With two outs and bases loaded, junior third baseman Madison Uden stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the first inning. Already, it was clear that the No. 25 Michigan softball team would have no problem getting runners on base. Uden struck out swinging, leaving three of the Wolverines stranded on base.
This disappointing end to this inning set the tone for the majority of Saturday’s first game against Nebraska — Michigan’s first Big Ten competitor. The Wolverines continued to put runners on base but they couldn’t seem to reach home, leaving six runners stranded before finally getting on the board.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth inning of the first game that the Wolverines began translating hits into runs. A double from Uden gave Michigan a three run lead. The following run from Uden off of a wild pitch put the Wolverines up by four at the end of the inning.
Michigan was able to repeat this performance in the sixth inning, ending the previously scoreless game in a run rule when senior first baseman Alex Sobczak hit a home run that ended up in the adjacent baseball field.
“When you score a run and then you score another run, you don’t feel the pressure,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “In the first few innings, we were tight and we just had to focus on hitting well. It’s just a matter of being confident like that every time. We don’t play the score board. You just have to trust that your bat is good enough and swing it.”
Between impressive catches in the outfield and strong pitching, the defense was able to shut out the Huskers in the first game for a final score of 8-0.
Walking the first batter of the day, it looked like sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien might be suffering from some of the same issues she faced earlier in the season, but — just like the offense — her performance only improved as the day went on.
Beaubien had a rough start to the season with an ERA teetering around three over the first 12 games of the season. Recently, she’s seen huge improvements, and her ERA has plummeted to 1.86.
That early walk almost proved costly as the Nebraska runner stole second and reached third on a single. Facing a full count and a runner on third with two outs, Beaubien was able to recover the inning with a strikeout. Beaubien kept this trend going, ending the game with 10 strikeouts.
Offensively, the Wolverines didn’t slow down as they moved into the second game, scoring three runs in the first inning — one off of a bases loaded walk.
Steadily raising the score with two runs in the second and two more in the fifth, Michigan’s lead gave Hutchins the confidence to substitute in several nonstarters such as freshman catcher Hannah Carson and freshman infielder Morgan Overaitis as pinch hitters and sophomore infielder Taylor Bump.
Freshman right-hander Alex Storako started in place of Beaubien for the second game, her 13th start of the year.
Despite the blinding sun, the outfielders made several tough catches that got Michigan out of some tough spots.
“We talked about that after the game — how many nice plays we made,” Hutchins said. “That sun is brutal and we don’t see it very often, so I thought they did a fantastic job. It was key in the game.”
Freshman outfielder Lexie Blair continued to be an asset on all parts of the field with hits on four out of her seven at bats and accounting for three of the Wolverines’ 15 runs.
Just as it looked like Nebraska would be shut out for the second time, the Huskers hit a home run — their first in the day’s 10 innings.
As the score got close and defense began to falter, the Wolverines were able to rely on their ace: Beaubien. Substituted in for Storako, the sophomore left-hander got Michigan out of a jam. With Nebraska runners on first and third base, the infield left the runners stranded. Not giving the Huskers the opportunity to catch up, not allowing them a run in the final three innings and ending the game with a 7-2 win.