With two outs at the bottom of the sixth inning, Michigan needed a change. Trailing 3-1, the Wolverines’ had runners on first and second — one of their best scoring chances of the game to that point. That’s when Michigan coach Carol Hutchins put sophomore pitcher Chandler Dennis in the game as a pinch hitter for its biggest moment.
“We talked before the game that we might use her and we wanted to put a righty in,” Hutchins said. “ … When I asked her, I said ‘Are you ready?’ She said ‘I’ve never been more ready,’ so I knew that we were good to go.”
Dennis delivered. It was just one of the clutch performances that dotted a 6-3 comeback win for the 20th-ranked Wolverines (23-5). They stunned Northwestern (22-9) to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader.
Victory didn’t seem likely in the beginning. An error by senior shortstop Natalia Rodriguez allowed the Wildcats’ second baseman Rachel Lewis to get on base, and a double sent her home to open the scoring.
Michigan followed Northwestern with similar success, continuing their improved offense from the first game of the doubleheader. Junior outfielder Lexie Blair earned a four-pitch walk off of Northwestern left-hander Danielle Williams and a sacrifice bunt put her in scoring position. An RBI double from senior first baseman Lou Allan would knot up the score at one.
Despite being a tie ballgame, it seemed like it was Michigan’s to lose. A thunderous crowd and the memory of a convincing victory just an hour earlier put the Wolverines in charge.
Then things changed quickly. The Wildcats broke through at the dish in the third inning to put senior left-hander Meghan Beaubien on her heels. Northwestern designated player Jordyn Rudd powered an arcing two-run home run that bounced between Alumni Field and Ray Fisher Stadium.
Williams shut the Wolverines down by striking out six of the first 12 batters, and the Wildcats took command of the game. Every bounce seemed to go in Northwestern’s favor as Michigan couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities. Even baserunners who threatened to score were easily tagged out by powerful throws from the fielders. Northwestern held onto an almost guaranteed win until Dennis’ heroics.
On the first pitch she saw, Dennis belted a double into right field. The tying runners touched home plate as the ball rolled into the corner, Dennis stopping at second with her first collegiate hit under her belt.
“I just really wanted to be my best for my team,” Dennis said. “ … I was really just trying to keep it super simple but do the first hittable pitch and drive it, so that’s what I did.”
A hit from sophomore outfielder Lexi Voss to open the seventh inning marked a turning point for Michigan. The bottom six batters had only produced two hits all game — one of which came from Dennis’ pinch hit. The Wolverines finally found much-needed depth hitting with the game hanging in the balance.
A single and a sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position for Michigan, but that wouldn’t matter as Allan stepped to the plate. Allan waited for the pitch she wanted and the sound of her bat told Alumni Field that the Wolverines pulled off the rally. A walk-off, three-run home run sailed toward the scoreboard that would soon show a Michigan victory.
“It’s an adrenaline rush that I have missed for a really long time,” Allan said. “Just the way it ended, hitting a walk-off homerun is probably the coolest thing you can do.”