Junior third baseman Amanda Chidester doesn’t often hit inside-the-park home runs, but when she does, she prefers to do it in a key spot of a comeback win.

Trailing Eastern Michigan 2-0 entering the bottom of the second inning, the No. 2 Michigan softball team was looking lackadaisical. But Chidester’s home run capped off a five-run outburst for the Wolverines, who led the rest of the way en route to a 9-7 win.

Chidester was fooled on a change-up from Eagles’ pitcher Jenna Ignowski, sticking out her bat in an awkward check swing with her knees buckled. But the ball caromed into right field, passing outfielder Kayla Kostich and reaching the wall.

“I just found out it was a home run — I didn’t know it was.” Chidester said after the game, realizing it could have easily been called an error.

“I mean, it was a change-up, I just stuck my bat out there, and that’s what happened. I got lucky, but whatever. I just booked it.”

The third baseman isn’t known for her speed, and she doesn’t usually get to use her legs — Chidester is 0-for-2 in stolen bases this year — but they were surprisingly the most valuable limbs for Michigan (12-2 Big Ten, 45-4 overall) on a chilly Tuesday evening at Alumni Field.

Junior pitcher Hilary Payne (4-0) — a transfer from Loyola Chicago — got the win in just her second start of the year. But she was far from perfect. The right-hander gave up five runs — four earned — in five innings, allowing up seven hits while walking none.

“I don’t think she had her best pitches,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “She looked like she was a little amped, throwing high, threw some over the plate.

“But to their credit, Eastern is a good team. They’re having a good year; they’ve got a good-hitting team. But I thought (Payne) could have thrown a bit better, had a little bit better command of some of her pitches.”

Eastern Michigan started out hot with the 2-0 lead, but let it turn into an 8-2 deficit after four innings. A three-run fifth inning cut the lead to 8-5 and made Hutchins go to the bullpen.

Sophomore hurler Stephanie Speierman came in for the save and pitched a perfect sixth inning, but she allowed three hits in the seventh and let the Eagles close within two, 9-7.

The tying run was at the plate with two outs for Eastern Michigan, but Speierman buckled down, striking out Kostich to earn her first save.

“(Speierman) came and had a really great sixth inning,” Hutchins said. “And the seventh inning, she just needed to close it out. She just needed to make a few better pitches. She’d be (up in the count) 0-2, and next thing you know, they’re in it. She missed a couple really close pitches that maybe could have gone either way, but she was able to close it out.”

Each team committed just one error, but Hutchins said she wasn’t completely happy with her team’s fielding. The Eagles (9-7 MAC, 23-14) also struggled to field some balls off of the Wolverine bats, but not due to lack of skill.

“We hit the ball hard at times,” Hutchins said. “The one Dorian (Shaw) hit, I mean, you try and stand in front of it and field that ball. I mean, nobody is going to field that ball; it was very well hit.”

Junior second baseman Ashley Lane added a clutch two-run home run to right field in the fourth inning, giving Michigan an 8-2 lead. It seemed like superfluous insurance at the time, but it turned out to be the game winner.

“She had been feeding me inside,” Lane said. “I was just trying to keep my head clear, see the ball, and attack it.”

Michigan is back in action tomorrow at home, where it will take on Ohio State in a double header.

The Buckeyes (2-10, 13-29) were one of three Big Ten teams in the preseason top 25, but they sit in dead-last in the conference.

“They’re a dangerous team because they’re very talented,” Hutchins said. “They’ve got a lot of talent and they’ve got nothing to lose by coming up here. They’re not supposed to win so all of the pressure is on us.

“I expect it to be quite a battle.”

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