There was one out in the top of the fifth inning when junior right-hander Megan Betsa delivered the 1-1 pitch to Louisiana State centerfielder Emily Griggs, who blooped a single down the leftfield line.
Betsa turned and grabbed the chalk before pitching to Tiger first baseman Sandra Simmons — who promptly walked to give the Tigers runners on first and second with still only one out in what was still a scoreless game.
After the five-pitch walk to Simmons, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins came out of the dugout to talk things over with Betsa.
“She came out there and just asked me if I was calm, and I told her, ‘No,’ ” Betsa said after the game. “She just reminded me that I needed to be calm, trust my spin, trust my defense and let them work behind me.”
For Michigan, it was a crucial moment in its first game of the Women’s College World Series.
Earlier in her career, the moment might have proved to be too big for the junior pitcher.
But Betsa has postseason experience from last year’s run to the final of the WCWS and has started all six of the Wolverines’ NCAA Tournament games this year, having to deal with similar jams in the process.
And this time around, she came through once more, subduing any nerves she might’ve had to get the next two outs and escape the inning unscathed.
“I just took a deep breath,” Betsa said. “We huddled back (in) our infield huddle, and I was just ready to attack the next hitter and get out of the jam.”
Betsa brought her A-game Friday night, pitching a seven inning shutout when her usually explosive offense needed as much help as it could get.
Though she wasn’t perfect, giving up four hits and two walks, she was close to it, erasing all six runners she allowed from the basepaths.
Her performance stood out to Hutchins.
“Megan Betsa gave us a great chance to win,” Hutchins said after the game. “That’s why we’re standing up here.”
Michigan will play third-seeded Oklahoma after its 2-0 win over LSU, and might need a similar performance from its ace pitcher.
The Sooners have won 28 consecutive games and boast perhaps the only offense that can compare to the Wolverines’ — Oklahoma has a team slash line of .360/.433/.553 compared to Michigan’s line of .354/.465/.605.
The two teams played earlier this season, and while the Wolverines won, Betsa lasted just three innings after allowing seven hits and six earned runs.
But she remains confident in her own ability, partly because she regularly pitches to an offense that averages 8.2 runs per game.
“I throw a lot to my own hitters,” Betsa said. “I think we have one of the best offenses in the country, and I’m pretty successful (pitching against them). So I think if I can beat my own hitters, I can beat anyone in the country.”
And perhaps what is scariest for the rest of the teams in Oklahoma City is that Betsa thinks she may just be realizing her own potential in the circle.
“I’m learning that I am a lot better than I ever thought I would be,” Betsa said. “I have a great team behind me, and they put themselves out there for me and I just realized I need to do the same and give my all, and whatever at the time is good enough.”