May 9, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. – Cammi Prantl hit a two-run double in the eighth inning to lift the Ohio State softball team to a 7-5 victory over 18th-ranked and second-seeded Nebraska on Friday afternoon at Drysdale Field on the campus of Northwestern University. With the win, Ohio State advances to tomorrow’s semifinal round and will take on third-seeded Minnesota at 2:30 p.m. CST.
Ohio State (30-24) led 5-4 headed into the game’s final inning, but a fielder’s choice that scored Tatum Edwards tied the game at 5-5 and forced extra innings. In the top of the eighth, Caitlin Conrad singled to center field with two out and Taylor Watkins followed with a walk. The next batter, Prantl, belted the first pitch that she saw to center, scoring Conrad and Watkins. In the bottom of the eighth, Alicia Armstrong led off with a single, but Olivia O’Reilly got back to back groundouts and a pop up to Melaina Saalfeld to end the game. Nebraska (40-15) was the conference’s regular season co-champions.
At the plate, Conrad went 2-for-5 with a solo home run, two runs scored and one RBI. Leesa Gresham hit a three-run home run in the third inning that gave OSU a 4-2 lead while Prantl finished 1-for-2 with two RBI a run scored and three walks. O’Reilly went 7.2 innings to earn her 17th win of the year, giving up just five hits and three earned runs while striking out three.
Shelby Hursh got the start for the Buckeyes and gave up back to back singles to start the game. After retiring Tatum Edwards, the next batter, MJ Knighten, doubled to left field to score a run and another one came home on a throwing error. Olivia O’Reilly then came on in relief of Hursh and retired the next two batters on a ground out and strike out, respectively.
Ohio State got its first base runner in the top of the second on a one-out single from Melaina Saalfeld. Freshman Anna Kirk sacrificed her to second, but Melissa Rennie grounded out to second base to end the threat.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Buckeyes were helped a strong defensive effort that included O’Reilly fielding a bunt and narrowly throwing out Armstrong and Keelia Nester backhanding a well-hit ground ball and throwing to Carrillo at first for the second out of the inning.
The Buckeyes were able to carry that momentum in the top of the third. Caitlin Conrad took a 1-0 pitch and belted a home run to center field that made the score 2-1 in favor of Nebraska. The solo shot was her team-leading ninth of the season and second in as many games at the Big Ten Tournament. The next two batters (Taylor Watkins and Cammi Prantl) walked and Carrillo grounded out for the second out. Leesa Gresham then stepped to the plate and hit a three-run home run to right field that gave the Buckeyes a 4-2 lead.
After consecutive ground outs to Nester to start the bottom of the third, Tatum Edwards hit a solo home run to center field and Knighten followed with a walk. The next batter, Kylee Muir, brought Knighten home with a double to center that tied the game at 4-4. O’Reilly struck out Austen Urness to end the inning.
In the top of the fifth, Ohio State had a chance to retake the lead after Watkins singled and Prantl walked to put two runners on with no outs. Carrillo grounded into a fielder’s choice (runner out at third) and Gresham struck out swinging, but Saalfeld picked up her second hit of the game to load the bases. Kirk grounded out to third and the Buckeyes were not able to plate any runs.
Ohio State went ahead 5-4 in the top of the sixth on a throwing error by Nebraska third baseman Knighten that allowed Conrad to safely reach first and Nester to come around from second to score.
Nester had reached on a fielder’s choice and took second on a wild pitch. The Cornhuskers tied the game in the seventh inning, setting the stage for Prantl’s heroics in the eighth.
Tomorrow’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal appearance is Ohio State’s first since 2007.