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Alicia Herron hits third homerun in three games to lead the Buckeyes  

COLUMBUS, Ohio Alicia Herron hit her sixth homerun of the season, a three-run blast in the fourth, to lead the No. 16-ranked Ohio State softball team to a 5-0 win over Big Ten foe Illinois Saturday afternoon at New Buckeye Field in front of an all-time program record 1,277 fans. With the Buckeyes’ seventh-consecutive win, they improve to 31-6 on the year and 8-1 in the conference, while the Illini dip to 22-11 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten.

Senior pitcher Kim Reeder earned the win in the circle and moved into second all-time in both wins and innings pitched. The captain from Salinas, Calif., now holds 67 career victories to her credit (16-3 this season), tying Katie Chain (2000-03) for second, in 678.0 innings pitched. Reeder struck out three Saturday, while giving up three hits.

After 3.5 scoreless innings, Courtney Pruner started the rally that would put Ohio State on top. The junior captain reached on a fielder’s choice that ousted Katie Simonton as a pinch runner for Sam Marder and advanced to third on a single down the right field line from Whitney Cooper. With runners on the corners and two outs, Herron took the 1-0 count and sent a hard shot to left field that plated three runs for the Buckeyes.

Marder came up big in the field in the top half of the fifth, turning the team’s seventh double play of the season. The All-American catcher caught a pop-up on a bunt attempt and fired to first, retiring Ashley Conrad on the play after she left for second. With another out, the Buckeyes held on to a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom half of the inning where they scored their final two runs.

Vanessa Spears took the first pitch for a single to right field and advanced to second on another walk to Marder. Cooper came up with a RBI single to center, advancing to second on the throw, that sent home Spears and put Marder on third. Starting pitcher Monica Perry threw a wild pitch that allowed Marder to return home and give Ohio State the 5-0 lead.

Illinois put forth some offensive pressure in the bottom of the seventh, putting two runners in scoring position on a single by Kelly Wedel and a double from Meredith Hackett. Reeder pitched herself out of the jam, however, with a strikeout and a ground ball to Rachael Shepherd at third, who finished the day with three assists in the hot corner.

The Buckeyes close out the Big Ten series with Illinois at 2 p.m. Sunday in New Buckeye Field. With a win, the Buckeyes would move into a tie with Northwestern for first place in the Big Ten with a record of 9-1. Admission for the contest is free.