Sometimes, it only takes one bad pitch to lose a game.
Especially when the offense can’t muster more than three hits. On Friday that was the case, as the No. 23 Michigan softball team (29-15 overall, 9-8 Big Ten) struggled at the plate en route to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Minnesota (22-20-1, 7-9). With the Wolverines’ bats dormant, all it took for the Golden Gophers to win was a three-run home run by outfielder Natalie DenHartog.
Despite its struggles, though, Michigan struck first — albeit without recording a hit.
In the bottom of the first inning, graduate outfielder Kristina Burkhard drew a leadoff walk. Then, the Wolverines scored Burkhardt via a sacrifice bunt, a dropped-third-strike stolen base and a fielder’s choice to take an early 1-0 lead.
But that lead wouldn’t last long.
Fifth-year left hander Meghan Beaubien got herself into a jam in the top of the third inning, giving up singles to the first two batters she faced. She forced a pop-up to record the first out, but that only brought greater trouble up to the plate in the form of DenHartog.
DenHartog fouled off pitch after pitch before finally getting ahold of one, mashing it over the right-field fence for a three-run shot that gave Minnesota a lead it never relinquished.
Still, Beaubien was resilient. She escaped the third inning without any further damage and then cruised through the final four innings. Beaubien picked up six more strikeouts along the way for a total of nine on the day, and limited the Gophers’ bats to only one hit after the home run. As she went the distance, Beaubien kept the game well within reach for Michigan.
Yet, in the sixth inning, the Wolverines’ offense finally showed signs of life.
With two outs, senior catcher Hannah Carson took a pitch to the helmet and reached first base. Fifth-year third baseman Taylor Bump followed that up by drawing a five-pitch walk. Freshman outfielder Ellie Sieler then drove the ball back up the middle for her second single of the day, bringing Carson home and cutting the deficit to one.
But it didn’t matter. Michigan managed a total of two hits after the second inning and never really threatened to score outside of the sixth, failing to provide Beaubien any run support. In their last chance, the Wolverines went down in order, hitting two quick groundouts and a flyout to cap off a lacking offensive performance.
With the loss, Michigan took itself fully out of the running for a top-four conference finish and an opening-round bye in the conference tournament. After stumbling time and time again during Big Ten play, its focus must turn to preventing just the third .500 season in conference play of Michigan coach Carol Hutchins’ illustrious 38-year career.
Because for the third straight weekend in a row, the Wolverines came out flat in the series opener.
And for the third straight series in a row, it cost them.