Softball Whips UAB in Season Opener [Update: No Hitter in Game 2!]

Submitted by South Bend Wolverine on February 9th, 2018 at 12:20 PM

Softball season is officially underway for the Michigan Wolverines!  In Florida for the USF tournament, the team took on the UAB Blazers.

Michigan got started early, putting up a run in the 1st inning on the strength of an Aidan Falk single.  Both teams threatened in the 2nd, but no one was able to push a run across.  Then in the 3rd inning, Michigan blew down the doors.  Faith Canfield got a lead-off hit, and after a walk, Falk added 2 more RBIs to her total with another single.  A pair of hit batters made it 4-0, and Abby Skvarce made it 5-0 (and maintained her career 1.000 batting average!).  The inning finally ended, but not before 2 wild pitches made it 6-0.  Things calmed down after that, with a Faith Canfield solo shot in the 6th rounding out the scoring.

Defensively, Tera Blanco went 6 strong innings, not allowing a run at any point.  Looking to get her young star a few reps in a low pressure situation, Hutch threw freshman Meghan Beaubien into the circle to close the show.  A little bit of nerves might have been in play, as Beaubien hit the first batter on her first career pitch.  A couple close plays that went UAB's way loaded the bases with no outs, and brought Hutch to the circle.  After that, Beaubien was lights out.  2 straight Ks put UAB's backs to the wall, and a ground-out ended the affair.

Michigan will now take a short break before facing Georgia State in about 20 minutes.

Georgia State was simply no match for Michigan in any phase of the game.  Offensively, Michigan hit through the line-up, with everyone but Blanco getting at least one base knock.  Faith Canfield starred offensively with 2 hits, including a 3-run homer to put the game into run-rule territory in the top of the 6th, but it was truly a team effort.

No one wants to talk about the offense right now, though.  The story is all about Meghan Beaubien, who absolutely murdered GSU from the circle.  Hurling 11 Ks while surrendering just 1 walk, the freshman unbelievably pitched a complete-game no-hitter in her first career start.  She mixed speeds effectively, ranging from the 70s down to the mid-50s, and never looked in serious danger of wavering.  You can't ask for a better start to a career than she just delivered.  Tomorrow, we'll get the chance to see what she can do against tougher opponents.

Comments

RoseInBlue

February 9th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

Was listening to the radio broadcast.  Beaubien had me a little scared for a second there. Then, she apparently decided to stop playing around with them and just smoked the next 3 batters out.

DaveHuck

February 9th, 2018 at 1:21 PM ^

Listened to the game. Blanco sounded shaky at times. Beaubien has some gas! We might see the youngster as the workhorse, as the season progresses.

Glad softball is back! My daughter is pitching for Albion College this Spring and will start her season next week. Go Blue and Go Britons! In case anyone cares, here is an article in the newspaper that ran on my daughter last week. http://www.ironmountaindailynews.com/sports/local-sports/2018/02/for-th…

DaveHuck

February 9th, 2018 at 4:55 PM ^

Thank you. It was fun coaching her throughout her career. Travel ball was a blast. Wanted her to play for Michigan (and follow in my wife and my footsteps), but the UP competition is not quite there. Still proud to see her playing. Lots of long drives planned from the Yoop to watch her play.

Mark46

February 9th, 2018 at 1:30 PM ^

For those listening on the radio take the speed of the pitches with a grain of salt. The USF scoreboard gun typically show about 4 mph too high.

ZG

February 9th, 2018 at 1:51 PM ^

shout out to wcbn sports for broadcasting softball! Only 4 are televised and wcbn sports is streaming something like 48 total games.

DaveHuck

February 9th, 2018 at 1:59 PM ^

The best thing about Beaubien is that she is getting ahead of the hitters and making them guess what is next. She is overpowering them with the fastball and then comes back with an unbelievably knee-breaking change up. She sounds like a keeper!

Also, liking with the offense is doing. They are getting clutch hits when needed. Last season’s offense seemed to stall last year, at times, and had trouble generating runs. Hopefully, they can keep it up and consistently hit from top to bottom.

RoseInBlue

February 9th, 2018 at 4:32 PM ^

Uggh!!  It's times like this that make me angry the 1st few weeks of softball aren't televised for the most part (or even live streamed in many cases).  Freshmen super recruit throws 11 strikeouts en route to a no hitter in her 1st start.  It's just cruel that I didn't get to watch that.

I did listen in though, and I'm very excited with how this opening day went.  Tomorrow comes the real challenge in Florida and USF though.  Hutch likes to throw her youngsters into the fire early in the season.  We'll really see what this kid's made of then.

Alton

February 9th, 2018 at 3:20 PM ^

The next decision for Coach Hutchins is which pitcher to start against Florida, and which to start against South Florida tomorrow.  It's a tough decision--do you throw your Freshman, who is probably your best pitcher, against the second or third best hitting team in the nation?  

The Florida game is at 11 am and the South Florida game is at 3:45 pm tomorrow.  The fact that Blanco started the first game today probably indicates that she is also the probable starter against Florida.  I suppose the most likely outcome is that you see both pitchers in both games tomorrow.

South Bend Wolverine

February 9th, 2018 at 3:34 PM ^

I'd put Beaubien out there, no doubt.  From everything we've heard, she's incredibly mentally strong, so I'm not worried about Florida roughing her up & breaking her confidence.  Also, there's a lot of value in trying these out in these non-conf. games against elite teams.  This game is all opportunity for us, very little downside.  A win is a huge resume booster, while a loss will be very understandable.  Give the frosh a chance to shine, knowing that if things go sideways, you've got a senior, and a long season to bounce back.

