As fifth-year left-hander Meghan Beaubien stepped into the circle, it seemed like the Alumni Field crowd was in for some equally-classic dominance from the veteran Tuesday afternoon.
Dominance that ends in a credited win, to be clear. Despite carrying a no-hitter into the final inning of her last start, a single home run went a long way to muddy the situation. Simple victory was bound to be of focus for Beaubien.
On Tuesday afternoon, the win was clear. The No. 19 Michigan softball team (15-6 overall), in its 8-0 drubbing of Toledo (7-12), secured Beaubien her first credited win in two weeks.
A three-strikeout inning to open the game wasted no time in confirming that notion. And a quick three runs from the Wolverines’ bats on the other side kept the momentum going.
Michigan’s scoring at first was the collective result of bats making contact and multiple errors from the Rockets. While singles from senior catcher Hannah Carson and senior outfielder Lexie Blair were cornerstone plays towards Michigan runs, they wouldn’t have converted with as much ease if not for a muffed throw in the infeld and a dropped fly ball in the outfield.
“We just take advantage of the opportunity,” Carson said. “If a team makes an error and that’s the way we get on base, we get on base — so I think we treat it the same way as if we were to get a hit or get a walk and just keep that energy going.”
In the next inning, Toledo retired the Wolverines by executing two groundouts and a flyout, but thanks to freshman shortstop Ella McVey’s side-retiring pickoff in the top of the third, their bats did not hold up their end to provide any further pressure.
While not as strikeout-heavy as her first two innings, execution from the fielders around Beaubien was equally crucial given the errors that ended her last start on the wrong foot.
“I know our defense well enough so I know that they can do that,” Beaubien said. “Every game I go out there I trust that they’re gonna make their play. They don’t always and sometimes I don’t get my job done and that’s part of the game, but I always trust that they’re going to make that play and that’s just a really important part of playing on my team.”
In the third inning, Michigan’s hitting took a more complete hold in its own right to distance the score. Once again this season, younger faces made it possible. Freshman utility player Annabelle Widra’s steal of second base brought her into position to score off of a Carson double, and sophomore utility player Sierra Kersten batted in the other run of the third.
But according to the Wolverines’ coaching staff, the contagion of veteran slugging earlier in the game powered the outburst and more.
“Lexie Blair’s success is pivotal because it sets the tone for the whole entire game to be quite honest, not just offense,” Michigan associate head coach Bonnie Tholl said. “When she provides both base hits or outs — if they’re loud outs, if they’re aggressive outs, then it sets that tone for our offense, and it really gives us a shot mirror from the start.”
And as the game aged further, Beaubien carried that momentum back into another strikeout rhythm. She struck out three more in the fourth, with multiple change-ups provoking some crowd reactions.
Toledo could not get past first base, let alone on the scoreboard, and this complemented a steal of second from McVey to keep the threat of more runs imminent.
“We believe that the pitcher sets the tone of the game,” Tholl said. “It sets the tone of defense and that actually spills over into our offense. For a pitcher like Meghan (Beaubien) to come out today and start the first inning off with a couple of strikeouts, it really sets the tone and keeps us on the attack. So that does spill over into our offense.”
The Wolverines’ momentum snowballed into one last outpour of runs. Graduate transfer outfielder Kristina Burkhardt ended an otherwise-quiet start with a double, and with more hits from Carson, Kersten, as well as junior utility player Lauren Esman and freshman outfielder Ellie Sieler, the game was officially brought home in the form of a run rule.
Last Thursday, despite Beaubien’s usual consistency, a single home run stole a nine-strikeout win away from her record. This time, a more typical day meant nine more strikeouts, with a credited win on the stat sheet and momentum to right a losing record. For now, Beaubien seems to be back to her typical self.