COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 14-ranked Ohio State softball team swept non-conference foe Oakland (Mich.), 11-3 and 13-0, in doubleheader action Sunday afternoon at New Buckeye Field in front of 917 fans. Winners of 14 of the last 15 games, the Buckeyes improved to 38-7 on the season, while moving Oakland’s record down to 19-27.
Alicia Herron finished the day with two homeruns, both in the first game, as the freshman shortstop moved into third-place all-time in the rookie record book for round-trippers. She has eight this season, trailing junior Sam Marder (10, 2007) and ’03 graduate Kristine Himes (10, 2000). Marder also hit one out of the park in the second game of the doubleheader, tying the school record for single-season homers with 16 and moving to within one of tying the career record 41 set by Himes in 2000-03.
Rachael Shepherd joined in on the action with fourth homerun of the season and first since Feb. 8 against Colorado State, as the Buckeyes earned their 14th and 15th wins by eight runs or more.
GAME ONE: The Buckeye bats were slow to get going as Oakland held a 1-0 lead through the middle of the fourth inning after Leah DiCristofaro scored on a RBI single back to the shortstop from teammate Anne Cicchini. Herron took care of the deficit with one swift swing in the bottom of the fourth when she sent the ball over the left field wall, plating Courtney Pruner and Katie Simonton (as a pinch runner for Marder).
The scoring onslaught continued in the fifth when the Buckeyes exploded for five runs off four hits. Shepherd started things off with a leadoff homerun, setting the tone for Dee Dee Hillman and Leah Ledford to reach base and advance into scoring position. Whitney Cooper sent them both with a single down the leftfield line before making her way to second with a stolen base. With two outs, Herron came up and hit her second round-tripper of the game, this time just over the wall in left center, scoring herself and Cooper to make the score 8-1 after five innings.
The Golden Grizzlies scored two to cut into the lead in the top of the sixth, but Ohio State came back with three in the bottom half to come away with the run-rule win. Rebecca Schultz scored on an error by the first baseman that allowed Hillman to reach base and then steal second before Pruner hit a sac fly to left that gave Shepherd enough time to tag up and score. Cooper, who finished the game with two hits and three RBI, sent home the deciding run with a single to left that plated Hillman for the 11-3 win.
Kim Reeder earned her 20th win of the season in the circle, moving to 20-4, after striking out nine with just one walk and a single earned run.
GAME TWO: The second game of the doubleheader picked up right where the first left off as the Buckeyes continued to crank out runs in spades. With runners on first and second, they went up 2-0 after the first with back-to-back RBI singles by Pruner and Cooper that sent home Vanessa Spears and Marder, respectively.
The lead was stretched to six after two thanks to a second set of consecutive hits from Pruner and Cooper in the middle of the order. Pruner, who is third on the team in RBI this season, cleared the base paths with a double to right center before scoring herself on base hit by Cooper to the same spot to make the score 6-0.
A seven-run, 11-batter effort in the fourth more than doubled the Buckeyes’ score. With the 10-0 lead, Marder hit her record-tying 16th homer of the season, a two-run shot over the left center field wall that also scored Spears after she doubled to center. Herron and Ledford drove home the final runs to give Ohio State the 13-0 advantage.
In the circle, Megan Miller maintained her undefeated record, improving to 5-0 this season with her fourth complete game and second shutout. She struck out one the final batter of the game and walked one with the Buckeye defense picking up the rest of the outs on just one error. Oakland sent just 19 batters to the plate, compared to the 31 by Ohio State.
Up Next: The Buckeyes continue a break from Big Ten play with a Wednesday doubleheader vs. Western Michigan beginning at 5 p.m. at New Buckeye Field. Admission for all fans is free.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten: Illinois swept Northwestern this weekend, dropping the Wildcats to 12-4 in conference play. The Buckeyes, at 12-2, are now in sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten. Ohio State and Northwestern are scheduled for a May 2-3 series in Evanston, Ill.