After a lousy weekend that found the Michigan softball team in a frenzy, it seemed as if this weekend would just add onto it.
In a low-scoring battle against No. 2 UCLA (17-1) on Friday, the Wolverines (9-8) trailed 1-0 for much of the game, unable to snap out of its season-long offensive slump and produce any runs.
With sophomore left-handed pitcher Meghan Beaubien holding her own on the mound, allowing only three hits on the night, Michigan desperately needed a spark from the offense. But after a long-awaited arrival – much longer than anticipated – the Wolverines’offense finally burst onto the scene in the most challenging game of their young season.
The catalyst? None other than senior second baseman Faith Canfield.
With a single up the middle, Canfield drove two runners home before crossing home plate herself on a double by freshman left fielder Lexie Blair. That was all Michigan needed to beat the Bruins, 3-1.
“We were positive that entire game,” Beaubien said. “I think we kept good energy. We truly believed that we were going to get it done and at some point, during that game, we were going to get the runs across. I think us having that faith and having that confidence allowed us to actually get it done. We just kept fighting.”
“I think that last game against LSU on Sunday was really the start of this,” Canfield added. “I think that was our turning point of this struggle because we went into it, and we were focusing on our process.”
Hoping to ride that newfound momentum into Saturday against No. 3 Tennessee (16-2) and No. 17 Oregon (11-7), the weather disappointed Michigan, erasing two opportunities for top-25 wins.
However, the Wolverines picked up right where they left off, defeating another Pac-12 power, No. 5 Washington (16-3), 4-2, on Sunday.
While Beaubien replicated her performance from two days before, senior first baseman Alex Sobczak and sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez each hitting home runs to distance Michigan from the Huskies in the bottom of the fourth.
“After that UCLA game, we were all really high and just wanted to go out again and play,” Canfield said. “But I think it shows the consistency in terms of we had a day off and yet, we still came out today with that same thing we came out with on Friday.”
Soon after, the Wolverines found themselves struggling against a team they handily dismantled just one week ago. Deadlocked with California State – Northridge (6-11) heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, extra softball seemed inevitable. But right when her leadership was needed most, Canfield hit a RBI double that sealed a 1-0 win and an undefeated weekend for Michigan, pushing the team back above .500 for the first time in two weeks.
And even though the Wolverines seemed to be in such close games throughout the tournament, perhaps the biggest takeaway was that they were back to having fun.
Rather than being tight and worrying about the result of a swing or a pitch, they focused on taking each game one pitch at a time. The players were back to communicating and celebrating the little successes on the field. Freshman utility player Grace Cheleman even went viral on Twitter – not once but twice – for dancing in the dugout during games.
“I think that’s the name of the game right there,” Beaubien said. “Everybody plays better when they’re having fun playing.”
And if this past weekend was any sort of indication for what to expect going forward, it’s safe to say people might have hit the panic button a little too early.