'We ran into a buzz saw': UM softball's Meghan Beaubien no-hits Seattle in NCAA Tournament opener
Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins went with the tournament-seasoned veteran of the staff, left-hander Meghan Beaubien, who responded with a no-hitter to win the Wolverines' NCAA Tournament opener.
Beaubien was dominant against Seattle University, striking out 12 to help lead Michigan to a 2-0 victory Friday night at Husky Softball Stadium in Seattle.
"It’s a nice little pride thing. It’s nice to say no one got any hits off you this game, but the most important thing is getting the win," said Beaubien, after her seventh no-hitter. "The no-hitter is a fun little accolade, but I think the best thing for me, it shows you what’s working and gives you confidence going into the rest of the games in the Regional."
Michigan will play its second tournament game in the double-elimination Seattle Regional on Saturday at 6 p.m. (Detroit time) and will face Washington, a 3-0 winner over Portland State.
Seattle coach Geoff Hirai thought his team played well defensively and kept the Redhawks in the game, but they couldn't find any offensive consistency against Beaubien.
"Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to what it is," Hirai said. "We ran into a buzz saw."
Hutchins said she liked having Beaubien's tournament experience and calm in the circle. She carried a 1.14 ERA into the game and is now 16-3 this season. Michigan entered the NCAA Tournament leading the country with a 1.10 ERA.
Michigan pitching coach Jen Brundage refers to Beaubien and Alex Storako as a 1-1 punch — Storako is 21-3 this season, carries a 0.88 ERA and last week was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year.
“Beaubien's our vet, and she looked like it out there," Hutchins said.
Lexie Blair, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the third inning to give Michigan a 1-0 lead. Taylor Bump added to the lead when she homered in the sixth. She leads the team with 11 this season. Michigan (37-6) had six hits.
Hutchins and Beaubien said they felt the team starting to slow down and get in the rhythm of the game as it went on.
"The first night of the NCAA Tournament can just be the hardest night," Hutchins said. "And even nights when we’ve had a lot of offense, we don’t usually have it until later. It’s not lost on me over half our team has never been in an NCAA Tournament as a starter. I thought we started opening it up a little bit and had some better cuts later in the game.
"To be honest, I pretty much expected it. You’ve gotta breath. You’ve just gotta settle in. We looked like we’re starting to."
Big Ten teams played a conference-only schedule this season, and Beaubien said it was enjoyable seeing another team and playing in a different environment. It showed.
"Demeanor-wise, I am one of the more experienced players on our team in the tournament and I think over the years have gotten a lot better at being composed in the tournament and just really loving it," Beaubien said. "I loved that moment and I think I had a lot of fun with it. I was collected even when I threw a pitch I didn’t like. Just had a lot of confidence."
Hutchins said they'll "evaluate" and see "what happens next" in terms of starting pitcher Saturday night. Regardless the opponent in Game 2, she said the focus is on themselves.
"We just need to trust ourselves and keep ourselves in position to win," Hutchins said. "That’ll be the goal of the game."