Meghan Beaubien’s performance this weekend was, quite frankly, confusing.
The sophomore left-hander left the sixth inning of Friday’s game against Stanford with four earned runs allowed — in one inning. She seemed to be continuing her defensive struggles from last weekend, letting up five runs in less than one inning against North Carolina. But the lag ended Saturday when Beaubien started against California State-Northridge and pitched a no-hitter. Beaubien’s inconsistency — pitching like an entirely different athlete in separate games — prompts one question: Why?
For Beaubien herself, that answer lies in her mental game.
“I think you want to go into that situation with a just clear head and just telling yourself to throw your game and things are going to work out,” she said. “What you don’t want to do is try too hard to get out of a situation or get the results you wanted and that’s what I was doing.”
Beaubien’s tendency to tense up and not pitch freely, as she puts it, isn’t an individual struggle. Freshman outfielder Lexie Blair also attributes hitting struggles to mental issues, which senior catcher Katie Alexander said plagued the team last weekend. While solving mindset problems can be more complicated than correcting form or power, for Beaubien, that transition was seamless going into the California State-Northridge game.
“It’s hard to make a change mentally, but you just have to do it,” Beaubien said. “I feel like you just have to flip a switch and change your mindset and I just told myself ‘OK I’m done. I’m sick of this and I just need to let it go and throw the ball.’ ”
Her mental switch showed. In fact, Beaubien pitched better than she had all season.
Similarly, freshman right-hander Alex Storako attributed her success on the mound Sunday, in part, to her confidence. Storako delivered four strikeouts in a row against the No. 9 Louisiana State team.
“I think I’ve made some significant jumps to just being able to trust myself and the process that I’ve come to know these past couple of months, being able to be stress-free and being loose and playing the game like I know how,” Storako said. “I just knew that I needed to contribute to the energy of the team.”
So if mindset controls how Michigan’s pitchers perform, how can they control when they “flip the switch”? Beaubien may not know the answer yet, but she knows when it happens.
“That’s definitely something our entire team has been working on, and I think on a team level a lot of that comes from being able to trust your teammates and knowing yourself,” Beaubien said. “… I was just having fun, playing softball, and that’s when you do the best.”