Sets up a conference 1 vs. 2 meeting vs. Michigan Wednesday
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Senior catcher Sam Marder had a four RBI game, hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the fourth, and freshman Megan Coletta finished the game with three RBI off a single and a double to lead the No. 19 Ohio State softball team to a 13-5 run-rule victory over Minnesota in six innings Sunday afternoon at Buckeye Field.
With the conference sweep of the Gophers, the Buckeyes (30-11) extend their winning streak to nine games and improve to 9-1 in the Big Ten – moving into second place in the league standings. Next Wednesday the Scarlet and Gray will welcome Michigan, ranked second nationally and first in the Big Ten with a 12-0 record, to Columbus for a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m. The critical conference matchup will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
“We are playing pretty well right now so we just have to prepare for Michigan the way we prepare for every opponent,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said.
* Watch the re-air of Ohio State’s 13-5 win over Minnesota at 6 p.m. Monday night on Big Ten Network *
With two victories this weekend the Buckeyes also improve to 11-0 at home while the senior class ups its career wins record to 150 and move into fourth on the all-time list.
“We spend so much of the beginning part of the season on the road so it is an energy boost for the team to play at home in front of Buckeye fans,” Kalafatis said.
Fans can watch a re-airing of game two of the Ohio State-Minnesota series at 6 p.m. Monday on the Big Ten Network. The student production was originally streamed live on the BigTenNetwork.com Sunday.
The Buckeyes had a big first inning, scoring four runs off of five hits. Leadoff hitter Dee Dee Hillman got things started with a double to right field and scored after senior Whitney Cooper found the gap in centerfield. Seniors Sam Marder and Leah Ledford got on base with a walk and a single, respectively, bringing up Alicia Herron who leads the Big Ten in batting. The sophomore shortstop launched a first pitch, two-run home run, her second homer of the week, over the left field wall to make it a 4-0 game.
But Minnesota responded by scoring a run in both the second and the third to cut Ohio State’s lead in half. In the top of the second, Whitney Erickson hit a home run of her own to left as the leadoff hitter while in the third, Sammie Howard leadoff the stanza with a triple into deep right-center field and scored on a sacrifice fly.
A rain and lighting delay stopped play between the third and fourth inning for 45 minutes. Play resumed with Minnesota scoring an unearned run as Dannie Skrove crossed home on a wild pitch. Ohio State then brought in freshman Melanie Nichols to relieve starting pitcher Megan Miller who ended the day pitching 3.1 innings and allowing three runs off of three hits. Nichols recorded the final two outs, retaining a one-run lead for the Buckeyes.
In both games, the Gopher outfielders played outstanding defense, stealing some hits from the Scarlet and Gray but Ohio State’s lineup kept at it, producing a big fourth and sixth inning.
“Minnesota played really hard,” Kalafatis said. “Their outfielders made some tough plays defensively.”
With the score at 4-3 in favor of OSU, senior Rebecca Schultz jump started the Buckeye rally in the fourth with a double to center before Cooper and Herron walked to load the bases. On a two-out first pitch, Marder sailed the ball over the left field wall for her first grand slam of the season and fourth of her career. The home run also registered as her 16th this season and 59th career.
On three hits and two errors, Minnesota tacked on two runs in the fifth to again cut Ohio State’s lead and make it an 8-5 ball game. The Gophers’ strong defense held the Buckeyes from scoring in the bottom of the stanza but OSU bounced back, posting five runs in the sixth to end the game.
As the leadoff hitter Hillman, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, singled before using her speed to advance to third on a Cooper single to centerfield. Minnesota then put Marder on first with an intentional walk, her 15th this season and 53rd of her career. Senior Courtney Pruner drove in a run as she grounded out to first before Ledford was hit by a pitch to again load the bases. Coletta, Ohio State’s rookie third baseman, belted out a double to deep left field to score two runners making it an 11-5 game. The team added on two final runs with Schultz hitting an RBI single and Coletta crossing home on a wild pitch for the 13-5 final.
Pitching 2.2 innings, Nichols earned her 17th victory of the season after also winning game one for the squad. Cooper went 2-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored as the Buckeyes out-hit the Gophers, 12-6.
Ohio State held a 2-1 lead over Minnesota Saturday evening at Buckeye Field before rain suspended play at 7:05 p.m. Picking up the game at 11 a.m. Sunday, the two teams finished the remaining two and a half innings with the score remaining the same for a 2-1 Ohio State victory. The Buckeyes improved to 29-11 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten while the Gophers fell to 15-30 and 1-10 in conference action.
After a scoreless first inning, senior catcher Sam Marder opened the scoring with a one ball, two strike home run to left field. Senior designated player Courtney Pruner followed with a walk before stealing second and moving to third on a Leah Ledford sacrifice bunt. Freshman Megan Coletta came through in the clutch with a hard hit ball up the middle to drive Pruner home and give Ohio State a 2-0 lead.
Minnesota put runners on the bases in the third and produced a run to cut the Buckeye lead in half. Kari Dorle started the inning with a double into deep right centerfield before Kelsey Klucas came in to pinch run. The Gophers then moved Klucas to third on a sacrifice bunt down the first baseline. With one out, leadoff hitter Abby Rehberger posted an RBI single through the right side to score the Minnesota run. Ohio State freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols then settled down to record the final two outs of the stanza.
The Buckeyes put runners on in the bottom of the third with junior Dee Dee Hillman lacing a single up the middle and senior Whitney Cooper getting on base with a walk. However with one out of the board, Gopher starting pitcher Alissa Koch was able to keep the OSU bats at bay and escape the inning.
Two teams were able to make it through four complete innings before rain broke-up play at 7:05 p.m. The game was halted for an hour and a half before the umpires officially called the game for a restart on Sunday.