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Ohio State returns to action vs. Florida Gulf Coast at 11 a.m. Sunday

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Behind a two-hit game from freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols and an overall solid defensive effort, the No. 16 Ohio State softball team defeated Florida Atlantic, 4-0, Saturday in its second game of the day at the USF ‘The Game’ Tournament in Clearwater, Fla. The Buckeyes improve to 14-9 and Nichols earned her sixth win of the season while Florida Atlantic falls to 15-16.

“We had great pitching and defense today and those are the anchors we have to have every game,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “Our hitting is still not at our best right now but when we have good pitching and defense we at least keep ourselves in the game.”

Nichols took control of the game early, facing just on extra batter and allowing zero hits with just one walk in five innings. The San Jacinto, Calif., native threw four strikeouts and has 46 on the season.

The Buckeyes scored one run in the bottom of the second as sophomore Alicia Herron recorded an unearned run, coming home on a passed ball. The Cypress, Calif., native got on base in a fielder’s choice situation before stealing second and advancing to third on a clutch single from senior Whitney Cooper up the right side. The side ended with one run, one hit and one left on base.

With two outs, FAU posted its two hits in the top of the sixth putting runners on second and third. The Scarlet and Gray were able to ensure the shutout as sophomore Vanessa Spears ended the inning catching a fly ball in left field.

The Ohio State batters combined for eight hits in the game with five coming in the sixth as the Buckeyes scored three runs. Junior centerfielder Dee Dee Hillman and Spears each singled before senior catcher Sam Marder ripped a single to center, bringing Hillman home from second. With the RBI, Marder has 164 in her career and is now just two shy of tying the program record (166) held by Stacy Roth (1999-02). Next up, senior designated player Courtney Pruner hit a tricky RBI single through the left side, scoring Spears before Herron contributed an RBI single of her own, bringing Katie Simonton, pinch running for Marder, around to score.

With the victory, Ohio State ended its three-game skid and the senior class earned its 134 victory – eighth most in school history.

In Clearwater, Herron is batting .500 scoring twice and recording two RBI while Cooper is hitting .400 with a team-high three RBI.

The Buckeyes close out the USF tournament at 11 a.m. Sunday, facing Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU is 0-4 so far this weekend.