Even though Saturday’s storm had long passed by the time Tera Blanco set foot on Alumni Field, the senior right-hander showed that when it rains, it pours.
With the Michigan softball team nursing a 1-0 lead heading into the fifth inning, it was time to make something happen. In the previous inning, Blanco was pulled from her pitching duties after Purdue loaded the bases. While she could no longer help in the circle, she could make something happen at the plate.
The Wolverines had the bases loaded when Blanco settled into her hitting stance and sized up Boilermakers’ right-hander Sydney Bates’ first pitch.
Smack. Grand slam. Almost effortlessly, it was 5-0.
“Right before that at-bat Hutch told me don’t try too hard, and I think that was my motto all weekend: Don’t try all weekend and be short to the ball,” Blanco said. “That was really successful for me and I had a feeling they were going to throw me outside that pitch.”
For much of Michigan’s 6-0 win, which concluded a three-game sweep of Purdue, the Wolverines put pressure on Bates. Junior outfielder Natalie Peters reached third base in both the first and third innings off Boilermaker errors, and each time it seemed like Michigan was ready to blow the game wide open. Even senior utility player Nikki Wald spent some time on third base in the fourth.
In each instance though, the Wolverines simply couldn’t convert. Freshman designated hitter Lou Allan grounded out to third base to strand Peters in the first inning. Two innings later, Peters watched Allan ground out again, this time to first. In the fourth, junior catcher Katie Alexander watched Bates’ pitch sail by her for a strikeout, and the crowd let out an audible groan.
But Purdue wasn’t having much luck at the plate either. Even though they threatened in the fourth, freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien came in for Blanco and baited the Boilermakers into a groundout.
“We weren’t sure if she was ready,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins on Beaubien. “I went to to the mound to give Meghan a little extra time. I think Tera was ready but our offense wasn’t exactly zooming along, so we needed to hold them down. I just told her to do her part. We need everyone to do their part.”
From that point on, Purdue struggled to consistently get on base, which Beaubien credited to coming in with a positive mindset.
“When you come in with the bases loaded you can’t go in with that mindset that ‘oh the bases are loaded’,” Beaubien said. “You just gotta go in and throw your pitch, and I trust that the pitch I throw is good enough to get them out.”
In a game filled with stranded baserunners and inconsistent pitching, Beaubien and Blanco reminded Michigan, the Boilermakers and everyone in attendance that softball, in the words of Hutchins, has to be played one ball and one pitch at a time.
After all, Blanco only needed one towering hit and one ill-placed pitch to ensure Purdue stormed back to West Lafayette winless.