MADISON — Lea Foerster wasn’t fooled.
Michigan State’s leadoff hitter watched pitch after pitch from freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien. Rise-balls, screwballs, changeups — methodically, she fouled off each one.
So when she hit one that skipped past Beaubien and into center field — scoring two runs — it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion. She had solved the Beaubien puzzle, and she wasn’t the only one.
Beaubien induced a flyout to end the second inning, but the damage was already done. Foerster had pulled a thread, and from there it didn’t take long for the No. 16 Michigan softball team (18-3 Big Ten, 43-11 overall) to unravel in its 7-0 loss to the Spartans (10-11, 26-25) in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Friday.
While Michigan State figured out Beaubien’s changeup, the same can’t be said of the Wolverines and the same pitch from Kristina Zalewski. It dipped and dove under their bats, stifling any hope of a rally. Michigan managed just three hits, and all three runners were eventually stranded. The Wolverines struck out 10 times — a season high.
“We didn’t pitch well,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “We didn’t — we hit one or two balls well. (And) it just steamrolled.”
The end for Beaubien began on a pitch that missed its spot, like so many that night had. Instead of catching the inside of the plate, it grazed the Spartan batter and put a runner on first. An overcooked throw by freshman shortstop Natalia Rodriguez and a walk loaded the bases. Another free pass and an infield single later, the score was 4-0 and Beaubien came out of the game in favor of freshman right-hander Sarah Schaefer. Schaefer got out of the inning, but not before all three inherited runners scored to extend Michigan State’s lead to 7-0.
It wasn’t just the pitching. Nothing was working for the Wolverines — offensively or defensively. And Michigan seemed defeated long before junior center fielder Natalie Peters grounded out to first base in the bottom of the seventh and sealed the Wolverines’ fate.
“They talk all the time about trust and trust the process,” Hutchins said. “But you can’t trust the process if you — you’ve gotta have discipline, you’ve gotta have heart and you gotta really believe it. And we haven’t shown that we do.”
Beaubien is known for her changeup, but that didn’t stop Foerster. Senior first baseman Tera Blanco is known for her plate discipline, but she struck out twice. Rodriguez is known for her defense, but she made an error and let an infield single slip by.
And Michigan is known for winning. But as it turns out, being known for something and actually executing when required are two entirely different things, and sometimes reputation begets complacency. The Wolverines learned that lesson the hard way.
And now, for the second year in a row, the Spartans are advancing in the Big Ten Tournament while Michigan is going home.
“They just want to be comfortable,” Hutchins said. “(But) I don’t know why they’d be comfortable. They just lost 7-0.”