In what appeared to be another season of inconsistency, the Michigan softball team has found its rhythm.
With Big Ten play beginning in less than one week, the Wolverines took their 12-game win streak to the Miami Invitational in Oxford, Ohio. And led by an explosive offense and elite pitching performances, the team outscored their collective opponents, 35-0.
Freshmen pitchers Meghan Beaubien and Sarah Schaefer threw four straight complete game shutouts against Dayton, Miami (Ohio), Robert Morris and Fort Wayne in what was a dominant weekend.
Michigan opened the tournament on Saturday against Dayton with Schaefer in the circle. After setting down the Flyers in a 1-2-3 first inning, the Wolverines took the lead in the bottom half of the frame. Junior infielder Faith Canfield scored on a double steal when junior outfielder Natalie Peters was caught stealing second base –– the intended result as Canfield crossed the plate. The one and two hitters, respectively, lifted the offense by combining for nine hits and five runs on Saturday.
The offense tacked on three more runs on four hits in the fifth inning –– putting the game out of reach. Schaefer returned to the circle for the seventh inning, seeking the first complete game and win of her collegiate career. Just how she began the game, Schaefer retired her opponents in 1-2-3 fashion to earn the complete game shutout.
In the second matchup of the day for Michigan, the offense opened up a four-run lead in the third inning against Miami. Canfield turned on a pitch from the Redhawks, launching the first offering over the left-field fence for a two-run home run to go up 2-0. That was all of the run support Beaubien needed. After getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and leaving a pair of runners stranded in the second inning, Beaubien got into a groove and surrendered only three hits on her way to a complete game and 7-0 victory.
On Sunday, the Wolverines’ bats picked up right where they left off. In the top half of the first inning against Robert Morris, Michigan put up four runs led by two home runs off the bats of sophomore infielder Madison Uden and senior infielder Taylor Swearingen. Junior utility player Alex Sobczak contributed four RBI to the offensive display as Michigan put up 14 runs in total.
“I think we’re just attacking,” Canfield said. “We’re seeing the ball and we’re just going for it. I think hitting is contagious, that we’re just starting to get hot and everything’s just coming together at the right time.”
Despite how impressive the offense looked, Schaefer was even better in the circle.
She topped her performance from Saturday by retiring all of the batters she faced –– throwing the first perfect game in program history since 2010 –– and on her 19th birthday to cap it off.
And though she was the star of the game, Schaefer was quick to credit her defense.
“I feel like they always have my back,” Schaefer said. “I’m a majority drop-ball pitcher, so I try to get the hitters to always hit it in the ground, so my infield is a really big part of my game and I felt like they just had my back the whole time.”
The Wolverines faced off against Fort Wayne in their final contest of the weekend. Like her previous outing, Beaubien escaped a bases loaded jam in her first inning after giving up two hits and walking a batter. Michigan took the lead in the bottom half of the inning, crossing the plate twice on two throwing errors by the Mastodons. Just as she did on Saturday, Beaubien hit her stride allowing just two hits after the first inning on her way to another complete game shutout.
And so, the streak continues for the Wolverines.
Coming into its first home game of the season on Wednesday, Michigan has won its last 16 games.
“I’m just really excited to get out there and show everybody what Michigan has to offer,” Schaefer said. “I think that we’re in a really good spot right now and we have some things to work on but if they can keep getting better, I think we can be really great.”