Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins talks about the the Wolverines' NCAA Tournament elimination. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — Michigan hosted an NCAA Regional, and James Madison felt snubbed, believing it should have, as well.
The Dukes, ranked No. 16 nationally, three spots ahead of the Wolverines, arrived at Alumni Field feeling slighted and with something to prove to the NCAA Selection committee that sent them on the road. They did just that, coming out of the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament to sweep two games from Michigan on Monday after rain postponed the schedule a day.
But that didn’t come without a late fight from the Wolverines.
James Madison won the deciding game, 2-1, and will head to the Super Regional at UCLA, the Dukes' second appearance in program history and first since 2016. The Wolverines had gone scoreless through 13 innings on Monday before making it interesting. Alex Sobczak, who went 3-for-3, hit a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the seventh of the deciding game to pull Michigan within one.
Then Madison Uden dropped in a single and it appeared the Wolverines had something going offensively. But pinch-hitters Morgan Overaitis laced a hit to left for the second out and Mackenzie Nemitz struck out to end the game.
“They came here today, I thought they had a chip on their shoulder, they had quite a purpose,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “(JMU pitcher) Megan Good was tough as we knew she would be. They’re very deserving. Tough day for us. Never seemed to get it going. We didn’t put things together till late. Just wasn’t enough.”
Michigan could have wrapped things up and won the Regional in the first game, but fell 3-0. This was the third meeting of the Tournament between Michigan and James Madison. They had an epic pitcher’s duel on Saturday that went 12 innings before the Wolverines won, 1-0. The Wolverines went 26 innings through three Regional games with James Madison and scored only two runs.
They had chances Monday, a bases-loaded opportunity in the first game of the day and had a player thrown out at the plate in the second.
Good, the Colonial Athletic Association pitcher of the year, was outstanding in three games at Alumni Field and added a new wrinkle to her pitching repertoire on Monday.
“We changed it up today,” JMU coach Loren LaPorte said. "I don’t know if you saw, but Megan put a drop ball in the mix. She threw it quite often. It’s something I don’t think Michigan knew she had in her back pocket. She bought into it and she was lights out today. And that not being her go-to pitch, it’s just phenomenal the athlete she is.”
Michigan senior lead-off hitter Faith Canfield was 1-for-3 in the deciding game and said she saw Good’s drop ball.
“She just threw the ball really hard and kept moving it around,” Canfield said. “We never really get a good cut on it other than Alex — Alex tore it up today. She’s a good pitcher, a really good pitcher.”
Michigan, which won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, were hosting its first NCAA Regional since 2016. The Wolverines had won 31 of32 games heading into the NCAA Tournament and finish the season 45-13.
James Madison is now 51-8.
Michigan seniors Alex Sobczak and Faith Canfield on what they will take from their careers at Michigan following Monday's losses to James Madison. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
After the 12-inning game Saturday, Michigan was done but JMU had to play again. The rain postponement was key for the Dukes.
“Absolutely,” LaPorte said. “It helps everybody. I think it helped them as well. Everybody got the rest, everybody got a day to get settled in. You can’t control the weather and it ended up helping us a lot.”
The NCAA made the decision Sunday to push the games until Monday.
“I certainly felt we could have played,” Hutchins said. “The bottom line is, you play the cards you’re dealt. It helped us rest Meghan. I felt that could work to our advantage. They came out and got it done.”
Beaubien and Good started all three games. Good went seven innings in the first game Monday and gave up five hits but no runs, while Beaubien went five innings, giving up five hits and two runs on two home runs. Alex Storako pitched one inning and gave up a run for U-M. The Wolverines left seven on base. Beaubien gave Michigan a lift in the sixth inning of the deciding game when she got out of the inning with a strikeout, her fifth of the game, leaving runners at second and third.
“I just wanted to leave it all out there for the team,” Beaubien said. “It just sucks that today wasn’t enough. The first (game against JMU) went our way. It was a great pitchers’ duel. I felt really good. I don’t think I felt bad today, either. I think I missed a few pitches and they took advantage of them. That sixth inning. I knew we were down, but I knew it was my job to give our hitters the best opportunity to come back in the seventh. To not allow them to score there was the goal.”
Good gave herself and the Dukes a boost and a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning after taking a 3-2 pitch to right center for a home run. She had fouled off the previous four pitches before connecting for her 16th career homer. The Wolverines tried to answer in the bottom of the inning when Grace Chelemen, running for Lou Allan who was hit by a pitch to reach first. Chelemen stole second and tried to score when Sobczak singled to center. She was thrown out at the plate.
Both coaches said this felt like a Super Regional in terms of the intensity of the play.
“Oh, absolutely,” Hutchins said. “They’re a Super Regional-worthy team, and I certainly think we are. We played ‘em three games, and we’ve got to win two of them. What an amazing crowd we had today. It had a great feel to it. It was exciting, very intense.”
LaPorte praised the Wolverines and, like Hutchins, had predicted this would be a grueling Regional.
“Michigan is an amazing team” she said. They’re so fundamentally sound. I knew this was going to be a dogfight when we saw our names come across what regional was going to. That coaching staff is phenomenal. I knew this was going to be a battle. It took a lot of grit and fight and that’s what we talked about before the game. That’s what today was going to come down to — who was going to be grittier, who was going to fight.”
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: James Madison 3, Michigan 0
Game 7: James Madison 2, Michigan 1
Michigan pitcher Meghan Beaubien discusses her play in the two NCAA tournament games Monday. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News