April 22, 2017
— Ohio State Softball (@OhioState_SB) April 22, 2017
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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State’s Ebonee Echols singled up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and score the winning run as MSU slipped past Ohio State, 7-6, on Saturday afternoon in the middle game of a three-game set at Secchia Stadium in East Lansing. The Buckeyes are now 27-13 on the year and 10-6 in Big Ten play while Michigan State is 24-17, 7-9.
THE SHORT STORY
Ohio State received a go-ahead two-run home run from Anna Kirk in the top of the fifth inning but couldn’t push across another run after Michigan State responded by tying the game in the bottom of the inning. Seven different players contributed to a nine-hit attack and all five pitchers saw action in the circle for the Scarlet and Gray.
HOW THE RUNS WERE SCORED
• Michigan State was able to strike first in the bottom of the first with a two-spot against starter Shelby McCombs. It started when McKenzie Long reached on an error followed by Lea Foerster being hit by a pitch. The next batter, Kaitlyn Eveland, drove Foerster and Long home with a double to right center. McCombs was able to work out of the inning with a pop up to Lilli Piper at shortstop and line out back to Anna Kirk at third.
• Maddie Marotti cut the Spartans’ 2-0 deficit in half when she came through with a one-out RBI single up the middle that plated Ashley Goodwin, who had singled to right center to lead off the inning.
• Another two-run inning — this one coming in the bottom of the third — pushed Michigan State’s advantage to 4-1. It was keyed by a pair of doubles, the first coming from Foerster and then by Eveland. Those hits prompted a pitching change, as Lena Springer came on to retire the final two batters of the inning.
• The Buckeyes began to chip away at the MSU lead in the top of the fourth when it loaded the bases with nobody out as the first three batters — Lilli Piper, Goodwin and Becca Gavin — reached via a walk, single and single, respectively. Following a strikeout and line out, Piper crossed home plate thanks to an illegal pitch, but the rally was thwarted after pinch hitter Megan Choinacky fouled out to first base.
• With one swing of the bat in the fifth inning by Kirk, the Buckeyes came all the way back to take their first lead of the game. Kirk sent a 3-1 offering from Bridgette Rainey over the left field fence, a two-run shot that turned a 4-4 tie into a 6-4 Ohio State lead. Two runs came across the plate earlier in the inning as Taylor White led off with a double, Alex Bayne scored her on a single back to the pitcher and Gavin drove pinch runner Bri Betschel home on a single to right field.
• The Buckeyes’ two-run lead was short lived as the Spartans scored twice in the bottom of the fifth as Kelly Zackrison dropped a two-run single to right field that scored Foerster and Long, who had started off the inning with a walk and single, respectively.
• After a scoreless sixth inning and top of the seventh, Michigan State secured the walk-off win via the Echols single that came on a 3-2 pitch and after three of the previous four batters had reached (two singles, one walk).
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
• The first two batters in the bottom of the sixth reached base for Michigan State, prompting a pitching change to Morgan Ray. She came on with two on and nobody out and proceeded to retire the next three to keep the Green and White off the scoreboard. Ray struck of Long, got Foerster to foul out to first base and then struck of Eveland swinging on a 1-2 pitch.
• In a similar situation in the bottom of the third, Lena Springer came into the game with two one and one out and didn’t allow any runs to cross the plate. She struck out Sarah Gutknecht and then induced an easy fly ball to left field that Bailee Sturgeon snagged.
• The Buckeyes’ attempt to push across the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh started with a one-out Piper single to third base. She put herself in scoring position by stealing second, but an inning-ending double play finished off the potential rally.
AT THE PLATE
Goodwin, who played both first and third base in the field, reached base safely in all four of her at-bats, going 2-for-2 with a run scored and two walks. Becca Gavin also finished with two hits to go along with an RBI. Kirk’s two-RBI effort was her sixth multi-RBI game of the year and sixth home run.
IN THE CIRCLE
All five pitchers on Ohio State’s roster saw action on Saturday and three of the five recorded a strikeout. McCombs got the start and went 2.1 innings with three Ks while Springer came on next and also went 2.1 innings with a pair of strikeouts. Kat Duvall was next in line, followed by 1.1 innings from Ray and finally 0.1 innings from Shelby Hursh.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
• Four of the six runs that scored for Ohio State on Saturday came with two outs.
• The Buckeyes were especially efficient with runners on, hitting .429 in that situation (6-for-14) and .500 with runners in scoring position (5-for-10).
• The home run by Kirk was Ohio State’s 50th of the season. It leads the Big Ten in that category, two ahead of Michigan State.
• The top four hitters in the lineup — White, Bayne, Piper and Goodwin — all recorded a hit and combined to go 5-for-13 (.384).
• Ohio State relief pitchers inherited eight runners and only one of them scored.
• Marotti is hitting .412 with a .444 on-baes percentage over the last 15 games. This weekend, she has three hits and drove in a run today.
The Buckeyes and Spartans complete their three-game series tomorrow at Secchia Stadium with a 1 p.m. contest that will be streamed live on BTN Plus.