Friday afternoon, sophomore first baseman Lou Allan stepped into the batter’s box instead of junior outfielder Haley Hoogenraad, the regular No. 8 batter. With just one out in the inning and three teammates on base, she just needed a hit or a sacrifice fly to get Michigan on the scoreboard in the scoreless Big Ten quarterfinal game against Illinois.
Allan stared down Fighting Illini right-hander Taylor Edwards and swung at the first pitch Edwards threw.
The line drive sailed to second base, and Illinois second baseman Avrey Steiner caught it and threw to second base, where her shortstop tagged out junior pinch runner Thais Gonzalez on second. The shortstop then threw to first to force Allan out, ending the inning on a double play.
No. 1 seed Michigan ended up beating Illinois on a walk-off home run in extra innings, and a day later, Allan stepped into the game again, this time as a pinch hitter for sophomore shortstop Natalia Rodriguez in the championship matchup against Minnesota.
The situation mirrored Friday’s, but in this at-bat, Allan squared up and knocked her second pitch to deep centerfield.
The ball went to the deep into left field, and Allan reached second base, allowing freshman utility player Grace Chelemen, pinch running for senior catcher Katie Alexander, to run home and give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
Along with Allan’s redemption hit Saturday, freshman infielder Morgan Overaitis stepped into the game with a 3-2 lead. Pinch hitting for Hoogenraad, Overaitis hit a double to right-center field and extended hope for another Michigan run. Though the Wolverines didn’t score after Overaitis’ extra-base hit, contributions from pinch hitters drove Michigan’s momentum in the Big Ten Tournament win.
“We’re always looking for (Allan) to get a nice hit or even hit the ball hard,” said junior third baseman Madison Uden. “She’s been doing that a lot lately with her pinch at-bats. I knew she was going to get the job done. You just get that gut feeling.”
Michigan coach Carol Hutchins shared that sentiment, noting that despite not playing every inning, pinch players helped the Wolverines secure the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.
“Everybody has a role on the team, and I’ve been really impressed these past few weeks with our role players who come in, in those pinch moments,” Hutchins said. “It’s been a boost big time.”
With Allan and Overaitis holding .267 and .277 batting averages, respectively, and a home run apiece on the season, each player’s success at the plate during the regular season and in clutch postseason moments will likely earn them more at-bats for the future.
As far as Allan’s impact this weekend with her RBI double, Uden summed it up best.
“She was huge.”