In the top of the seventh inning, the Michigan softball team was one out away from clinching a game it desperately needed to win.
And it almost blew it.
Up by one, the Wolverines surrendered two runs and were put behind 3-2 entering the game’s final frame against rival Ohio State. But Michigan wasn’t finished.
With runners on first and third — and the crowd louder than it had been all day — fifth-year third baseman Taylor Bump stepped up the plate. She didn’t disappoint, launching a deep triple to center field, scoring two baserunners and guiding the Wolverines (28-14 overall, 8-7 Big Ten) to a gritty, hard-fought, 4-3 victory to even their series with the Buckeyes (28-11, 8-6).
But aside from Bump’s memorable blast, the matchup was won by a strong performance from senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien and timely hitting. Both acted as the motor that pushed them to a much-needed win.
After a quiet first inning from both sides, it was the Buckeyes who struck first in the second, notching a run to make the score 1-0. Beaubien looked shaky, as she has early on in recent outings, giving up a run and seeing the bases loaded on four hits — three of which were consecutive. Even with those miscues, she escaped the side relatively unscathed.
It was not an ideal start, but a survivable one. And from that point forward, that’s exactly what Beaubien did: she survived.
“She’s just crafty and she did her part.” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said.
It wasn’t a pretty, stirke-out laden performance like those of her counterpart, senior right-hander Alex Storako, but it was solid nonetheless. She gutted through long at-bats, forced pop-ups and at points even required her teammates to make acrobatic catches. Nonetheless, she guided Michigan through five straight scoreless frames, consistently doing enough to keep the Wolverines in the game.
“I think the important thing was just taking it one pitch at a time,” Beaubien said. “I know I gave up that early run, but the whole time I don’t think I put any pressure on myself because I knew the offense was going to come through. And we did.”
The offense did deliver eventually, but Beaubien’s strength was paramount early. Because while Beaubien was on, the entire Wolverine offense was off for the first half of the game, managing just two hits in four innings and never threatening to score.
In the fifth inning however, Michigan finally woke up at the plate, although it took a little bit of help for it to do so. For the first time all game, the Buckeyes left-hander Lexie Handley looked thrown off. She gave three consecutive batters the free pass and set up a clutch single from senior first baseman Lexie Blair — finally back from injury — to tie the game.
“The energy of the crowd was insane and I could feel the energy from my teammates,” Blair said. “That’s what really got me going… I could tell the pitcher was in her head and I could just tell that I had that at-bat in my hands regardless.”
Following Blair, graduate second baseman Melina Livingston then knocked a ball into right field for a sacrifice fly to put Michigan ahead with a narrow 2-1 lead.
It seemed like that would be enough for victory as Beaubien cruised and entered the seventh inning just three outs away from a gutsy victory.
But the ending got hectic.
After an Ohio State single and an ugly, nearly wild pitch, the Wolverines’ coaching staff replaced her with freshman right-hander Lauren Derkowski, a fresher arm. Derkowski quickly surrendered two runs to the Buckeyes, though, and Beaubien had to come right back into the game just an out after she had left.
Down 3-2, it seemed as if the Wolverines had blown their chance at victory, but they remained unperturbed.
Blair once again got the ball rolling with a line-drive single, and senior catcher Hannah Carson followed suit, leaving runners on first and third as Bump stepped up to the plate.
Bump didn’t falter.
“When she came up, there was not a doubt in my mind that she was gonna get it done,” Beaubien said, chuckling. “I actually called a home run — we call it swiping the yard card — and I swiped the yard card. It came up a few feet short, but it worked out.”
Bump’s two-RBI blast was the difference between a raucous victory and a crushing loss, a distinction that means the world to Michigan right now.
“We’ve had some tough times,” Hutchins said. “But it was time. I mean, we’re so due.”