Also, frankly, I just believe that Beaubien gives us the best chance to win.  Blanco is a solid Big Ten pitcher.  Beaubien has a chance to be a national star as her career goes along.

Alton

February 9th, 2018 at 3:47 PM ^

I agree with everything here.  

Because of how ridiculously weak the Big Ten--and especially the Big Ten East--is, this Florida game will have massive leverage over where we end up ranked by the playoff committee. 

Remember what happened to Minnesota last year and consider that it could happen to Michigan this year, unless they beat those top-50 teams on the non-conference schedule:  Florida, Florida State, Texas, Baylor, ULL.  

snowcrash

February 9th, 2018 at 3:59 PM ^

Some context for Beaubien's dominant performance today: Georgia St wasn't a terrible team last year. They're in a weakish league but they went 36-25 and averaged more than 5 runs a game. They returned 3 of their 4 best hitters, and Beaubien got them to collectively go 0-7 with a walk and 4 strikeouts.

Alton

February 9th, 2018 at 4:10 PM ^

If you look at the (Massey) ratings from last season, Michigan's 5 opponents this weekend were:

UAB #161
Georgia State #65
Florida #3
South Florida #74
Illinois State #77
 
So Georgia State is actually the second best team Michigan faces this weekend, assuming teams are about the same as last year.
 
Some Big Ten teams for comparison:  #20 Michigan, #45 Ohio State, #75 Michigan State, #118 Indiana, #133 Iowa, #139 Penn State, #153 Purdue, #254 Maryland, #256 Rutgers.
 

South Bend Wolverine

February 9th, 2018 at 4:47 PM ^

I actually wouldn't be surprised if he does talk to her from time to time - she's widely respected throughout the athletic department, and the coaches often have good relationships with each other.

One point you might want to take into account, though, is Hutch's career trajectory.  While granting that she started with a lot less than Harbaugh in terms of program name recognition & resources (then again, no Big Ten team at the time had much more), take a look at the year-by-year team record.  She didn't win a conference championship until her 8th season, didn't reach Oklahoma City for 3 more years after that, and won her national title in her 21st year.  The 9-year conference title streak started 3 years later.

In other words, her career is a testimony to patience, building steadily, and getting better every day, rather than about expecting instantaneous results.  I mean, I'm disappointing by this recruiting class & the 2017 season too, but looking to the long haul is the way to go.

massblue

February 9th, 2018 at 6:40 PM ^

She had to build the program on her to where it is today.  At the time when Jim arrived, both programs were on equal footing.  Now Hutch is outperforming him, bringing top notch classes to Ann Arobor each year and out recruiting UF and UCLA's of the world.  Cold weather is not stoping her from bringing players from Florida and Calif. Also, she is a hell of coach with a stable coaching staff.  Harbaugh can learn from her.

Spontaneous Co…

February 9th, 2018 at 7:15 PM ^

The programs were not on equal footing when Jim arrived. Softball was already the OSU of the B1G. Superior players when compared to every other team in the conference and it was and is always a surprise when the ladies fail to win the B1G. Plus they had a steady hand at the wheel for decades. I think it is silly to compare the two at all, but if you are going to do so, then let’s be fair.

Solecismic

February 9th, 2018 at 6:06 PM ^

What a debut. For reference, I think Monica Abbott was timed at 77 mph a few years back - that's considered the fastest. She's probably the best ever to take the circle - certainly since they moved it back to 43 feet.

So I doubt Beaubien hit 74. But 70 would be incredible. Given that she isn't a high-walk pitcher, there's absolutely no way she isn't the #1 right now.

And I think it's good to test her against Florida right away. How will she handle hitters who won't be blown away by 70 and have learned some patience at the plate? Given the weakness of the Big Ten, every test is important.

Blanco takes some criticism because she didn't develop into a world-beater. But she was top five in the Big Ten last year and a decent #2. Michigan's problem last year (and likely this year as well) is that there's no third option. Most teams have a #3 - someone who can team up with #2 and get through the type of game Michigan hasn't been winning in recent years. Blanco also brings a really good bat.

South Bend Wolverine

February 9th, 2018 at 6:11 PM ^

That's a great point re: having a #3.  It helps a lot when #2 gets into trouble to be able to mix things up with a third option, rather than just throwing an over-worked ace out there to pitch even more innings.  It'd be great if Schafer or Crockett could step up in that role, but I'm not holding my breath, unfortunately.

Solecismic

February 10th, 2018 at 3:23 AM ^

When they had Haylie Wagner and Sara Dreisenga and Betsa was a freshman and sophomore, they had that depth. Wagner was dominant, but really struggled with injuries throughout her career. Blanco didn't have to jump in there as a freshman.

Hutch can recruit, but there's that added challenge of getting a player to come to a place where you can't have home games or outside practice until the season is half over. So that's been tough since Wagner and Dreisenga graduated. Beaubien's coming in at the perfect time. In softball, it seems recruits often commit 3-4 years in advance. It's crazy. But with travel ball and the quality of those coaches and given that girls mature faster, the top players are obvious early.

Crockett must have left the team to be removed from the roster list. You can see her in the official roster photo (she's the team's tallest player). It's too bad she never turned the corner in her development.

Hopefully, Allan is OK. She could have quite an impact even as a freshman. The team could use her power.