It should have been an easy out.
With runners on first and second and one out for the No. 14 Michigan softball team (11-1 Big Ten, 36-7 overall), sophomore third baseman Madison Uden hit a ground ball to first base. But the Maryland first baseman bobbled it, and everyone was safe.
For the Terrapins (7-8, 18-28), it only got worse from there in an eventual 6-0 Michigan win Friday.
Senior right fielder Aidan Falk came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a long fly ball to the warning track. It landed over the left fielder’s head for a double as two runs scored.
“I was just waiting to get a good pitch,” Falk said. “And then it came, and I just kinda let my hands be free and go at it.”
A sacrifice fly from junior catcher Katie Alexander later in the inning extended Michigan’s lead to 3-0.
The defensive woes continued for Maryland in the third. With senior outfielder Nikki Wald on first base, Uden hit a ground ball that skipped straight under the second baseman’s glove and into center field. Wald — who advanced to third on the play — crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Falk. Then, Alexander shot a line drive down the first-base line for a triple that extended the lead to 5-0.
And in the bottom of the fourth, it was déjà vu. What seemed like a routine groundout off the bat of freshman shortstop Natalia Rodriguez turned into a two-base error when the third baseman threw the ball away. Junior center fielder Natalie Peters hit yet another grounder to short, but beat the throw for an infield single. Rodriguez never stopped running to score the Wolverines’ sixth run.
“We really used the running game as much as we could,” Falk said. “We have a lot of speedy runners, so might as well take advantage of them when you can get it.”
As Michigan made its rounds on the bases, it kept the Terrapins off them. Freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien confounded hitters with her rise-ball/changeup combination. The sole baserunners for Maryland came on an error by Rodriguez and a bunt single. The few times the Terrapins did manage to hit the ball hard, the Wolverines’ defense made sure nothing came of it.
“(Beaubien) was sharp today,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “Before the game, I said … ‘That’s all I want from you today is come out and just be excited.’ … We’re defensive, and it starts on the mound.”
Some games, the Wolverines win with an offensive onslaught. In others, they win with sterling pitching, stalwart defense or heads-up baserunning. And Friday, they did it with all of the above.
On a night when Michigan’s defense was airtight, Maryland’s was porous. Easy outs turned into easy runs. Then, Beaubien slammed the door shut and the Wolverines cruised to victory.