In a 2-1 game on Thursday night, with two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning and runners threatening on second and third base, Michigan senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien stared down Nebraska’s Cam Ybarra. Beaubien then fired a pitch toward the plate, Ybarra barely made contact and the ball flew high into foul territory.
Sophomore infielder Julia Jimenez charged in from her third base post, tracked the foul ball down and made the catch. The out not only put the No. 23 Wolverines’ softball team back in the win column to begin their six-game weekend series against Nebraska and Wisconsin, but it also completed Beaubien’s fifth career no-hitter.
The no-hitter encapsulated what Michigan’s pitchers would do throughout its 5-1 weekend: dominate.
Beaubien’s outing — where she also struck out 14 batters — occurred in the first game of the Wolverines’ double-header against the Cornhuskers to open the weekend. In the back-end of the double-header, junior right-hander Alex Storako was tasked with following up Beaubien’s stellar performance in the circle with one of her own.
She did just that.
Storako pitched a complete game shutout, surrendered only one hit and threw 19 strikeouts, tying Beaubien’s program record that she notched against Purdue two weekends ago.
“(Beaubien and Storako) were lights-out,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said of her co-aces’ Thursday night starts. “They were absolutely masterful.”
These performances from Beaubien and Storako keyed the Wolverines’ success against Nebraska.
Not only did the offense struggle to produce in the double-header, scoring only two runs each game, but Michigan also had to contain Tristen Edwards. Edwards — the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week — entered the series with a .444 batting average, 1.000 slugging percentage, three home runs and six RBIs. Beaubien and Storako kept the power-hitter at bay, limiting her to a .143 batting average and just one RBI while striking her out three times over the three game series.
“We weren’t going to let their best hitter beat us,” Hutchins said.
When the Wolverines’ pitching performance dipped on Friday for the final game of the Nebraska series, so did their chances. Beaubien and Storako combined for an uncharacteristic four earned runs and the offense couldn’t pick up the slack en route to a 4-5 loss.
Michigan’s pitching rotation got back into form for its three game series against Wisconsin. Giving up only one earned run throughout the series, the Wolverines swept the Badgers.
Following a five inning run-rule shutout from Storako in the first game of Saturday’s double-header against Wisconsin, the Wolverines started senior right-hander Sarah Schaefer. The start was Schaefer’s first in-game action since 2019.
Throughout the young season, Hutchins has stressed the importance of finding reliable pitching to compliment Beaubien and Storako, especially since Michigan is enduring a compacted schedule in the shortened season.
On Saturday, Schaefer answered the call. She posted three shutout innings, surrendering three hits and striking out a batter before Storako came in relief to complete the 3-0 victory for the Wolverines.
“(Schaefer) was really well prepared, both physically and mentally,” Beaubien said. “We need her to do a job, we need everyone to do a job, and she did her job.”
Added Hutchins: “It’s hard enough to play the same team three times … they get on to your pitchers, you’ve got to have different looks. Schaefer has a much different look than Storako, and Storako and Schaefer both have different looks than Beaubien, so it can be very effective if we can make it work.”
Over the weekend, Michigan’s pitchers certainly made it work. With slight improvements, but a continued lack of consistency from batters, once again the pitchers carried the mantle, this time to a strong 5-1 weekend.
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