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Senior Megan Miller records 13th victory of 2010, senior class earns 157th win

COLUMBUS, Ohio – With the roar of an all-time stadium-record 1,623 fans cheering them on, the No. 19 Ohio State softball team completed a series sweep of Northwestern with a 16-0 run rule of the Wildcats in five innings on senior day Saturday afternoon a Buckeye Field.

“What a way for our seniors to go out,” Linda Kalafatis said. “I think the crowd today is a testament to them and this program’s continual hard work. Hopefully, we are selected to host an NCAA regional so all the fans can come back.”

The Buckeyes are now on a six-game win streak and end the regular season with a 37-12 overall ledger. At 16-2 in the Big Ten, Ohio State ties Illinois for second in the league while No. 2-ranked Michigan earns the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with an 18-1 record. The Wildcats end the regular season with a 25-23 overall ledger and the third-best Big Ten record at 10-8.

Like in game one, the Scarlet and Gray took an early lead and this time they kept it.

“We knew Northwestern was talented coming into the series,” Kalafatis said. “Yesterday we jumped ahead but we didn’t finish so the girls did a great job today of not letting up and limiting Northwestern’s opportunities.”

Ohio State’s offense was able to score multiple runs in all four innings, including a season-high nine runs in the third while senior Megan Miller turned in a dominate performance in the circle, shutting out the Wildcats. Miller fanned three batters and allowed just two hits in 4.1 innings of work, forcing Northwestern in 15 groundouts.

Senior Whitney Cooper, who went 2-for-4 with a season-high four RBI, brought in the Buckeyes’ first two runs in the first with a single to right centerfield. In the second, Ohio State added another two runs off Alicia Herron’s single to deep-right field. Herron had quite a day for the Buckeyes going 2-for-2, including a two-run home run, with a game-best five RBI and three runs scored.

After posting six-runs in the third inning Friday, Ohio State recorded a season-best nine runs in the third Saturday off of six hits and three NU errors. Senior Courtney Pruner made her senior weekend quite memorable, opening the inning with a leadoff solo home run to left center – her 38th career homer. In game one, Pruner also hit a solo home run in the third to up her season total to 12 – tying her season-best effort first recorded in 2009.

“These past five years have been amazing,” Pruner said after singing Carmen Ohio with her teammates. “I wouldn’t change anything.”

Following Pruner, Cooper reached base on an error before seniors Leah Ledford and Rebecca Schultz were walked, loading the bases. Lefty-slap hitter Brittany Goodchild hit a crucial blooper to shallow left field to score Cooper and keep the bases loaded. Hitting straight back to the pitcher, junior Dee Dee Hillman reached first on an errant throw that also allowed both Ledford and Schultz to race home. After taking more than 10 pitches, Herron cleared the bases with a home run to left center to complete her five-RBI performance. In the same inning in which she homered, Pruner, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI, hit an RBI double, scoring sophomore Katie Simonton who was pinch running for Marder.

With a 13-0 lead through three, the Buckeyes tagged on three more runs in the fourth for the 16-0 final. Marder, who was walked three times, earned an RBI as the Wildcats put her on base with bases already loaded. Cooper chipped in a two-RBI double to left scoring Herron and sophomore Vanessa Spears who had reached base on a single to second. In the top of the fifth, Miller earned her final out before junior Karisa Medrano came in and retired the final two Wildcats.

Postgame, the seven-man senior class of Lindsay Bodeker, Whitney Cooper, Leah Ledford, Sam Marder, Megan Miller, Courtney Pruner and Rebecca Schultz were recognized. As a class, the Buckeyes have helped Ohio State to 157 wins and rank as the third-winningest class in program history.

The seniors have helped Ohio State to its highest ranking in the national polls, hitting as high as No. 12 in 2009, en route to the Buckeyes’ first appearance at the NCAA Super Regional.

As freshmen in 2007, they helped Ohio State to its first Big Ten Title since 1990 in addition to winning the Big Ten Tournament Title. They led the Buckeyes to runner-up finishes in the Big Ten in 2009 and 2010 and an NCAA Regional championship as juniors.

This April, the seniors recorded its first win vs. Michigan, delivering the second-ranked team in the nation its first and only conference loss.

Ohio State now awaits its fate for postseason action as the 2010 NCAA selection show is slated to air at 10 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

Game Notes:
– With 1,623 fans in attendance Saturday, Ohio State rewrote the all-time stadium attendance record. The previous record crowd was 1,277 at the Ohio State-Illinois game April 11, 2009 when the new Buckeye Field was officially dedicated.

– Sophomore Alicia Herron recorded a season-best five RBI vs. the Wildcats Saturday, including a three-run home run in the third inning. She has nine homers this season and 23 in her career to rank fifth all-time in OSU history.

– Senior Courtney Pruner hit home runs in back-to-back games vs. Northwestern to increase her career record to 38 – good for third in the program. With two RBI, the Akron, Ohio, native ups her career total to 157 and ranks third in Buckeyes history. With an RBI double, she moved into a tie for seventh on the OSU all-time career doubles list with 36. Pruner also jumped into sixth-place on the all-time runs scored list with 128.

– Senior Whitney Cooper had a day, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a season-high four RBI in the game.

– Senior Sam Marder was walked five times on the weekend to increase her all-time OSU record to 226. She ends the regular season with a team-high 17 home runs and 60 in her career – also a program high.

– Ohio State out-hit Northwestern, 11-2, thanks to a great outing by senior Megan Miller who fanned three and forced the Wildcats into 15 groundouts in 4.1 innings. Miller recorded her third shutout as the Buckeyes have combined for 11 shutouts this season.