With its perfect record at Alumni Field on the line last week, the Michigan softball team managed a 5-1 win over Michigan State, thanks to an effort that saw the Wolverines tally twice as many hits as the Spartans. Right-hander Megan Betsa tossed 17 strikeouts, matching her career-best performance in the circle.
On Tuesday, the 18th-ranked Wolverines (11-2 Big Ten, 31-9-1 overall) will look to complete the season sweep against their in-state foe just a week later.
Both Michigan and Michigan State (5-8, 21-16-0) have hit bumps in the road since their last encounter.
While it appeared the Wolverines — the then-top team in the conference this past weekend — would have little trouble routing Maryland, this was not the case. The Terrapins robbed Michigan of a series sweep with a 2-1 victory Saturday, even though the Spartans had swept Maryland just two weeks ago.
As the Wolverine offense was unable to jumpstart Saturday, the lineup saw significant shifts for Sunday’s game. The changes seemed to pay off, as a seventh-inning rally allowed Michigan to overcome Maryland, 4-3, eking out the 2-1 series victory.
“I’m glad we got through it,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins after the series.
One point of consistency that has been the Wolverines’ saving grace throughout the season, is the performance of Betsa. The ace notched two complete-game victories in the circle, tossing 26 more strikeouts, boosting her total on the season to 292 — good for No. 1 in the nation.
“Megan’s been a rock for us,” Hutchins said. “She’s our leader. She’s throwing right now with an offense that’s underperforming. So she’s got to have nerves of steel, and I was really proud of her. I thought she really had a gutsy performance (Sunday).”
Michigan State faced struggles of its own on the weekend.
Though the Spartans intended to host Illinois at its own Secchia Softball Stadium, flooding prevented this from happening, and their matchups were instead held at Davenport University. The field has been an issue all season, and now water damage has Michigan State’s infield and outfield to be replaced.
The Spartans were swept by the Illini, including a heartbreaker Saturday in which Michigan State took Illinois to extra innings, but ended up falling, 6-5. The Spartans are now on a four-game losing streak.
It is clear that both teams are looking for a spark heading into Tuesday’s game, though the Spartans may need it more.
But with some recent low points — a game dropped to Ohio State and a game dropped to Maryland — it will be pivotal that the Wolverines come into the game with confidence.
And if they can beat Michigan State, that confidence could also be important to carry over for Michigan heading into next weekend’s series against Big Ten competitor Wisconsin.