During the second game of the Gamecock Invitational, Alex Storako stepped onto the mound in hopes of leading Michigan past Iowa State.
Replacing junior left-hander Megan Beaubien, in the top of the seventh with the score tied at one, the sophomore right-hander came in for a relief effort.
Getting into her normal groove, Storako allowed a sacrifice bunt and struck out the next batter.
But, that groove was short-lived.
Storako walked the next batter and her pinch-runner stole second allowing an extra run to score on a single batter later. With two runners crossing home, the score was 3-1 for Iowa State. Things seemingly couldn’t get much worse for the Wolverines, until Storako walked the next batter and allowed for a double down the left-field line, scoring two more runs.
Eventually, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins pulled Storako for freshman right-hander Chandler Dennis — the first time this season Michigan has pitched three of its pitchers in one game. It was also Dennis’s collegiate debut.
“I think collectively as a team we weren’t at our A-game,” Storako said. “I just think that we came back from South Carolina with a lot of things to work on and I know that we’re really getting at those things and we want to get better for the next weekend coming up.”
Over the past two weekends, Michigan’s pitching has been lights out. This weekend, that wasn’t the case. Ultimately, pitching dug holes for Michigan that it couldn’t climb out of as it dropped three of four games on the weekend.
Even Beaubien, Michigan’s typically reliable ace, contributed to the struggles. She started against Iowa State and struggled. While she had seven strikeouts and allowed two runs on four hits in six innings, facing Liberty her stats told a different story. She allowed one run on two hits pitching only a part of the final inning.
“We just gave up too much,” Hutchins said. “And whole ball over whole plate doesn’t usually work out very well. And it didn’t. Video shows that those pitches that they hit out at very untimely times were just right there and well hit, well swung. But you know what’s done is done. This is our first day to get back and work a little bit on our spin and work on our movement, and really more than anything work on our mindset.”
While its pitching struggled this weekend, Michigan understands the importance of full team competition. This weekend, pitching struggled tremendously, and it put pressure on the offense to produce — another thing the Wolverines struggled with.
“I think our offense, we always are striving to kind of support our pitchers so kind of give her a cushion so we don’t put all the pressure just on her,” sophomore catcher Hannah Carson said. “So I think when there were hits here in there off of Chandler we were just thinking we need to start stringing our hits together, we need to start connecting with the ball so we can help all our pitchers out.”
Next weekend, the Wolverines play in the Judi Garman Classis tournament. It features the toughest teams Michigan may face in its nonconference slate, including No. 2 Washington, No. 3 Texas and No. 25 Texas Tech. Michigan will need to look toward sorting out its pitching struggles before facing some of the best power-hitting teams in the country.
“We can only do what we do,” Hutchins said. “We’ll need to pitch, throw pitches to beat, not throw pitches to not get hit. And the mindset of our pitchers has to be one pitch focus and throw every pitch to beat the hitter. We need to just throw with confidence, knowing that mistakes will get hit and we just gotta trust that (the pitchers) part of the game is to keep us in the game.”