Seniors combine for five runs, six RBI in victory

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Channeling its excitement from having Ohio State President Gordon Gee throw out the first pitch, the No. 19 Ohio State softball team jumped ahead early – thanks to back-to-back home runs by seniors Sam Marder and Courtney Pruner – and was able to hold off Northwestern, 9-6, Friday evening despite a late run by the Wildcats. Senior Megan Miller earned her 12th win of the season after entering in the fourth while NU’s Jessica Smith (9-7) took the loss.

The Buckeyes are currently on a five-game win streak and improve to 36-12 overall and 15-2 Big Ten while the Wildcats fall to 25-22 overall and 10-7 in league action.

In the series in which Ohio State is honoring its seniors for their dedication to the program, the six that could play made a definite impact on the game. The 2010 class ranks third all-time in the Buckeye record book with 156 victories.

“These seniors have done so much for the program,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “They are quality people beyond being great athletes and students.

“We are going to miss them a little bit,” she added with a smile.

Marder went 2-for-2 with two RBI and two walks after hitting a two-run home run over dead centerfield in the bottom of the third. It was the 60th dinger of the all-time OSU home run leader’s career. Pruner, who drove in the Buckeyes’ first run with a sac fly to left in the first, followed with her 37th career homer over the right-field wall to pull within four of tying for second on the all-time list. The duo recorded the first back-to-back home runs since Tory Haddad, Rachael Shepherd and Whitney Cooper hit three in a row vs. Ohio April 30, 2008.

In all, the Scarlet and Gray scored six runs on seven hits in the third to take a 7-1 lead. Senior Leah Ledford, who went 2-for-3 as the designated player, singled to put runners on second and third before classmate Rebecca Schultz hit a two RBI double to right, her sixth of the season, before the third ended.

Facing a Northwestern lineup with six fast, left-handed batters, Cooper, who doubled to left center, had an error-free day at second base while recording a team-high six assists to complete the great outing by the seniors.

In the fourth, Cooper reached base on an error and advanced to second on the throw while sophomore Katie Simonton, who was pinch running for Marder, raced home from second. Next up, freshman Megan Coletta, who went 2-for-4 on the day, hit an RBI double to center to give Ohio State a commanding 9-1 lead.

However, the Wildcats did not shy away, scoring five runs in the next three innings.

“We came out and jumped ahead early but we knew they would challenge us with their speedy lefties,” Kalafatis said. “Before the game we talked about limiting their opportunities so we need to be better in the field tomorrow because they made the most of them.”

In the fifth, Northwestern’s Robin Thompson reached base on an error and advanced to third as the ball drifted into right field. Emily Allard, who went 1-for-4 with two RBI, brought the runner home for an unearned run. The Wildcats did the bulk of their damage in the top of the six, scoring three runs off of four hits. With bases loaded, Allard batted in a run on a 4-3 putout before Jordan Wheeler singled to right center, scoring two.

Miller, who gave up a total of nine hits, was able to hold NU to just two hits in the top of the seventh as the Wildcats were able to add just one run for the 9-6 final.

Ohio State held a 13-11 advantage in hits in the contest, including four doubles while giving up just three earned runs.

The Buckeyes and Wildcats return to Buckeye Field at 3:05 p.m. Saturday to conclude the two-game series which will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. After the game, Ohio State will recognize its seven-man senior class of Lindsay Bodeker, Whitney Cooper, Leah Ledford, Sam Marder, Megan Miller, Courtney Pruner and Rebecca Schultz.