Junior Rachael Shepherd records 2 RBI, going 1-1 at the plate

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In its second game of the day and final of the aTen Construction Tournament, the No. 14/17 Ohio State softball team recorded a 4-2 victory over East Tennessee State (7-9) Saturday afternoon in Riverside, Calif.  With their second win over the Buccaneers this weekend, the Buckeyes improve to 13-6 on the year while the senior class moves to eighth on the all-time winningest class list with its 133rd career victory.

Although ESTU recorded one more hit than Ohio State, 6-5, the Buckeyes scored three runs off of some crafty base-running in the bottom of the second to jump ahead and stay ahead on the scoreboard throughout the game.

“We executed two key plays, one being a suicide squeeze by Shep in the second which ended up being a critical play for us,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “We have the week off from competition next week for exams and we have a lot of things to work on back in Columbus before we jump back into action.”

The Buccaneers threatened to score in the first, putting runners on second and third but Ohio State freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols forced ESTU into three groundouts to escape the inning and followed with a three-up, three-down second inning.

Senior Whitney Cooper got the Buckeye bats going in the bottom of the second, hitting a double to right center as the leadoff hitter. Sophomore Vanessa Spears followed, hitting into a fielder’s choice situation before advancing to second on an ESTU error that also moved Cooper to third. With one out and two runners in scoring position, junior Rachael Shepherd hit a clutch sacrifice bunt to the pitcher that scored both Cooper and Spears as a Buccaneer throwing error allowed the sophomore outfielder to come home. After senior Rebecca Schultz singled to left, the Buckeye third baseman advanced to third on a Brittany Goodchild single to right and raced home as East Tennessee State tried to throw out Goodchild who successfully advanced to second.  

Neither team scored in the third, fourth nor fifth inning, as Nichols faced just two extra batters while recording 13 total groundouts in her 6.1 innings pitched.

ESTU put its first run on the board in the top of the sixth as Amy Campbell hit a sacrifice fly to center bringing home the Buccaneers’ leadoff hitter. With a runner still on first, Nichols fanned the next two batters to end the side.

Ohio State responded with a run of its own in the sixth to make it a 4-1 game. Junior Karisa Medrano hit a single to center as the leadoff hitter and senior Leah Ledford was brought in to pinch run. Ledford advanced to second on a Spears sacrifice bunt before Shepherd recorded her second RBI of the game, hitting a single to center before getting caught in a rundown between first and second.

In the final inning of the game, redshirt junior Lindsay Bodeker came in to pitch for Nichols after the freshman loaded the bases with just one out. East Tennessee State scored its final run of the game as its No. 2 hitter recorded an RBI, reaching base in a fielder’s choice as sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron paired with Schultz to throw a Buccaneer runner out at third. Bodeker then walked Katy Jett to again load the bases but with two outs, ESTU’s next batter flied out to Cooper at second base to end the game.

Bodeker earned the save for her work in the final 2/3rds of the game, allowing no hits, while Nichols improves to 6-0 on the year. Going 1-1 at the plate, Shepherd batted in both of Ohio State’s earned runs.  

The Buckeyes have the next weekend off for exams before concluding their early-season tournament action at the South Florida Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., March 19-21.