Beaubien, Michigan Win Extra-Inning Thriller, JMU Battles Back For Final Rematch
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For a change, Carol Hutchins began her postgame presser Saturday by asking a reporter a question of her own.
“How many innings was that?”
It’s easy to forgive the Michigan softball coach for not remembering. A 12-inning, 1-0 walkoff win in the NCAA Tournament will do that.
But perhaps calling it a “win” is understating it. Saturday’s game between Michigan and James Madison was an epic in every sense — from the length of the game itself (a barely-fathomable three hours and 42 minutes), to the atmosphere, to the the quality of play.
It was a classic pitcher’s duel from start to finish, with sophomore left-hander Meghan Beaubien for the Wolverines taking on the Dukes’ senior right-hander, Megan Good. Both hurlers went the distance Saturday, throwing well over 160 pitches.
“Pitcher's duels, they're fun,” Beaubien said. “I think every moment of it was fun, even though it was tough. I think I did and I think everyone else did.”
Good spent most of the afternoon working in and out of trouble. In the first inning, she faced a bases-loaded situation that, granted, was of little fault of her own — the ball never left the infield — and calmly got Mackenzie Nemitz swinging to end the first, and rebounded from that 33-pitch frame by sitting down the side in the next three innings.
But while Good buckled down under pressure, Beaubien mostly avoided that pressure in the first place. Michigan’s ace retired 11 batters in a row after a leadoff walk, and didn’t allow a hit or runner in scoring position until the fifth inning.
By the time Beaubien’s riseball slipped past the bat of Hannah File and met Hannah Carson’s mitt, extinguishing the aforementioned fire, Alumni Field seemed to sense it was witnessing an instant classic. The packed house reached boiling temperature as the home crowd began a “Let’s Go Blue!” chant, and with every pitch, the lid threatened to bubble off entirely.
“Hannah Carson said it best last week at the Big Ten Tournament, I think it was the Illinois game, which was 1-0 eventually — ‘This is fun!’ ” Hutchins said. “I used to play softball — I don’t know if anybody knows that. It's fun being in those games as a player.
“I never worried about losing, ever. Never crossed my mind. You're just playing to win.”
Beaubien and Good were at the center of it all. With every out, they spent the afternoon bringing out each other’s best.
“I think it helps me a little bit,” Good said. “I don't know how to describe it, but you're staying focused the entire time, and you want to do as well as the other team's doing it.”
Good showed that focus in escaping a one-out, fifth-inning jam with runners on third and second. She showed it again an inning later in a similar situation. Ditto for the seventh. The ninth, too, after a leadoff double by Hannah Carson.
All told, Good stranded runners in scoring position in all but one of the final eight frames, striking out seven.
“I just kept telling myself to stay within myself, not do anything too crazy, and just rely on my defense because I know they had my back,” she said.
Beaubien’s fastball continued to hum and her changeup continued to flutter. She ended up striking out 12, allowing just five hits and walking two. And contrary to Good, the scariest play of Beaubien’s outing happened quite early — Haley Hoogenraad laid out for a fourth-inning-ending, sprawling catch in right field that likely stole an RBI double from Logan Newton.
“I think I did a really good job of just sticking with what I threw and attacking hitters and figuring out different ways to attack hitters,” she said. “I was always mentally in control of the game.”
Added third baseman Madison Uden: “Meghan is one tough cookie. She came into the huddle and was like, ‘You guys keep swinging and I'll keep throwing.’ You couldn't ask for any other comment during a game, and as a hitter that's so encouraging.”
That encouragement paid off in the 12th inning. Natalie Peters’ liner flew down the foul line in left for a leadoff double, and after Good retired the next two hitters, Uden decided she had finally had enough, swinging at the first offering and belting it into the left-field gap.
The ball landed. The Wolverine faithful went nuts. The entire Michigan team mobbed Peters the plate. Good, the hard-luck loser, walked slowly with her team into the handshake line.
“I don't think we've been ever more confident than we are right now,” Uden said. “That just keeps us rolling. Just knowing that we are going to get the job done.”
So much of that was thanks to Beaubien’s well-worked left arm. Prompted by those 166 pitches, a reporter asked Beaubien if she’d be ready to go were Hutchins to hand her the ball again Sunday.
Added Hutchins: “Dumb question.”
DePaul Eliminates St. Francis
Brianna Viles isn’t known for her hitting prowess.
The Blue Demons’ senior outfielder had gone nearly four years without hitting a home run. But her first one could hardly have come at a better time.
After Kate Polucha swung at the first pitch of the fourth inning and crushed a double, Gabby O’Reilly singled her home for the game’s first run. Two batters later, Viles’ long-awaited first homer left the park, and that was all DePaul would need to knock St. Francis (PA) out of the NCAA Tournament, 3-1, on Saturday.
The clash of pitching titans Beaubien and Good gave both the Blue Demons and Red Flash some extra time to gear up for their elimination game Saturday afternoon. DePaul put it to good use, taking down the Red Flash behind a combined three-hit pitching effort from Krista Dalgarn and Natalie Halvorson.
Both teams threatened to break through in the first three frames. The Blue Demons put runners in scoring position in innings one and two but failed to score, while Dalgarn stranded Halle Marion and MeKenzie Saban in the third inning.
The middle of the DePaul lineup took control in the fourth inning, but the Red Flash nearly wrestled it back a few minutes later. Two singles and a walk brought home one run and chased Dalgarn from the contest, but Halvorson induced a flyout to right field to squash those hopes.
James Madison Knocks Out DePaul
With that win, DePaul got a second chance at James Madison, which, after a quick trip back to the team’s hotel, was refreshed enough to shut out the Blue Demons, 3-0, and earn a rematch — or two — against Michigan on Sunday.
With Good out of action, right-hander Odicci Alexander picked up where she left off on Friday, mowing down the DePaul lineup in similar fashion as the opening game. She opened the contest with four no-hit innings, fanning three during that span.
The Dukes, who averaged 8.26 runs coming into Ann Arbor, have only scored nine across their three games this weekend. But the hits they did get went a long way. They scored all three of their runs Saturday on home runs — two from left fielder Kate Gordon and one from catcher Kierstin Roadcap.
DePaul had its best chance in the fifth inning, after Angela Scalzitti broke up the no-hitter with a textbook bunt single. Viles, one of the heroes a couple hours prior, then knocked a one-out single to send Scalzitti to third. But after a nine-pitch nail-biter of an at-bat, Alexander struck out Skylor Hilger to prevent any damage.