Arms duel: Michigan softball prevails in 12-inning regional marathon
Ann Arbor –– A pitcher’s duel took place Saturday at Alumni Field between Michigan left-hander Meghan Beaubien and James Madison right-hander Megan Good.
The two pitchers remained in the circle for the entirety of the game. Third baseman Madison Uden finally broke the tie in the 12th inning to give the Wolverines a 1-0 victory, driving a pitch from Good opposite field into the left-center field gap to score center fielder Natalie Peters. The walk-off hit from Uden sends Michigan to the regional final Sunday.
“We’re fortunate to get out of there with that win,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “It was a game that was going to come down to one hit. And we got ours first.”
BOX SCORE: Michigan 1, James Madison 0, 12 innings
In their matchup earlier this season on March 7, the No. 19-ranked Wolverines (45-11) and No. 16 James Madison battled into the ninth inning before the Dukes pulled away to win 3-0. That is the last time Michigan has been shut out this season. Saturday gave Michigan the opportunity to avenge that loss.
Michigan plays James Madison (49-8) again — which defeated DePaul 3-0 Saturday to emerge from the loser's bracket — at 2 p.m. Sunday. If the Wolverines win, they will advance to the NCAA Super Regional. A UM loss will force a second game at 4:30 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament.
For James Madison, an argument could be made that it should be hosts of the regional round. Instead, the Dukes are one of the odd-teams out. Saturday gave the Dukes a chance to prove who was the superior team.
And just like the last time they played, the two teams fought into extra innings.
Early on for the Wolverines, it looked as though things would be different offensively.
In the first inning, Michigan worked deep into its at-bats, drew two walks to load the bases and forced Good to throw 33 pitches. Designated player Mackenzie Nemitz stepped into the batter’s box with two outs and a chance to give the Wolverines an early advantage. Nemitz was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and went down swinging on three pitches.
Good would settle in after the first inning as Michigan wouldn’t produce another base runner until the fifth inning.
Beaubien was dominant Saturday, hurling a total of 166 pitches over 12 innings.
“We were going to keep riding her until she showed us any reason not to,” Hutchins said.
The left-hander took a no-hitter into the fifth inning when Dukes’ shortstop Sara Jubas looped a single over second base for the first hit of the afternoon –– kickstarting the inning for James Madison.
The Dukes threatened with runners on the corners after an infield single from second baseman Madison Naujokas. But as she did all afternoon, Beaubien kept James Madison off balance at the plate to escape the jam. With the count full, the sophomore fired a fastball past a swinging third baseman Hannah File to end the fifth inning.
Michigan threatened with runners in scoring position several times over the following six innings but were unable to break the scoreless tie.
Not even freshman Lexie Blair –– who leads the team in batting average and RBIs –– could break the deadlock. She struck out swinging to end the seventh with two runners on base, sending the game to extra innings.
“Pitchers duels are fun,” Beaubien said. “It was a fun game. I think every moment of it was fun even though it was tough. I think I did –– and everyone else did too –– spend the entire game believing that we were going to end up winning it. It was just a matter of when.”
It took until the 12th inning for a number to appear in the run column. After center fielder Natalie Peters led off the inning with a double, third baseman Madison Uden drilled a pitch into the left-center field gap to walk it off for the Wolverines.
“I’m just so proud of my kids,” Hutchins said. “That was a battle and we had a lot of disappointing moments. How many innings — they just put their heads down and they had to stay tough. And what a fantastic game by both pitchers. We know how good Megan Good is, and she’s really good.”
A smile crossed her face before she finished her thought.
“So is Meghan Beaubien.”
Ann Arbor Regional
All games at Alumni Field
Format: Double elimination
Game 1: No. 2 James Madison 5, No. 3 DePaul 2
Game 2: No. 1 Michigan 8, No. 4 St. Francis 0
Game 3: Michigan 1, James Madison 0 (12 innings)
Game 4: DePaul 3, St. Francis 1
Game 5: James Madison 3, DePaul 0
Game 6: Michigan vs. James Madison, 2 p.m.
Game 7 (if necessary): Michigan vs. James Madison, 4:30 p.m.
Jorge Cazares Jr. is a freelance writer.