Ann Arbor — Michigan softball veterans were asked to describe how good freshman left-hander Meghan Beaubien is, and they advised looking at a video taken at Alumni Field in late October.
“I highly recommend you watch it,” Aidan Falk said, laughing.
“It’s great. You’ll love it,” Faith Canfield said.
The three-second video has more than 740,000 views and it features Canfield at the plate. She gets held up by Beaubien’s changeup, looks toward her teammates and laughs, then swung late for full effect. Falk is in the background yelling, “Gotcha!”
Apparently, that’s generally the theme when Beaubien is pitching.
“She can really spin the ball,” Canfield said of Beaubien. “She’s not scared to spin it through the zone, which is going to be her strength.”
Beaubien is a Newport native and a longtime Michigan softball fan. She is a two-time Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year and earned back-to-back All-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, MaxPreps and FloSoftball. She was ranked the No. 6 prospect nationally by FloSoftball.
Michigan, ranked tied for 16th in the preseason, begins its season on Feb. 9 in Tampa where No. 2 Florida, the national championship runner-up, also is in the field. Megan Betsa, the two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, has moved on and coach Carol Hutchins is hoping Beaubien can help lead the pitchers and, perhaps, become the go-to.
“She has it all,” Hutchins said Wednesday night at Michigan’s softball media day. “I don’t want to put too much on her because she’s still a young kid. I believe, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I think she has what it takes to be a great pitcher, absolutely.”
Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins met the media Wednesday ahead of the start of the season. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Hutchins said every spot is wide open heading into the season and the pitching staff is evolving. Beaubien was able to spend time in Ann Arbor over the summer working out and training with her new teammates and felt prepared to transition into the season and quickly acclimated to college.
“She’s definitely a top-tier talent,” Hutchins said. “She’s a blue chip, as they say. She always has been. But getting her in-house and seeing her every day and getting a chance to coach her, I still had no idea how determined she was. She is one of those driven kids.
“The only person that’s going to get in her way is her. Getting her to understand when she’s got to reel back and just let the game happen because she is that typical perfectionist like all pitchers (are). But she’s been a joy to coach. She’s very coachable.”
Beaubien was rested on Wednesday while the rest of her teammates practiced.
“She doesn’t like that,” Hutchins said. “She’s very uncomfortable with that.”
While she understands the logic of resting, Beaubien said she prefers to constantly work. The concept of rest is a new one to her and she’s not sure she likes it but knows Hutchins has her best interests.
Her coach and teammates described her as mature, and she spoke like a veteran Wednesday night about how it’s not about one pitcher but about the importance of a cohesive pitching staff.
“It’s hard to say any individual pitcher is going to carry a team,” she said. “I do feel confident I can play a significant role on that pitching staff and have a good impact on my team.”
Most hitters aren’t used to hitting a leftie, so that’s an inherent advantage. She also pitches spin and has been a challenge for her teammates to hit in practice, as evidenced by that highly watched video.
“Oh my God, yeah, she’s hard to hit,” Falk said. “A lot of the times when you face a pitcher and you do poorly off them consistently, it almost makes you lower you confidence. But then you take a step back and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Meghan. Don’t worry, that’s normal, because she’s just that good.’ She’s so good. It’s hard, but it’s making us better because she’s challenging to hit off of.”
As with any pitcher, Hutchins worries about Beaubien getting in her own way and overthinking. But she also responds quickly to coaching. In the fall, Hutchins asked her why she was throwing so many pitches to batters and — Hutchins snapped her fingers — Beaubien responded with more efficient pitches and moved quickly through batters.
“What she’s told me a lot is, ‘Don’t be careful, just attack the batters. You’re good enough to get the batters out so go for it,’” Beaubien said. “When I’m not thinking about something and I’m just relaxed and I’m attacking batters and throwing my pitches, that’s when I have my most success.”
Hutchins referred to Beaubien as “kind of a nerd,” and the players concurred. She is majoring in biomedical engineering and can talk Star Wars theories and details with authority. She spent many Halloweens dressed as Star Wars characters.
“I’m bookish,” she said, smiling. “I’m definitely an academic person.”
Bottom line, Beaubien is going to be counted on this spring to play a large role in the Wolverines’ pitching along with Tera Blanco.