The Ann Arbor regional championship between No. 15 Michigan and James Madison started off looking to be no different than the first two times these closely-matched teams played. With sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien and Dukes’ right-hander Megan Good going head-to-head for the second time this weekend, another low-scoring duel in the circle seemed inevitable.
But in the bottom of the third inning, James Madison finally figured out Beaubien en route to a 3-0 win to force a winner-take-all game.
After two scoreless innings, Dukes’ outfielder Kate Gordon unleashed a ball to deep center field. Senior outfielder Natalie Peters and freshman outfielder Lexie Blair sprinted to the wall, hoping to rob Gordon of the home run, but the ball went over their outstretched gloves giving James Madison a 1-0 lead going into the fourth inning.
In the top of the fourth, the Wolverines started to show that they would be able to counter that home run with runs of their own, but that was not the case.
Loading the bases on walks for Blair, senior first baseman Alex Sobczak, and sophomore pinch hitter Lou Allan, freshman catcher Hannah Carson stepped up to the plate with one out. Facing a 1-1 count, she popped out to shallow center field — not deep enough to send the runner home from third base. Junior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad took a cut at the ball the very next at-bat, this time with a full count, but grounded out to second base — a disappointing end to a promising inning.
The Dukes, using the momentum of escaping unscathed in the first half of the inning, added another run to the scoreboard on another solo home run. This time, though, it was shortstop Sara Jubas who went yard for James Madison, making the score 2-0 — a lead that seemed insurmountable in a game where Michigan could get no offense going.
The fifth inning brought another scare for the Wolverines. With one out, Gordon stepped up to the plate. Already having a home run under her belt, she was in search of another and launched Beaubien’s pitch to left field. Blair, on the warning track, snagged the ball against the outfield wall, saving Michigan from adding another run to its deficit. And with the way Good was pitching, that would have all but put the game away for the Dukes.
But James Madison found that run in the bottom of the sixth, instead. Freshman right-hander Alex Storako had just come in for Beaubien. After getting a quick out, she walked Dukes’ outfielder Logan Newton. Right after her came Jubas, who also had a home run earlier in the game. She belted a double off the center field wall, bringing home pinch runner Kelsey Brown and securing a chance for James Madison to play for a regional title.