March 29, 2022

Handley’s Gem Powers Ohio State over No. 8 Kentucky, 3-0

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COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State softball team came into Tuesday night’s game at No. 8 Kentucky with two top-25 win already on its resume. The Buckeyes can now add a third signature win – and a top-10 one at that – after a 3-0 shutout of the Wildcats at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington.

Ohio State improves to 21-6 on the season while Kentucky is now 22-8.

The Short Story
The story of Wednesday’s win was a familiar one: Lexie Handley was masterful in the circle, striking out 11 while scattering just five hits against one the nation’s best offenses. At the plate, Ohio State got a first-inning home run from Sam Hackenbracht and a two-run shot by Melina Wilkison in the third inning to give Handley all the run support she would need.

The win was Ohio State’s first at Kentucky since March 5, 2003 – nearly 20 years – and is tied for its highest ranked win in Kelly Kovach Schoenly’s 10-year tenure as head coach. The last top-10 team Ohio State knocked off was No. 8 Georgia to begin the 2013 season.

How the Runs Were Scored

  • Before Handley even had to throw a pitch, she had a 1-0 lead thanks to Sam Hackenbracht, who belted a first-inning home run to centerfield.
  • It was Hackenbracht’s eighth home run in the last 10 games and the 23rd of her career.
  • After Handley got out of a two-on jam in the bottom of the first, Melina Wilkson gave the Buckeyes a 3-0 when she hit a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the second.
  • It was Wilkison’s second home run of the season. She came into Tuesday’s game batting .533 in the last seven games with eight hits in 15 at-bats.

Moments That Mattered

  • Kentucky has two key scoring opportunities – one early in the game and one late – and each time Handley and the Ohio State defense snuffed it out.
  • In the third inning, Kentucky had two runners in scoring position with two outs, but Handley calmly struck out Renee Abernathy on three pitchers to end the threat.
  • Handley retied the Wildcats in order in the fourth and fifth innings, setting the stage for Kentucky’s last push.
  • The lead off batter in the bottom of the sixth, Rylea Smith, reached on an error and eventually stole second. A one-out single by Abernathy put runners and second and third with one out.
  • From there, however, Handley got Lauren Johnson to pop out to second base and pinch hitter Kennedy Sullivan to strike out on five pitches.
  • Kentucky went down in order in the seventh with a strikeout and two ground outs.

This and That

  • Hackenbracht’s home run gives her 23 in her career, tying her with Niki Carver for the lead among active players.
  • The 23 career homers by Hackenbracht and Carver and tied for the fifth most by a Buckeye since 2013. No. 4 on the list is Caitlin Conrad, who hit 27 from 2012-15.
  • The Buckeyes are 6-1 in games in which Hackenbracht hits a home run.
  • Handley is now 11-3 on the season and lowered her ERA to 1.73. It was her seventh game with 10 or more strikeouts in 12 starts and her 11th complete game.
  • Ohio State is 2-0 this season against teams from the Southeastern Conference.
  • The Buckeyes’ eight hits came from six different players. Kami Kortokrax and Hackenbracht each had two hits while Jaycee Ruberti, Niki Carver and Kaitlyn Farley had one.
  • Three of Ohio State’s hits went for extra bases. In addition to the home runs by Wilkison and Hackenbracht, Ruberti also had a seventh-inning double.
  • In the last 14 games, Ohio State has hit 21 home runs, four triples and 18 doubles. In the 13 games prior to that, the Buckeyes had four home runs, three triples and 13 doubles.
  • Kentucky entered the game with the nation’s third-highest team batting average at .352. It was shut out for just the second time this season and held to its third-lowest hit output.

What’s Next
Ohio State heads north this weekend for its first conference road series. The Buckeyes are slated to take on Michigan State Friday-Sunday in East Lansing, Mich. First pitch on Friday is set for 6 p.m. and can be seen on B1G+. The Saturday and Sunday games will also be on B1G+.

For live stats, visit the schedule page of OhioStateBuckeyes.com or follow the Buckeyes on Twitter at @OhioStateSB.