May 20, 2016
ANN ARBOR – A back injury delayed Megan Betsa’s progress at the start of the season.
Stuck a month behind where she wanted to be, the Michigan junior pitcher’s struggles led to frustration, and vice versa. While reflecting on it, Betsa called it a vicious cycle.
Betsa is no longer looking back, only forward, and took a big step in the right direction with a dominant performance to open the postseason. The two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year tossed a one-hitter with nine strikeouts and one walk in Friday’s 8-0 run-ruled, five-inning win over Valparaiso in a NCAA Tournament Regional at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor.
“I just felt that I had a good warmup,” Betsa said. “Everything was working – my curve looked really good today, which is something I’ve struggled with to get going the past few weekends. I think that was a good indicator that I was ready to play. My rise (ball) looked good. Everything had that sharp, late movement on it. (Catcher) Aidan (Falk) did a good job back there framing pitches and our defense did a good job behind me. I just think we played really well today as a team.”
Betsa’s three career no-hitters are the fourth most in program history and she nearly notched No. 4 on Friday. The only thing that kept her from it was a tap single from Valparaiso’s Taylor Lawson to lead off the fourth inning.
“No, I don’t care about that,” Betsa said of the no-hitter being broken up. “I’m just happy we won.”
Betsa (24-3) entered Friday’s game leading the nation in strikeouts per seven innings at 11.5, but struggled with her command in her last performance. She received a no-decision after allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts over nine innings in a 4-3 10-inning loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament championship last weekend. That resulted in a mental adjustment for Betsa following a meeting with coach Carol Hutchins.
“Hutch and I had a good talk,” Betsa said, which drew a laugh from media members during a press conference before the junior assured everyone she wasn’t joking. “She just told me that I need to start trusting myself, that what I do is good enough and sometimes I get myself in trouble just thinking too much and worrying about the hitter and what they’re doing up there, as opposed to just throwing my pitches through the zone. I think her just giving me that reminder was a good time going into postseason to know that what I’m doing is good enough.”
Hutchins noted that Betsa can be a perfectionist, but that’s not a bad trait because she’s never satisfied.
“You have to be a really competitive person to play at this level and to excel at this level, especially on the mound,” Hutchins said. “She’s extremely competitive and what I love most about Megan is when she has ups and downs, and in particular when she’s had some downs, she really works hard to get through them.”
Two wins from winning the program’s 18th Regional title, No. 2 Michigan (47-5) will return to Alumni Field on Saturday at noon against Miami (Ohio). The Wolverines will do so with one of their biggest weapons a lot more confident and comfortable than earlier this season.
“I like where I am right now,” Betsa said. “I think I’m at a pretty good place.”