The No. 23 Michigan softball team (16-4 Big Ten) returned to action for a four-game series at Ohio State (13-10) after COVID-19 protocols postponed its home-opener, forcing them into yet another two-week hiatus.
In their return to the diamond on Friday, the Wolverines didn’t miss a beat.
After jumping to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning, senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien kept Michigan in front. Beaubien pitched yet another gem for her sixth win of the season, striking out 12 batters en route to a complete-game shutout.
“The key to us is our pitching always gives us a chance to win,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “Our pitchers were outstanding all weekend.”
The offense, struggling to provide much support with only two runs entering the final frame, came alive in the top of the seventh inning.
Junior outfielder Lexie Blair — who has recorded one hit in all 20 games this year — launched a solo blast into right-center field to begin the inning, and senior infielder Lou Allan sent a three-run shot into left field, en route to a convincing 7-0 victory.
“Ohio State is one of those weekends where you have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder,” Allan said. “(And) I knew my power was going to come.”
The series shifted to a double header on Saturday, in which the two arch-rivals split the pair.
In the first game, junior right-hander Alex Storako bought the Wolverines’ offense time to heat up as she took command of the game. Through her first five innings of work, Storako posted eight strikeouts while surrendering only one hit, keeping the score knotted at zero entering the sixth frame. From there, Michigan took control.
With two outs, Allan delivered her second home-run in as many days, smashing an 0-1 pitch into left-field for the game’s first run. Sophomore infielder Julia Jimenez doubled down, slamming a home-run into left field, building a 2-0 lead for the Wolverines on back-to-back jacks. Michigan did not relinquish the lead, going on to win 3-1.
“It’s just ‘hit the ball hard, regardless of the situation,’ we’re just trying to hit the ball hard,” Hutchins said. “Once we get a couple big hits, we swing freer … and we show we can hit the ball.”
However, into the second game of the double-header, the Wolverines were unable to carry that momentum, where the Buckeyes secured their only win of the weekend.
Michigan’s bats struggled to get anything going through the first three innings against Ohio States’ best pitcher, right-hander Payton Buresch. The Wolverines found their stride in the top of the fourth, loading the bases for sophomore infielder Lexi Voss, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter. Voss dropped a single between the right and center fielders, scoring two runs to give Michigan the lead.
The lead, though, was short lived.
In the button of the fifth, the Buckeyes got to Beaubien. With runners at second and third base, Meggie Otte sent a 1-1 pitch into right-field to tie the game at two. Otte would later score from second-base as the Wolverines caught Niki Carver in a pickle between first and second base, but were unable to tag her and record the third out. Michigan recorded only one-hit from that point, and lost 3-2.
On Sunday, though, the Wolverines bounced back, dominating the Buckeyes 11-0 to cap the weekend.
The blowout was made possible by another dominant showing from Storako, along with an explosion of power-hitting from the Michigan bats. Storako produced a complete game shutout, striking out ten batters in the process and securing her tenth victory of the season.
The offense matched Storako’s dominance. In the top of the fifth, Allan led off the inning with a home run to left-center field, her third of the series. Later in the inning, senior infielder Taylor Bump demolished the softball, sending a no-doubt moonshot high over left field to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead. Michigan’s offense did not let-up, posting another eight runs in the afternoon.
After COVID-19 protocol sidelined the Wolverines last weekend, they showed no rust, responding with a strong series in Columbus.
“We really stepped in like we hadn’t missed a beat,” Hutchins said. “We played good softball all weekend, and they looked like they were just playing to win.”