April 14, 2002
EVANSTON, Ill. – Sarah West (Sr., Galloway, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) punctuated a seven-run seventh inning with a grand slam and Kristine Himes (Jr., Bolivar, Ohio/Tuscarawas Valley) and Wendy Allen (So., Moreno Valley, Calif./Moreno Valley) added solo shots to lift the No. 25 Ohio State softball team past Northwestern at Drysdale Field in Evanston, Ill., Sunday in the first of two Big Ten battles among conference front runners. Himes’ shot cut an early Wildcat lead and moved her into the No. 1 spot for single-season home runs in OSU history while Allen went deep for the third time in as many games. Katie Chain (Jr., North Canton, Ohio/Hoover) picked up her 13th win of the year with a five strike out day to help the Buckeyes improve to 37-9 on the year with an 8-3 Big Ten record while NU slipped to 17-10-1 overall and 6-3 in conference.
“I think our kids are playing with a lot of confidence right now after defeating two really good ball clubs,” Linda Kalafatis, OSU head coach, said. “To have Northwestern blast out of the gate like that, they certainly built some confidence for themselves but our kids really kept their poise and chipped away at the lead in the beginning and have a gigantic inning in the end. I think it is very indicative of our team and the way we are playing right now.”
The game did not start out with the Buckeyes exhibiting control. Starting pitcher Kristi DeVries (So., Corona, Calif./Corona) gave up solo homers to leadoff batter Erin Jancic and Carri Leto to put the Wildcats ahead 2-0 early. DeVries went one inning and allowed four hits with zero strike outs. OSU came back in the top of the second with a run of their own. With two outs and no one on base for the Scarlet and Gray, Himes smashed a pitch from Lauren Shwendimann over the left field fence for her 28th career blast, also tops in the history of the program.
NU came out swinging in the second and third with no runs to show for their efforts as Chain and the defense staved off the Wildcat attacks each time. In the second, NU picked up three hits with two outs before Leto lined a shot to left that Himes gloved down at third to get OSU out of the jam. In the third, Chain struck out the lead off hitter, Gretchen Barnes, before two singles put runners on first and second. Chain settled in and got the next two batters swinging to end the inning. The Wildcats stranded one runner in the next two innings while OSU surged into the lead with clutch hitting.
The Buckeyes struck again in the third with two outs posted on the board. Allen, after clubbing two solo shots in a 2-0 defeat of No. 20 Iowa Friday night, turned on a Schwendimann offering and sent it over the left field wall to knot the game at two. In the fourth, OSU returned to ‘small ball’ to manufacture its runs. Chrissy Fowler (Sr., Utica, Ohio/Wright State) opened the stanza with an infield single to short and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by West. After a Himes walk, Breana Pozzi (So., Petaluma, Calif./Casa Grande) lined a single up the middle to plate Fowler and put OSU ahead for good.
The Buckeyes started to add insurance runs with one tally in the top of the fifth. Allen turned on a pitch and drove it right center for a double to start things off. Two batters later and after Amy Ellis (Jr., Erie, Pa./Ball State) came in to run for Allen at second, DeVries doubled down the left line to plate Ellis for a 4-2 lead. Pinch runner Meghan Rowlands (Fr., Hilliard, Ohio/Bishop Ready), who replaced DeVries at second, came around to score following a single by Fowler and a single by West.
After the Wildcats went three and out in the fifth, the Buckeyes exploded for seven runs to put the game away. Jennifer Link (Jr., Yorba Linda, Calif./Sonora) led off the stanza with a single to left and moved to second on an infield single by Anna Smith (Sr., Walnut, Calif./Diamond Bar). Both runners stole bases, third and second, respectively, before Allen lined a single to right to plate Link and Roth singling to left to bring in Smith. That would be all for Schwendimann as the Buckeyes established a four run lead.
Reliever Brie Brown came in and inherited two runners. DeVries came up and doubled to the left-center gap to bring in Allen and Fowler drew a walk to load the bases for West. West then strolled to the plate and crushed a Brown offering deep and long past the center field wall to bring in the final four runs of the game and a 12-2 lead.
NU finished off the game scoring with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Robyn Pettinger led off with a walk and was followed by a J.C. Kira single to left. Rane Gunderson drove in Pettinger and Jancic recorded and RBI by bringing in Kira as both Wildcats rapped singles to left. The OSU defense retired the next three batters to end the game with OSU on top, 12-4.
The Buckeyes return to action at 3 p.m. Wednesday with a doubleheader against Morehead State at Buckeye Field. OSU also closes out the home portion of its Big Ten slate with games at 3 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday against Purdue and a noon Sunday doubleheader with Illinois to wrap up the weekend.