April 21, 2002
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 22 Ohio State softball team rallied from five runs down to capture a come-from-behind victory for the second day in a row as it defeated visiting Illinois in eight innings, 6-5, Sunday at a rain-drenched Buckeye Field in Columbus, Ohio. Chrissy Fowler (Sr., Utica, Ohio/Wright State) delivered the decisive blow by knocking a pitch over the left field wall and just inside the fair pole for a game-winning walk-off home run. After a two hour and 20 minute rain delay, the Buckeyes (43-9, 12-3 Big Ten) and Fighting Illini (28-18, 6-7) took the field as OSU tried to retain at least a share of the conference lead with No. 12 Michigan and No. 21 Iowa.
“I was just trying to lead off the inning with a base hit,” Fowler said. “It was a bonus it went over. I really had no idea it was going over the fence and really didn’t watch it much because I was trying to get a double. I heard everyone cheering and screaming and then I saw the outfielder throw her hands up to say it went out. It was great to hit one out at Buckeye Field in one of my last games as a member of the team.”
Before Fowler’s heroics, the Buckeyes had to dig themselves out of a nasty situation. The Illini scored in the top of the first to open the game. Lead off batter LeeAnn Butcher singled on a bunt and then stole second before moving to third on a passed ball. The next batter, Erin Jones, lifted a Wendy Allen (So., Moreno Valley, Calif./Moreno Valley) into left field deep enough that Butcher could come into score after tagging up. UI added a single in the first and reached on a throwing error for its only base runners in the first two innings. The Buckeyes fared no better with Anna Smith (Sr., Walnut, Calif./Diamond Bar) coaxing a walk in the first and Breana Pozzi (So., Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande) singling to right.
The third, however, would be an adventure for both teams. The Illini opened the stanza with a single to center by Butcher. Jones followed by reaching on an error at first while Butcher moved to third. Jones then attempted to steal second but the throw down from Stacy Roth (Sr., Wauseon, Ohio/Wauseon) was mishandled by JJ Johnson (Fr., La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) allowing Jones to take third and Butcher to score on the error. Lindsey Hamma then drove a single to right to plate Jones and was followed by a single to right by Janna Sartini. Hamma went to third and the throw by Fowler in right went into the OSU dugout to allow Hamma home and move Sartini to third for a 4-0 lead. Pinch runner Julie Balicki came into the game for Sartini and immediately scored as Roth over threw the pickoff attempt at third that reached left field to conclude the scoring and make it a 5-0 Illini lead.
The Buckeyes immediately battled back with an offensive outpouring of their own. Jennifer Link (Jr., Yorba Linda, Calif./Sonora) started the rally off with a double down the left line and moved to third on a Smith single. Both Link and Smith came around to score on an Allen double to center before Allen was chased home by Roth’s 12th home run of the year. Roth concluded the scoring when she turned on a Sherri Taylor offering and sent it deep over the left center fence.
The Illini could not respond the remainder of the game and after scoring its final run in the third went 15 batters in a row without a base runner until Jones was walked. Sartini singled in the eighth but was out on a double play when Link fielded Montgomery’s grounder, tagged Sartini and then fired to Kristi DeVries (So., Corona, Calif./Corona) at first for the third out.
OSU got its tying run in the sixth. Pozzi chopped a single down the left line and was run for by Meghan Rowlands (Fr., Hilliard, Ohio/Bishop Ready). Rowlands took second on DeVries’ walk and came home on a Kristine Himes (Jr., Bolivar, Ohio/Tuscarawas Valley) double down the left line. After going three and out in the seventh, Fowler connected on her homer for the win. Fowler’s homer was the second for her on the year and 48th in 52 games for OSU this year. Allen picked up her 14th win of the year in the circle and joined Pozzi as the only Buckeyes with multiple hits in the game.
The Buckeyes return to action at 3 p.m. Wednesday with a non-conference doubleheader with the Wright State Raiders in Dayton, Ohio.