It’s the word that’s guided Michigan softball’s pitching staff through the offseason. But for its top two arms, that means something different.
For junior left-hander Meghan Beaubien, that means not getting caught up in other people’s expectations.
As a freshman in 2018, Beaubien raked in the accolades — everything from Big Ten Freshman and Pitcher of the Year to being named a first team All-American. She carried the pitching staff with 217 innings and an ERA of 1.16. After a debut season like that, Beaubien felt the pressure to live up to her own reputation.
While she was still a force in the circle the following season, she had her off days and failed to match the eye-catching ERA of her freshman year, posting an ERA of 1.87. With another season under her belt, Beaubien’s learned to take the pressure off. This offseason, she focused on a different approach.
“I think a big lesson I can learn from last year is to not really think about my numbers or not really think about any of my previous seasons,” Beaubien said. “Even as the season goes on, not thinking about my previous games because I play my best when I’m not overthinking things, and I have a very active mind. Just focus on the game.”
For sophomore right-hander Alex Storako, that means finding her presence on the mound.
By all accounts, Storako had a successful freshman season, racking up 142.1 innings and ending with an ERA of 2.02, but her biggest struggle was maintaining her composure when the pressure was on. She wasn’t able to make it through seven consecutive innings until March — her 10th appearance.
“I think she’s just come back more confident,” Beaubien said. “I think you can see it in situations where maybe her freshman year she would waiver a little bit if she gave up a couple hits or let a couple people on base. She shakes off mistakes really well and bounces back really well.”
Mental stamina has always been Storako’s biggest challenge. In several games, she’d start off strong, but begin to doubt herself after a couple well-placed hits. In these instances, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins would opt to bring in Beaubien, the team’s reliable ace. But those days may be in the past.
“I think she understands this level better,” Hutchins said. “She understands the expectations better. I think she knows better what to expect — I mean, that’s just something with freshmen. They just have to learn it. She’s more mature, noticeably. Her mentality has to be pitch to pitch. Finding the zone and then break it through the zone. I think she works hard, and keeping her mentality into killer instinct. She throws some fantastic pitches and great pitchers put them together and they slice up hitters.”
Though they have very different personalities, the pitchers have rubbed off on each other in many different ways both on and off the field — Beaubien has helped Storako work through the transition to collegiate ball and gotten her hooked on Marvel movies.
They share the same work ethic and have worked together through the offseason to get in the right frame of mind. They go to bullpen practice together, run together and do ab workouts together. They both consider themselves to be competitive, and though they face different challenges, each pushes the other to work harder.
It’s a mentality that breeds winning, and their competitive battles in practice have helped them grow into a formidable pair. Now, with an extra year under their belts, and the duo’s growth over the offseason, they look well set to dominate on the mound.