May 15, 2004
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The No. 6-seed Ohio State softball team (34-23; 8-11 Big Ten) lost to No. 2 Illinois (41-18-1; 14-6 Big Ten), 5-0, in the semifinals of the 2004 Big Ten Tournament Saturday morning at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, Mich. Illinois tallied four runs at the top of the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead and Ohio State was unable to answer offensively. The Buckeyes put five consecutive runners on base in the bottom of the fifth, but Illinois’ defense escaped without an Ohio State runner crossing home plate. Senior pitcher Kristi DeVries fell to 16-10 on the season as the Fighting Illini broke her eight-game winning streak. Illinois’ Amanda Fortune improved to 27-9 for the season.
In the top of the fourth, Illinois’ Jenna Hall singled to right field and Brittany Koester came in to pinch run at first. Koester moved to second when Lindsey Hamma was walked. A sacrifice bunt by Erin Montgomery put Koester and Hamma on third and second, respectively. Katie O’Connell singled to left field and scored Koester, which put Illinois up, 1-0. The Fighting Illini would not give up as Hamma scored when Elene Planinsek reached first on a fielder’s choice. Sartini made it to first on a fielder’s choice and O’Connell scored off an Ohio State error by DeVries. The error moved Sartini and Planinsek to second and third, respectively. A Sara Baumgartner fly ball to right field scored the fourth and final run of the inning for Illinois when Planinsek crossed home plate and put the Fighting Illini up, 4-0.
Ohio State answered by tallying the Buckeyes’ first two hits of the game to open the bottom of the fourth, but both Nycole Koyano and Megan Schwab were left on base after four innings complete. In the bottom of the fifth, an error by the Illinois second baseman O’Connell put Billie Jo Carder on first and Jennifer Johnson and Natalie Hales each reached first by a fielder’s choice; however, Carder and Johnson were caught at second base on two consecutive plays. Meghan Rowlands nailed a single up the middle to put Hales on second base. Another hit up the middle by Karisa Evans loaded the bases for Ohio State, but pinch hitter Ashley Cutcliff was caught swinging to end the fifth with three Buckeye runners on base and Illinois still up, 4-0.
The Fighting Illini opened the sixth inning with a hit to left field by O’Connell, who moved to second off a sacrifice bunt by Planinsek. A wild pitch put O’Connell on third and she scored to put Illinois up, 5-0, when Baumgartner singled to left field. Buckeye Jamee Juarez was brought in to relieve DeVries at the mound for Ohio State and she caught Erin Jones swinging to end the top of the sixth.
The Buckeyes will await news from the NCAA Softball Selection Committee concerning the 2004 NCAA Softball Tournament selections. The selections will be announced between 7 and 8 p.m. EDT Sunday evening on ESPNNews.