SEATTLE — All year, there were two people Michigan could count on.
Pitchers Alex Storako and Meghan Beaubien.
One was the Big Ten pitcher of the year, and the other, a senior who came into the weekend ranked 12th in the country with her ERA of 1.08. No other team in the field of 64 in the NCAA softball tournament had a pair of pitchers better. And with a superb outfield behind them, it was easy to see why the Wolverines posed a threat to any team that came across them.
At least on paper that is.
In the biggest game of Michigan’s season, where it was just one win away from its first super regional since 2016, its two aces combined to give up 13 hits and ten runs — season highs in both categories.
To name a few more of the absurd hitting stats Washington compiled against two of the best pitchers in the nation. The Huskies batted 0.419, they hit three for five with the bases loaded and batted over 0.400 with runners in scoring position. Numbers the Wolverines simply haven’t given up all year, not even close. With the majority of that damage being done in just the bottom of the fourth, where Washington scored seven runs.
An inning that truly showed Michigan what type of night it was, and that the aces up its sleeve were gone. An inning that started off with a solo home run from Husky outfielder Jadelyn Allchin that cut into the Wolverines’ lead and sent Storako to the dugout. Just under three weeks after she threw 23 strikeouts in an eight inning game against Michigan State, a program record, Storako was benched. The pitcher, fresh off a no-hitter on Friday and a perfect game last Sunday, Beaubien, was brought on to try and patch up the wound and stop the bleeding.
That did not happen.
Instead, the Huskies smelled blood and like a pack of wolves, they jumped on their prey, piling on six more runs and eating up every pitch Beaubien flung their way.
By the time the inning was over, Washington’s entire lineup made it up to bat. And, the scoreboard read 10-5, Huskies.
“I don’t know what to say,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said in a somber post game press conference. “They’re a strong, powerful team and they…,” Hutchins paused. “They were pretty formidable.”
But there are, in fact, things to be said. One of which being that in the biggest game of the year, they were outdone by what gave them the edge all year. All year long Michigan lived by its pitching, but on Sunday night, it also died by it.
Juxtapose that with their opponent, another team who lived and died by their star pitcher — Gabbie Plain — all year, and the difference is striking. Plain threw over 200 hundred pitches on the night — including her count from the first game of the doubleheader — and yet, she still came up big. After Plain gave up five runs in the first two innings, she only saw 15 batters over the final five innings, the minimum, and didn’t allow a single run.
And that was the difference between the two sides. Strength against strength, Washington overpowered the Wolverines, and ended their season.
On a night where the Huskies were the better team. On a night where Plain was the better pitcher.
On a night where Michigan’s biggest strength was its Achilles’ heel.