The first couple of games of the LSU Invitational saw the Michigan softball team plagued by the same problems it’s faced all season. Towards the end of the weekend, though, the Wolverines looked revived both at the plate and defensively, grabbing two wins to salvage a 2-3 weekend record.
Friday, the Wolverines (6-8) were overwhelmed by Stanford (11-2) and No. 9 Louisiana State (13-3).
While Michigan gave up only one run through the first five innings against Stanford, trouble came in the bottom of the sixth. With the game tied at one, sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien faced six batters in the inning, hitting two batters in a row and giving up three runs in the process before being pulled for sophomore right-hander Sarah Schaefer. The latter didn’t fare much better, giving up an additional three runs before the inning ended.
“I didn’t really have the right mindset,” Beaubien said. “You want to go into that situation with a clear head and telling yourself to throw your game and things are going to work out. What you don’t want to do is try too hard to get out of the situation or get the results you wanted. I was trying too hard to get the results.”
The Michigan offense couldn’t make up the difference in the 7-1 loss. Friday evening saw much of the same from the offense against the Tigers, mustering up only one hit in a 2-0 loss.
There were some reasons for optimism, though. Both the infield and outfield played consistently smart defense. Senior catcher Katie Alexander prevented a runner from stealing third in the bottom of the second inning, and junior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad dove to grab a fly ball in center field to end the inning. It was these types of plays that kept the score low.
In its first few innings against Memphis (5-8) on Saturday morning, Michigan looked like it might face similar problems, as the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. The Wolverines responded quickly as senior infielders Faith Canfield and Alex Sobczak and sophomore infielder Natalia Rodriguez all made it across home plate. Michigan held onto this lead with Rodriguez scoring again in the fourth inning, ending it’s five-game losing streak with a 4-2 win.
The Wolverines kept this momentum going against California State University, Northridge (4-7). The offense proved that strong batting can be contagious, getting 10 hits, eight of which resulted in runs.
Beaubien was the one standout, pitching her fourth career no-hitter and her first of the season. With the offense and defense finally coming together for the Wolverines, Michigan ended the game with a commanding 8-0 win.
The final game of the weekend proved to be a solid rematch against Louisiana State. The first matchup saw weak offensive play from the Wolverines, and the rematch saw much of the same. Michigan pitching carried it to a 2-1 loss. For the first three innings, it matched the Tigers in runners on base, but couldn’t finish.
Luckily for the Wolverines, freshman right-hander Alex Storako’s pitching kept them in the game early on. Storako registered four strikeouts in a row, shaping the game up to be a pitcher’s duel.
“I’ve made some significant jumps to just be able to trust myself and the process that I’ve come to know these past couple of months,” Storako said. “Be able to be stress free and loose and playing the game the way that I know how.”
The third inning marked the first signs of trouble for Michigan as it left two runners stranded on base in the top of the inning, and allowed LSU a run off of an error by Storako at the bottom. With runners on second and third, Storako recovered the inning, saving the Wolverines from an even larger deficit.
While junior Madison Uden tied up the game with a run in the top of the fifth inning, Louisiana State quickly regained its lead. After walking a batter in the bottom of the same inning, Beaubien relieved Storako in the circle, but she wasn’t there for long. Before the inning was over, Beaubien allowed one runner to steal second base and eventually take home, leaving Michigan with another loss. Much like the first game against Louisiana State, Hutchins opted to replace Beaubien with Shaefer before she was able to finish her first inning.