April 9, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Senior Chelsea Baker led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a walk-off home run to send the Ohio State softball team past No. 15 Northwestern Sunday, 2-1, in game one of a doubleheader at Buckeye Field. With the win, Ohio State (23-14, 5-2 Big Ten) remains undefeated at home this season in eight games and hands Northwestern (25-9, 6-1 Big Ten) its first league defeat and snaps its eight-game winning streak.
The walk-off home run by Baker (Gahanna, Ohio/DeSales) is the first for a Buckeye since April 21, 2002, when Chrissy Fowler’s solo blast beat Illinois 6-5 at Buckeye Field in a game that Ohio State trailed 5-0. Ohio State would not have such a deficit to overcome this time, however, thanks to six strong innings in the circle by junior Jamee Juarez (La Puente, Calif./Wilson) and perhaps the biggest three outs recorded this season by freshman Courtney Pruner (Akron, Ohio/Ellet).
Juarez had tied her season high with 12 strikeouts and allowed just one run on six hits through six innings, but in the top of the seventh gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases with no outs. Pruner stepped into the circle facing the top of Northwestern’s batting order and proceeded to strikeout three consecutive hitters, the last of which was the All-American Garland Cooper, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year.
Thanks to Baker’s game-winner, Pruner earned the win, her first of the season. She had already delivered offensively in the game with her fifth home run of the season, a solo shot off the top of the wall in left-centerfield with two outs in the second inning, which put the Buckeyes up, 1-0. With Juarez dominating, at one point striking out eight of 12 batters, it looked as if the one run might be enough, but the Wildcats, who had topped Ohio State four consecutive times entering the game, scored a run in the top of the sixth inning to knot the score.
Ohio State was set down in order in the bottom of the sixth by NU starter Eileen Canney (11-5) and the Wildcats appeared to still have the momentum in the seventh when they loaded the bases before Pruner shut the door.
The five home runs this season for Pruner are the second-most ever in a season by an OSU freshman (Kristine Himes hit 10 as a freshman in 2000) and the homer for Baker is her fourth of the season and 11th of her career, which ties her for seventh all time at Ohio State with Jaime Chenevey (1996-99).
Sophomore Brittany Vanderink (Hiram, Ohio/Crestwood) went 2-for-3 for the Buckeyes for her third multiple-hit game in the past eight days.
Ohio State and Northwestern will meet in game two Sunday at 2:05 p.m.
### GO BUCKS! ###