa will need to continue her upward trajectory when Michigan faces Penn State in a crucial series next weekend — the Nittany Lions are hitting .326, average 5.85 runs per game and are currently in third place in the conference standings.