Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols throws second-career complete game

CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. – A two-run homer from junior outfielder Karisa Medrano, the first of her career, gave the No. 16/17 Ohio State softball team a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth and clutch hitting from sophomore Alicia Herron and senior Whitney Cooper in the fifth sealed a 4-1 victory over No. 19/21 Fresno State Friday in front of a crowd full of OSU fans at the 2010 Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.

“All week we had been stressing clutch hitting with runners in scoring position,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “With a big home run from Dre and a huge triple and single with two outs from Herron and Cooper, they did just what we asked of them.”

The Buckeyes improve to 7-4 on the season with freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols going the distance in her second complete game and third win. The Bulldogs are 9-2 on the year with sophomore Mackenzie Oakes (4-1) taking the loss, allowing four runs in 1.2 innings after replacing Michelle Moses in the fourth.

“Mel was limited last weekend and disappointed about it because she really wants to help the team,” Kalafatis said. “It was really great to see her pitch a complete game today.”

After the two teams played scoreless through three innings, Ohio State opened up the scoring in a big way in the fourth. Cooper set the stage, getting on base by a fielder’s choice before stealing second with Medrano at bat. With two strikes on the count, Medrano, a left-handed batter from Albuquerque, N.M., sent the ball clear over the centerfield fence for her first home run as a Buckeye.

“Odds were I would get one in my career so my first home run came today,” Medrano, who gave her home run ball to her father, said with a smile. “I kept sprinting because I didn’t know it was out.”

Fresno State threatened to score in the top of the fifth with Kaitlin Griffin on second and two outs. On a fielder’s choice play, centerfielder Dee Dee Hillman launched a perfect throw from the outfield to catcher Sam Marder who tagged Griffin out as she headed into home to end the inning.

Ohio State added two more runs to the board in the fifth. With two outs, senior Courtney Pruner was walked, brining up Herron who had already been on base twice on a walk and a single. With Katie Simonton pinch running at first, Herron powered the ball into deep right centerfield for her first RBI triple of the season. Next up, Cooper extended the inning with a single to right center to bring in the Buckeyes’ fourth run.

The only run Nichols gave up came in the sixth as sophomore Jody Badorine knocked a double just over third baseman Rebecca Schultz’s head down the leftfield line. Nichols then fanned Moses before Caitlin Stiglich singled up through the infield to bring home Badorine.

Nichols, a native of San Jacinto, Calif., ended the day with two strikeouts and now has 25 in her career. She allowed just one run on five hits and walked one.

Game Notes:
– Karisa Medrano hit her first career home run as a Buckeye, a two-run shot in the fourth inning. Ohio State has had six different players go long for a combined 14 homers.
– Besides going 2-2 at the plate with a run and RBI, Alicia Herron made a difficult catch in the third inning to help the Buckeyes close out the side in order.
– Whitney Cooper stole two bases and went 1-3 with a run and RBI.
– Six different Buckeyes recorded hits while just four Bulldogs did so for Fresno State.
– The senior class of Cooper, Leah Ledford, Sam Marder, Megan Miller, Courtney Pruner and Rebecca Schultz has moved into a tie for ninth on the all-time winningest class list. The seniors have recorded 127 career wins as Buckeyes, tying the 1995 and 2001 classes. The class of 2004 owns the record with 162 over four years.