The Rivalry Edition
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After eight innings, senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien stepped off the rubber. The biomedical engineering student walked off the field with her fifth collegiate complete game no-hitter, this time with an extra inning tacked on. The 2-1 credited win over Nebraska marked her 73rd as a Wolverine, surpassing Kelly Kovach for ninth-most in Michigan history.
Beaubien’s work on the diamond was over for the day, but she still had work in three classes — senior design, upper level occupational biomechanics and advanced math for engineers — to look forward to. For most student athletes, let alone students, such a schedule would cause anxiety by just looking at it. Beaubien, though, considers this not only a light course load, but one of the easiest semesters she’s had in college.
Being a pitcher that understands high level engineering, mathematics and biology has its advantages. It gives Beaubien a deeper understanding of why a ball spins, what makes it move, how she can generate the most force off the ground and what push off angle allows her to throw the hardest ball possible.
It’s also a large reason why Beaubien describes pitching the way she can.
“I don’t want a high angle with the ground, and I want (my front foot) as low to the ground as possible,” Beaubien said. “If I want to be technical about this, that’s because if we’re imagining a force vector from that drive foot, from my left foot, if it’s going too far up then I’m wasting force and wasting energy in the vertical direction when I want to maximize the horizontal force.”
Her intellectual perspective isn’t overlooked by Beaubien’s coaches either, who embrace and adapt their coaching to fit her unique approach.
“It is fun to have a mind like Meghan’s because most students and even coaches don’t speak the same way Meghan does,” Michigan associate head coach Bonnie Tholl said. “The terminology’s different, the vernacular is different.”
Michigan pitching coach Jennifer Brundage asks Beaubien questions instead of telling her what’s wrong. She’s learned that having Beaubien solve the problem in her head or out loud is a way to facilitate her learning and adjustment. Essentially, Brundage prompts Beaubien to find the solution herself, which is not the way she approaches coaching other pitchers.
When asked about Beaubien’s biomechanical view of softball, junior catcher Hannah Carson chuckled before responding.
“She is very analytical,” Carson said. “So when you start to talk to her about how pitches move and the trajectory of the pitch, sometimes she’ll start talking to me and I don’t even know what she’s saying. Like she’ll start talking about angles and speed, and then I just have to be like ‘OK, yeah. That one just seemed a little bit faster than the one before.’ ”
Beaubien’s fellow pitcher, and the right hook to her left, junior Alex Storako, called Beaubien’s method “hilarious” before going into how she and Beaubien approach pitching problems differently. Storako called Beaubien mechanical and analytical, while stating her own style relies more on how things look and feel.
Mechanical and analytical is the most accurate description of not only how Beaubien comes at softball, but how she goes through life.
It was a Sunday morning in Newport, Michigan.
Jason Beaubien sat at the helm of the vehicle with his hands on the steering wheel, eyes on the road and over four hours of driving ahead of him. Newport to Chicago, every weekend, and all for his 14 year old daughter sitting in the backseat. She wanted to play on the best travel team she could, and that meant long hours on I-94.
Typically, a long car ride might offer a parent a chance to bond or spend some time talking with their otherwise-busy daughter. At least that’s what other people told Jason.
“For us,” Jason said. “… There was no time.”
Instead, Meghan had her books sprawled out across the car and her eyes locked in on the pages. She had a four-hour practice in front of her and another long drive back home to end the day. She didn’t have much time during the week either, so this was her opportunity to study and do her homework, and she was determined to get it done.
Though it made for some lonely drives, that behavior is exactly what Jason and Kim Beaubien preached to their daughter.
Each day, Meghan would go out to her uncle’s barn to pitch, driven to get better, and every day her father would catch for her. But first, there were some questions.
When do you want to go pitch? How much homework do you have? When are you going to do it?
“They kind of held that standard,” Meghan said. “Like, ‘OK, well we’re not going to go pitch if your homework isn’t done, but at the same time, you know you’re on travel softball teams. You’re expected to get your pitching in.’ ”
In the Beaubien household, academics weren’t an afterthought. Both Meghan and her younger brother, Matt, were held to a high standard. That didn’t mean they needed all A’s, but they needed to do their best.
So Meghan did her best.
That included studying on car rides, homework before pitching and working late at night.
“She was so busy with her academics, and even in high school it would be routine for her to be up to one, two o’clock in the morning getting her homework done,” Jason said.
It turned out that when Meghan tried her best, even though all A’s weren’t expected of her, she got them. Through middle school she breezed by, receiving perfect marks without much effort. In high school at Saint Mary Catholic Central, Meghan graduated in 2017 as valedictorian with a 4.7 GPA and a 34 on the ACT while taking every AP class that fit into her schedule.
Her academic success never slowed down her progress on the softball field. Meghan posted outstanding individual achievements including Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and FloSoftball First Team All-American in 2015, as well as the two years after that. Additionally, she was a four-time Michigan All-State selection with a 100-11 career record and 1,442 strikeouts, becoming the FloSoftball No. 6 overall recruit in the country.
On the team side, Meghan also found success. She left high school as a three-time state champion and a two-year team captain. In 2016, she tossed back-to-back perfect games in the state semifinal and championship games. With the Beverly Bandits, her travel ball team, Meghan won the 16U PGF National Championship in 2016 and was runner up in 2015.
At the end of it all, she had a smattering of D1 offers to choose from. For her decision, it came back to academics.
“When I was being recruited, I wrote out … colleges that would be kind of on my dream list,” Meghan said. “My top two criteria were how’s their softball program, and how are they academically. And honestly, I might say that academics were weighted maybe even a little higher than the softball program.”
So when it came time for Meghan to decide on her commitment, Michigan came out as a clear winner. It was a place where she wouldn’t have to sacrifice either one of her passions to pursue the other.
A place that let Meghan keep being Meghan.
“She was just a kid that loved school,” Jason said. “It’s strange to say, but she loves school and she loves softball. … and I think that’s molded her into the young lady she is.”
“I got to college and I was like, ‘Oh wait, I’m not as smart as I thought I was,’ ” Beaubien said.
Because as smart as she is, her academic and athletic success is more a product of her effort and organization than her inherent intelligence.
Because of this wake-up call, something countless students at Michigan have experienced, Beaubien plans her entire week out down to the hour. She knows when she needs to leave for practice, when to go to a meeting, when she’s going to start an assignment — one that is often not even due until over a week later — and when she’s going to hang out with friends.
Planning, though, is one thing. Following through and excelling at it is another. That’s where all the lessons about balance and hard work Beaubien learned when she was younger pays off.
“She’s the kind of kid that you have to reign her in a little bit,” Brundage said. “If I didn’t put a maximum number of pitches on a workout for her, she would throw too much all the time because she’s just a workhorse that way. You can tell her work ethic. She’s not afraid of hard work and she’s not afraid to put in the hours.”
That’s more emblematic of Beaubien than anything else. Not her GPA or valedictorian status. Not her no-hitters or total strikeouts. Not her state championships or player of the year awards. It’s her work ethic and drive to do her best no matter what.
“No one was tougher on Meghan than Meghan,” Jason said. “She was very determined, whether it was studying for a math exam, or winning a spelling bee. … No matter what it was, she was just determined to win and be the best she could be and that carried her.”
Whatever obstacle stands in front of her, Beaubien keeps going. Trying, analyzing and trying again until she has it down to a science. That’s Beaubien’s approach. That’s her method.