Freshman right-hander Alex Storako set the tone right away for the Michigan pitching staff, striking out eight Indiana batters in 3.2 innings en route to a 3-2 victory for the No. 23 Wolverines (26-10) over Indiana (28-12).
After a silent first two innings full of flyouts from the Michigan offense, it finally broke through. After a walk by senior catcher Katie Alexander and a successful bunt from sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez, Faith Canfield continued to play her role as a leader for the Wolverines, driving home the first run of the sunny day.
Senior outfielder Natalie Peters followed up the run with a sacrifice bunt which advanced Rodriguez and Canfield into scoring positions. Outfielder Lexie Blair then added another RBI to her freshman campaign with a sacrifice fly that brought Peters home to make it 2-0 after three innings.
Storako’s magic began to fade in the top of the fourth as she missed high more often than not, resulting in two consecutive walks. Though she was pitching a no-hitter up to this point, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins decided not to risk it and sent in reliable sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien. And just like she has done throughout her college career, Beaubien got the Wolverines out of the jam to end the inning.
On the other side of the inning, Michigan continued to get their bats on the ball but without significant success. That was until junior third baseman Madison Uden stepped up to the plate and drove a high solo long ball to center field, increasing the Wolverines lead over the Hoosiers to three after four innings.
“It feels good but I’m still not where I wanna be personally,” Uden said. “There’s a lot of work that I can improve upon still, but it feels better to be a little more consistent and more confident.”
But Uden’s run was nullified just a few pitches later as Beaubien, who had pitched a full seven innings yesterday, pitched a ball right in the sweet spot of Indiana’s Maddie Westmoreland. She took that pitch and hit a solo home run of her own to center field putting the Hoosiers on the board while breaking the Wolverines’ chance at a team no-hitter.
Michigan’s smart batting continued into the fifth inning as Rodriguez and Canfield each laid down perfectly-executed bunts. After a fielder’s choice on a Peters’ hit that forced Canfield out, Peters added another stolen base to her season total, putting two runners in scoring position for the Wolverines. Unfortunately, Michigan struggled to push them home, something that has been a concern for the team all season long.
“We give away at-bats,” Hutchins said. “I don’t think we’ve been selective at the plate. We seem to have a case of whether we’re trying to hard or just not present. I think we can get a few better runs. We can hit the ball with runners on base, we’ve left a lot of runners on base.”
After a scoreless sixth inning, Beaubien looked like she was beginning to settle in, sending batters back to the dugout without any issues. But with two outs in the seventh, Westmoreland stepped into the box and took another Beaubien pitch yard. Beaubien, rather than bouncing back, followed up that pitch by hitting Sarah Galovich, sending the tying runner for Indiana to first base.
However, after a Hutchins timeout to calm the ace down, Beaubien channeled her vintage self against Tete Hart, striking her out on a swing-and-miss. And even though every Beaubien pitch didn’t seem quite on point, she showed that the 1-2 combination of her and Storako is not only lethal but also reliable at any time.