The rally came too little, too late.
With a runner on first and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, junior center fielder Natalie Peters needed something — anything — to keep the game alive. That, she got.
She drove a 2-2 pitch down the right-field line, scoring the runner from second and putting the No. 17 Michigan softball team (18-3 Big Ten, 43-12 overall) on the board.
But by then, the Wolverines were already on life support, each hit merely extending the inevitable. Indeed, two batters later, junior second baseman Faith Canfield grounded into a fielder’s choice that sealed the deal: a 4-1 loss to Notre Dame (13-10 Atlantic Coast Conference, 33-21 overall) in the first game of the Lexington Regional on Friday.
The first batter of the game set the tone. She sent a chopper right to freshman shortstop Natalia Rodriguez, but senior first baseman Tera Blanco muffed the throw, and after a single, a sacrifice bunt and a hit-by-pitch, all it took was a deep fly ball to right field to give the Fighting Irish the 1-0 lead.
And when given the chance to answer back, Michigan failed to respond. Though Beaubien settled in, the damage was already done. Notre Dame right-hander Alexis Holloway mowed down the Wolverines, setting them up with a deceptive drop-ball and finishing them off with a 40 mph changeup. Michigan had just three hits the entire game.
“She’s good with her changeup and fastball,” Peters said. “We were preparing for it, we just didn’t put it into the game.”
Every inning followed a familiar blueprint. The Wolverines would watch a few balls, maybe foul off a few pitches. But as soon as the changeup came, they’d freeze. Sometimes, they’d take the pitch down the middle. If they made contact, it turned into weak grounders and pop-ups.
Sometimes, a batter would walk and steal a base. With a runner in scoring position, it would seem like maybe this time Michigan would get something going. But those runners — six in total — were stranded.
“Our kids played tight,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “ … They’ve spent a lot of time worrying about all the worst things that can happen, and I think that makes bad things happen.”
Returning to the circle after a two-hour rain delay, Beaubien dominated at first, but in the seventh, she fell apart. She allowed the next three batters to reach — including one on a two-RBI double — before Hutchins pulled her for freshman right-hander Sarah Schaefer. Schaefer allowed another run on an RBI single before ending the frame with the Fighting Irish leading, 4-0.
After three hours and over 100 pitches, the Wolverines finally figured out Holloway. They stayed back and waited for the changeup, and it was then that they got something going. A walk from senior pinch-hitter Amanda Vargas set up the double by Peters, and for a second Michigan had an illusion of hope.
But following a walk to Blanco, Canfield grounded into a fielder’s choice at second base and just like that, the game was over.
“Softball is just life,” Hutchins said. “And you get out of it what you put into it.”
On Friday, the Fighting Irish put in more.