May 6, 2017
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URBANA, Ill. – Sophomore Lilli Piper and junior Taylor White each hit home runs, but No. 22 Illinois scored six first-inning runs and held off a late Buckeye rally to register an 11-6 victory on Saturday in the middle game of this weekend’s three-game series. The Buckeyes are now 32-15 overall, 14-8 in the Big Ten while the Illini improve to 36-16, 14-7.
THE SHORT STORY
After taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth, Ohio State watched as Illinois responded with six in the bottom of the frame and then two more in the fifth to build a 8-1 advantage. Piper homered to start the sixth – her team-leading 15th of the year – and the Buckeyes plated two more run to cut the deficit to 8-4, but the Illini responded with three of their own in the bottom of the frame to make the core 11-4. Ohio State used a two-run home run by White in the top of the seventh to close out the scoring.
HOW THE RUNS WERE SCORED
• The Buckeyes struck first for the second time in as many games, getting a two-out RBI double from Emily Clark – which pushed across Alex Bayne – to make the score 1-0 before Illinois had a chance to bat. It was Clark’s 42nd RBI of the season, tying her with White for second most on the team.
• Illinois scored six times in the bottom of the first, loading the bases after Ruby Rivera’s RBI single and then taking the lead of Annie Fleming’s run-scoring single up the middle. A bases loaded walk made the score 3-1 in favor of the Illini and then a two-out error allowed a pair of runs to score, pushing the lead to 5-1. Illinois scored its final run on a double steal that resulted in Leigh Farina coming home.
• The Buckeyes were able to keep Illinois off the scoreboard for three straight innings until two Illini crossed the plate in the bottom of the fifth on back to back home runs off the bats of Nicole Evans and Stephanie Abello.
• On the second pitch of the sixth inning, Piper took Illinois’ Breanna Wonderly deep over the right field fence, cutting the lead to six, 8-2. Clark, the next batter, was hit by a pitch and White then reached on an error. Ashley Goodwin’s single loaded the bases for Becca Gavin, who singled through the right side to make the score 8-3. Pinch hitter Shelby McCombs then drove home a run via a sacrifice fly, but the rally ended with a fielder’s choice ground out and bases-loaded strikeout.
• Three hits for Illinois in bottom of the sixth and a bases loaded walk pushed the Illini advantage back to seven, 11-4. In the top of the seventh, White connected on her 10th home run of the season – a two-run shot to straightaway center – that made the score 11-6. Clark had singled with one out, her second hit of the afternoon.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
• The Buckeyes attempted to chip away at the Illinois lead in the top of the third, getting consecutive singles off the bats of Bayne and Piper to put two runners on with just one out. Two groundouts, however, left the Scarlet and Gray off the scoreboard.
• After the Illini extended their lead to 8-1 with nobody out in the bottom of the fifth, Katya Duvall came on in relief of Lena Springer and quickly recorded three outs on two fly outs and a ground out.
STREAKS AND SNIPITS
• White has two home runs and six RBI on the weekend after her Friday night grand slam and today’s two-run shot. In Big Ten games, she’s batting .329 with seven home runs and 34 RBI – second most in the conference.
• Piper’s 15 home runs are third most among all Big Ten players and also sets the program’s single season newcomer record, breaking the mark of 14 held by Alicia Herron in 2009.
• The Buckeyes have scored first in 29 games this year and overall are outscoring opponents 48-28 in the opening frame.
• Three players – Piper, Bayne and White – have double digit home runs this year. The single-season record is four in 2015, the same year that the Buckeyes hit a total of 77 out of the park.
The Buckeyes and Illini close out the regular season tomorrow with the series finale at Eichelberger Field beginning at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT). The game will be aired live on BTN with Lisa Byington and Carol Bruggeman on the call.