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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – An Ohio State softball season full of big wins and even bigger memories came to a close on Saturday evening at the Knoxville Regional at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium on the campus of the University of Tennessee.
Playing two elimination games back to back, Ohio State won the first – a 10-0 six-inning run-rule victory over Campbell – but dropped the second, a 5-1 setback to Oregon State. The Buckeyes finish their 2022 campaign with a 36-17 overall record. Ohio State’s win total is tied for its most since 2010 and its winning percentage is its best in 12 seasons.
Saturday marked the final games for five Buckeye seniors – pitcher Lexie Handley, first baseman Niki Carver, pitcher Jessica Ross, third baseman Avery Clark and outfielder Kaitlyn Coffman. All five of them left their mark in unique ways on the program.
Handley, for example, spent just one year in the scarlet and gray. But what a year it was. She set the single-season strikeouts record, finishing the campaign with 271 in 225.0 innings. Carver, a fifth-year senior, had career highs in every statistical category and earned first team All-Big Ten honors. Coffman was the team’s most clutch pinch hitter, while Ross and Clark contributed is countless ways both on and off the field, with their leadership and selflessness.
Lexie Handley: “I’m so thankful for this group of girls. Obviously good things comes to an end but nobody tells you what happens to great things. They’re a lot harder to deal with. Especially because I only got one year with this group. I wish I had more time. I’m so thankful that for this time I was loved and accepted and felt like I could be myself again.”
Kaitlyn Coffman: “The amount of love and support that I have from my sisters on this team is absolutely amazing. I will forever cherish everything that Ohio State has given me.”
Avery Clark: “I’m just a small town girl wanting to make it big. For all the young girls who have a dream of playing at a Division I level, the past three years at Ohio State have been nothing but the best. I hope I inspired so many young girls out there. It doesn’t matter what you’ve gone though. You can do it if you truly love it.”
Niki Carver: “The love and passion for the game this year has grown tremendously between all five of us. Coming back for a fifth year has meant the world to me. I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side.”
Jessica Ross: “Regardless of the outcome today, I think everyone can easily say that we choose this team and this group of girls. We had unwavering belief through all our games that we were going to come through as a team.”
Ohio State 10, Campbell 6 (6 inn.)
The Buckeyes showed no ill-effects from Friday’s tough 4-3 loss to Oregon State, jumping out on top of Campbell 3-0 in the top of the first inning. Sam Hackenbracht’s RBI single drove home Melina Wilkison, and then the next batter, Niki Carver, hit her 11th home run of the season to make the score 3-0.
That’s how it stayed until the fourth inning, thanks to the pitching of Allison Smith and help of a strong defense behind her. In the top of the fourth, Taylor Pack hit her third home run of the season, a solo shot over the right field fence, to give the Buckeyes a 4-0 advantage.
Ohio State busted the game open in the fifth inning, getting an RBI ground out by Kaitlyn Coffman to extend the lead to 5-0 and then a two-run single off the bat of pinch hitter Taylor Heckman to make the score 7-0. One inning later, Hackenbracht hit Ohio State’s third home run of the game – a three-run shot – to give the Buckeyes a 10-0 lead.
A well-balanced offense saw seven different players collect hits. Hackenbracht finished 2-for-2 with a home runs and four RBI. The four runs batted in were her 49th, 50th, 51st and 52nd of the season. Only 10 other players in program history have reached the 50 RBI mark in a season, and none since Lilli Piper in 2018.
Smith picked up her ninth win of the season, striking out five over six innings while allowing just one hit.
Oregon State 5, Ohio State 1
Oregon State’s Mariah Mazon hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to stake the Beavers to an early 2-0 lead, and that advantage was extended to 3-0 in the bottom of the second on Savanah Whatley’s RBI double.
Freshman Melina Wilkison continued her strong weekend when she doubled in the top of the third, scoring Taylor Pack, who had reached on an error. The hit was Wilkison’s fifth of the weekend.
Oregon State first baseman Frankie Hammoude put two more runs on the board in the bottom of the fifth via a two-run home run, her 14th of the season.