Facing a talented field at the Judi Garman Invitational, Michigan Softball put together a 2-3 record to kick off its Spring Break trip to California. The Wolverines were edged by Loyola Marymount and Texas before putting together a dominant performance against Texas Tech. They split Sunday, taking a lopsided loss to Washington before ending the weekend on a high note with a walk-off win over Colorado State. It was a weekend of pitchers duels as the 13th-ranked Wolverines participated in three one-run affairs.
The low scores began early as Michigan lost consecutive games where they allowed two or fewer runs. Against Loyola Marymount, Meghan Beubein pitched a gem, allowing just three hits and no walks in the complete game performance. Michigan took an early lead, after Julia Jimenez hit a lead-off single and Abby Skvarce brought her home. Loyola Marymount only scored on one play, a two-run single in the second. Though Marymount did not have a single base runner after that second inning, the one-run lead held up. Michigan was able to put runners in scoring position, and even had the tying runner on third in the seventh, but strong defense kept the Wolverines off the board and LMU won 2-1.
Facing No. 3 Texas the next day, Beubein stepped in again and traded perfect innings with Texas’ Shealyn O’Leary. This game did not see its first base runner until the fourth inning, when Lou Allan was hit by a pitch. O’Leary got out of the inning when two more batters reached on a fielder’s choice, Texas always opting to tag the leading runner. Beaubein would remain perfect until the sixth, when she gave up a leadoff double. A sac bunt and a deep fly later, Texas was on the board and was just three outs away from the win. Michigan again almost got the tying run in the seventh. Hannah Carson singled, advanced to second on an out at first, and got all the way to third on a wild pitch, but O’Leary ended the threat and took the game.
Needing a win, the Wolverines roared back with a vengeance that afternoon against No. 25 Texas Tech, snapping a five-game losing streak and putting some confidence in the Michigan bats. Alex Storako did her part, giving up two hits in a 13 strikeout performance. By the time Tech scored their two runs in the fourth, Michigan had already run up an 8-0 lead. The Wolverines got started early, with Jimenez homering on the second pitch of the ballgame. Lexi Blair and Lou Allan followed that up with hits, but couldn’t get home.
The bulk of the damage was done in the second inning. Morgan Overaitis got it going with a leadoff single before Lauren Esman struck out. Michigan then rattled off five straight singles, with Blair and Allan loading the bases, and Skvarce and Carson picking up an RBI each. Skvarce scored when Uden reached on a fielder’s choice, and every Wolverine had come to the plate in the second. Overaitis’ second at bat resulted in the final RBI of the inning, and the Wolverines ended the second up 7-0. The Wolverines made it 8-0 in the fourth: Overaitis reached on a fielder’s choice and Esman singled her home. Tech got their two runs in the bottom of the fourth and the 8-2 score held for the rest of the game. Storako kept up her dominant pitching through the rest of the game, and recorded four strikeouts in the seventh after a batter reached on a passed ball.
Facing No. 2 Washington on Sunday, the Wolverines got roughed up early, with Storako back on the mound. Washington put up a first inning grand slam and set the tone for a rough day. While the Wolverines got two back in the bottom of the first with RBI’s from Skvarce and Carson, the Huskies scored three each in the second and third to take a 10-2 lead and eventually win the game in five innings. One interesting thing to note in this game is that Lauren Esman had her debut on the mound and acquitted herself pretty well. Coming in midway through the third, she navigated the Wolverines out of the inning. There’s little she could have done about the RBI fly out in her first at-bat, and after a walk and RBI double that inning, she settled down to pitch a 1-2-3 fourth. Ultimately she gave up 2 hits and 2 walks in her debut with her runs charged elsewhere, not bad for a Freshman facing the nation’s No. 2 team.
The pitchers duel was back on in the Sunday afternoon game against Colorado with Beaubein taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Beubein had struck out the side in the second and the fifth inning single gave the Rams just their fourth base runner. Jessica Jarecki was about as good for CSU, with stray hits by Uden, Allan, and Blair. Two-straight singles in the top of the seventh put the first Rams runner in scoring position, but Storako ended the inning in the next at bat. In the bottom of the seventh, two quick ground outs put the game one out away from extras, before Madison Uden decided she’d had enough. Uden lined the 1-1 pitch just over the fence to score the first run of the game and end Michigan’s weekend with a win.
Though Michigan had a losing weekend, it’s hard not to come away encouraged. The first major positive was the pitching. Beaubein was lights out all weekend, allowing just 9 hits in 20 innings. Add her one (one!) walk and that’s a 0.65 WHIP. Storako pitched a gem of her own against Texas Tech, her fourth game of the season with 13 or more K’s, and her second such game against a ranked team. Michigan’s pitching will be able to carry it through rough stretches of hitting.
Another positive to bring away from the weekend was the performance of Lexi Blair. After a rocky stretch to open the season, Blair hit 9-for-17 this weekend including 4-for-5 against Texas Tech. After leading the team in BA last year, Blair is back up to fourth. Her emergence could be just what the doctor ordered as Michigan looks to have more one-run games break their way.
Michigan will stay in California for the rest of Spring Break. First, they’ll play a Tuesday night one-off against St. Johns, on the campus of UCLA. St. Johns is 7-13, so hopefully that can be a nice momentum game for the Wolverines. They’ll stay at UCLA for the Louisville Slugger Classic, opening on Thursday against 12-7 Cal State Fullerton. In the Thursday nightcap they’ll play the highlight game of the weekend, a tilt with #1 UCLA. UCLA only has one loss on the season, against Texas. The Friday twinbill will see them play 11-4 Boston University and 16-2 UCF, who should see the rankings for the first time this week.
The Louisville Slugger Classic will be the last of Michigan’s early-season warm weather destination games, with Michigan’s home opener v. Ball State slated for March 13th.