May 7, 2017
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) May 7, 2017
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URBANA, Ill. – Lilli Piper hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the seventh inning to back up a four-hit gem from pitcher Shelby McCombs as Ohio State earned a 3-2 win over Illinois on Sunday and took the series from the 22nd-ranked Illini. With the win, the Buckeyes locked up the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament and improved to 33-15 overall (15-8 B1G).
THE SHORT STORY
Piper, a sophomore who yesterday set the single-season home run record for newcomers, picked an opportune time to blast her 16th of the year, as she took a 1-1 offering from Erin Walker and set it deep over the right field fence. McCombs, who scattered just four hits over seven innings, worked a perfect 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh for her sixth win of the year and second complete game.
HOW THE RUNS WERE SCORED
• The Buckeyes scored first for the third straight game in the series, as Ashley Goodwin, who was 3-for-3 on the afternoon, singled through the right side in the top of the third and scored Alex Bayne, who was hit by a pitch to open the inning. The next batter, Becca Gavin, made it 2-0 when she doped a single in to left field and brought Emily Clark home. Gavin was 2-for-3 on the afternoon with a pair of singles.
• Illinois got a run back in the bottom of the third when Ruby Rivera doubled deep to left field, allowing Alyssa Gunther to score from second. After a walk to Nicole Evans, Stephanie Abello flew out to deep center field to end the inning.
• The Illni tied the game with another two-out RBI in the bottom of the fourth. Rowan McGwire walked with one out and was pinch run for by Jill Nicklas, who eventually came home on a Maddi Doane single to right. After she stole second, Kiana Sherlund struck out swinging for the final out of the inning.
• With one out in the top of the seventh, Piper put Ohio State ahead for good with a solo shot, her second home run in as many games. The hit also moved her in to third place on the single season home run list.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
• With the score still knotted at 2-2, Clark made a gem of a defensive play at second base when she ended the inning by diving to share a hard-hit ball off the bat of Leigh Farina. Clark made four putouts on the afternoon.
• McCombs sat down the top of the Illinois order in order in the seventh, getting Madi Doane to ground out to Clark on the second pitch, Kiana Sherland to ground put to third on the second pitch of her at-bat and Gunther to ground out to shortstop on a 3-2 pitch for the final out.
• Illinois had the go-ahead run at third base with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, but McCombs got Abello to fly out to right field on a 2-2 pitch to end the threat. She then worked a perfect 1-2-3 inning in the sixth.
IN THE CIRCLE
The complete game by McCombs was her second in Big Ten play, backing up the three-hitter that she threw against No. 16 Michigan on April 9. Five of her six victories have come in conference play where she has a 2.46 ERA, 35 strikeouts and .277 batting average against in 42.2 innings.
STREAKS AND SNIPITS
• Ohio State’s 15 Big Ten wins are 33 regular season victories are the most since 2010.
• Piper finished her first conference season with a .430 average, 10 home runs and 22 RBI. Two of the last three home runs that she hit were either game-tying for game-winning.
• The Buckeyes won five of seven weekend series and finished 7-4 on the road in conference play. Their 12 true road wins are the fourth most in the Big Ten.
• Illinois entered the weekend with the Big Ten’s third best batting average but were held to four or less runs and .266 average in two of the three contests.
• Ohio State scored first for the 30th time this season and is 25-5 in those games.
• Goodwin’s three-hit game was her second of the season. She finished the conference season with a .345 average and .987 fielding percentage.
• Piper hit .583 on the weekend with two home runs and a 1.250 slugging percentage while White drove in a team-best seven runs and hit .417 with a grand slam and .917 slugging percentage.
Before heading to Eichelberger Field on Sunday, the Buckeyes held a graduation ceremony at their hotel for the four players who were missing commencement exercises in Columbus: pitcher Shelby Hursh (English), infielder Anna Kirk (sport industry), pitcher Lena Springer (criminal justice) and utility player Maddie Marotti (sport industry).
With the regular season complete, the Buckeyes now turn their attention to the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, which will take place May 11-13 at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Buckeyes will be the No. 3 seed and face either the No. 6 and No. 11 seed in Friday’s quarterfinals. The bracket will be released by the conference officially tomorrow after all regular season games have been completed. All 11 games of the tournament will be broadcast live on BTN.