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Courtney Pruner knocks in game tying run, steps up gamewinner

HOUSTON, Texas – Down 3-2 at the top of the seventh, senior designated player Courtney Pruner drove the ball deep down the right-field line, sending pinch runner Brittany Goodchild home to tie the game and a Baylor throwing error allowed senior Whitney Cooper to score from first, giving the No. 14/16 Ohio State softball team a 4-3 comeback win Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Houston Hobby Classic.

“We never felt like we were out of it,” Linda Kalafatis, 14th-year Ohio State head coach, said. “The girls were tough and brought enough high energy to overcome the cold weather and lack of sleep from playing a night game on Friday.”

Ohio State improved to 2-1 after defeating Sam Houston State, 6-0, in its first game of the day while No. 17/15 Baylor, the Buckeyes’ first ranked opponent of the year, falls to 1-2 on the season.

Freshman Melanie Nichols earned her first career win, throwing a complete game and striking out six. BU sophomore pitcher Whitney Canion falls to 0-2 despite striking out 13 batters.

The Bears got on the board first, scoring three runs on two hits in the bottom of the second. BU senior Tiffany Wesley started things off with a single shot to right center and worked her way around to third, stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch. Freshman Kelsi Kettler got on base by virtue of a fielder’s choice and Wesley was allowed to score on a throwing error. Junior Dani Leal kept things going, getting to base on balls and eventually scored with Kettler on a second Buckeye error to make it a 3-0 Baylor lead.

The Buckeyes started chipping away at the Bears’ lead in the top of the third, with Sam Marder jump starting the offense with a solo home run over the centerfield wall, her second of the day and 45th in her career. It would be the last time Marder would be given a chance as she walked the next two at-bats.

Neither team was able to get a run on the board in the fourth and fifth inning. The Buckeyes were able to move runners to second and third in the top of the fifth after sophomore Vanessa Spears was hit by a pitch and Marder was walked. Sophomore Alicia Herron laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third but Canion was able to dig herself, striking out the next two batters.

Leading off in the sixth inning, junior Rachael Shepherd popped one out, straight down centerfield, for her first home run of 2010 to cut Baylor’s lead to one. Senior Rebecca Schultz, who went 3-4 on the day, followed and found a gap between shortstop and third to get on base. With freshman Julia Pecina pinch running, Dee Dee Hillman hit a sac bunt but BU first baseman Bree Hanafin made the play down the line, holding Pecina at first.

Down to the wire, Ohio State refused to give up, recording two crucial hits. With Marder on first, Cooper knocked a laser down the right-field line, setting the stage for Pruner.

Defensively, Alicia Herron and Schultz shared a team-high four assists while Shepherd posted a team-best 10 putouts while Marder had six. After the third inning, Nichols settled in and faced just three batters in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

In the all-time series record, the Scarlet and Gray improves to 3-1 vs. the Bears.

Ohio State wraps up action in Houston with two games Sunday. The Buckeyes start the day vs. their second-consecutive ranked opponent, playing No. 22/21 Louisville at 9 a.m. before concluding the classic vs. Kansas at 11 a.m.