May 8, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. – Junior Caitlin Conrad hit a three-run home run to ignite a four-run second inning and Olivia O’Reilly picked up her 16th win of the season as Ohio State advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament with a 6-2 victory over Penn State.
With the win, Ohio State (29-24) has now been victorious in nine of its last 10 games and will face second-seeded Nebraska at 1:30 p.m. CST (2:30 EST) tomorrow. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
In addition of Conrad’s offensive contributions, Taylor Watkins also went 2-for-4 with a run scored. Freshman Anna Kirk picked up two hits while Cammi Prantl and Evelyn Carrillo each drove in a run. In the circle, O’Reilly went 6.1 innings, giving up just four hits while striking out three. Shelby Hursh came on to get the final two outs of the game.
The Buckeye offense started fast in the first inning, getting a leadoff walk from Conrad, a double to left field from Watkins and a RBI groundout by Carrillo to plate the first run. In the bottom of the second, Saalfeld led off by reaching on an error and the next batter, Kirk, singled to second base. Keelia Nester drove home Saalfeld to make the score 2-0 and Conrad had the biggest blow of the inning, a three-run home run to right field to give Ohio State a 5-0 advantage. For Conrad, it was her team-leading eighth home run of the season and brought her RBI total to a team-best 38.
O’Reilly would hold Penn State at bay for the next three innings, allowing just two base runners. She was aided by a strong defense behind her, including a nifty play by Saalfeld to dive and backhand a well hit ball to second and then throw out Macy Jones in the fourth inning. In the sixth, the Nittany Lions struck for two runs on a double and a sacrifice fly, but that’s as close as Penn State would get. After a one-out walk in the seventh, Hursh took over in the circle and got a fly out to left field and pop up to shortstop that ended the game.
Over the last 15 games (the Buckeyes are 10-5 in that stretch), Watkins leads the way offensively with a .435 average, seven RBI, three home runs and three doubles. Senior Leesa Gresham is hitting .414 with seven RBI and two doubles while Carrillo checks in with a .396 average and seven RBI. The combination of Prantl and Conrad has driven in 23 runs. In the circle, O’Reilly is 8-3 with a 3.62 ERA and four complete games. Hursh is 2-2 with four saves and 30 strikeouts in 33.1 innings.