For a half inning Friday night, the string of bad luck periling the No. 17 Michigan softball team’s 18-game win streak was almost rendered moot.
Even though senior right hander Tera Blanco gave up just four hits in the second game of the series against Iowa, all four yielded runs for the Hawkeyes. A storm had already pushed the game from Saturday to Friday night, and the Wolverines were facing a storm of their own.
With the team down 4-1 at the top of the seventh, sophomore center fielder Natalie Peters sent a ground ball right down the third base line. Blanco followed it up with a hit above first base to load the bases.
Two walks and two unearned runs later, it seemed like the game was just another drop in the water, that it was inevitable for Michigan to come back and extend its win streak.
In softball though, opportunities, win streaks, even in-game hot streaks are fragile. Every great storyline and every bad moment can be punctuated by a singular pitch or hit.
When sophomore Haley Hoogenraad lifted a fly ball into the mitt of Hawkeye left fielder Cheyenne Pratt, nothing else mattered. Nevermind the mini-rally in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Nevermind the game earlier in the day, where Blanco mashed a three-run home run and freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien picked up her 16th win in a 4-1 victory. In the context of the streak, everything was over. All that mattered was the score: Iowa 4, Michigan 3.
In the case of the Wolverines, however, that context is useless.
“I don’t think we talked about the streak to be honest,” Peters said. “None of us really talked about it, or even said anything about it. I think the best thing that we do is that we play one pitch, one softball game at a time. I think that was huge, I think when we find ourselves going away from that is when we’ll find trouble.”
Michigan heads back to Ann Arbor with a few things in its luggage, one of them being unfinished business. The bad weather ended up cancelling the final game of the series. For now, there’s no chance to immediately brush away the taste of defeat.
“Coming to this school, you know that weather is always going to be a factor,” said freshman designated hitter Lou Allan. “It’s something that you have to play into, and you have to roll with the punches basically. The fact that the game was cancelled was … we wanted to come out and get revenge and win the series, but stuff happens, and that’s the way it goes.”
The Wolverines can now look forward to their first Big Ten home series against Purdue with a renewed sense of focus on the micro-aspects of the game over the magnanimity of a win streak. There is clarity for the road ahead.
“Winning was a lot of fun because it makes everything better,” Blanco said. “But even when we were winning, we still had a lot to work on, and losing to Iowa that second game opened our eyes, it really highlighted a lot of our weaknesses. I think that was kind of what we needed to improve.”