COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State softball team’s seventh-inning comeback fell short as Kentucky snapped a six-game Buckeye winning streak with a 6-5 decision Saturday morning at Buckeye Field in the conclusion of the Friday night NCAA regional game. The Buckeyes (37-13) trailed by five heading into the seventh and exploded for four runs, but left the three runners stranded as the Wildcats (32-25) picked up their first win since May 8.
“I wish we had started the way we ended it,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “We had a lot of missed opportunities but this gives us a chance to regroup because it is a long day of softball today.”
Ohio State and Kentucky opened NCAA action at 6:30 p.m. Friday. With storms clouds looming, both teams made quick work of the first two innings as Leah Ledford tallied the lone hit in early action with a single in the bottom of the second. The base hit placed Whitney Cooper in scoring position, but the Buckeye side was retired leaving the two on base.
Kentucky then picked it up in the top of the third, plating three runs off a Natalie Smith double for a 3-0 lead that would stand until the resumption of play Saturday morning. The Wildcats had loaded the bases for Smith, who cleared the base paths in front of her before being put out at third off a heads-up play from Buckeye centerfielder Brittany Goodchild.
Ohio State took the field in the top of the fourth, but play was halted at 7:29 p.m. because of lightning and, after a 1:07 delay, was suspended until 10 a.m. Saturday when the teams resumed play under cloudy skies.
Karisa Medrano replaced Melanie Nichols in the circle for the Buckeyes in the second attempt on the fourth inning. Medrano, who made just her fourth appearance at pitcher this season, gave up one hit, but kept Kentucky off the board until the top of the fifth when Samantha DeMartine hit a three-run home run to leftfield to build a 6-0 lead.
The Buckeyes finally broke the shutout in the bottom of the fifth when Cooper knocked a single through the left side that scored Alicia Herron after reaching base on a walk and advancing on a Sam Marder single and walk to Courtney Pruner. The rally attempt continued as they loaded the bases but Rebecca Schultz grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.
After shutting down the Wildcat side in both the sixth and seventh innings, the Buckeye bats came out firing in the bottom of the seventh. Cooper walked to open the inning and, after two outs, Schultz reached on an error and the duo advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, respectively. Vanessa Spears then launched her first home run of the season, belting a shot to right field to bring the score to 6-4.
Dee Dee Hillman and Herron posted back-to-back singles and Marder was intentionally walked to load the bases for Pruner, who was hit by a pitch to send Hillman home. The comeback stopped there, however, as Cooper’s foul tip was caught by Wildcat third baseman Brittany Cervantes to end the inning.
“This game shows we are a team that cannot be taken lightly,” Marder said. “We came up a little short in the game but we left on a good note and confident.”
Melanie Nichols absorbed the loss for Ohio State, just her third of the season and first in 11 games, while Medrano struck out one and gave up just three hits in four innings of work. Rachel Riley earned the win for Kentucky, allowing six hits and striking out two.
The Buckeyes will play Bucknell at 3 p.m. Saturday. The Bison fell to No. 11 California, 10-0, Friday evening. Kentucky and the Golden Bears will now face each other beginning at 12:30 p.m.