April 9, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio – In her first career pitching start, freshman Courtney Pruner struck out seven and pitched a six-hit complete game to lead the Ohio State softball team past 15th-ranked Northwestern Sunday, 3-2, in game two of a doubleheader at Buckeye Field. After topping the Wildcats 2-1 in the opener, Ohio State (24-14, 6-2 Big Ten) overcame a 2-0 deficit in game two to notch its first sweep of a ranked opponent since 2002 and hand Northwestern (25-10, 6-2 Big Ten) back-to-back losses for only the second time this season.
Pruner (Akron, Ohio/Ellet) had made 11 relief appearances this season, including one the first game Sunday when she earned her first win with three strikeouts with the bases loaded in the top of seventh inning. Like she did in the opener, Pruner struck out Northwestern All-American Garland Cooper, the 2005 Big Ten Player of the Year and the current national player of the week, for the final out of the game.
“After coming in and doing well in the first game, I had a lot of confidence going into this game,” Pruner said. “I relied on my defense a lot out there and they came up big. Our offense can hang with anybody and when put it all together like we did today we’re a tough team to beat.”
Ohio State is now 9-0 at Buckeye Field this season. After sweeping Illinois Friday and Saturday and winning twice over Northwestern Sunday, OSU notches back-to-back Big Ten sweeps for the first time since 2002 when the Buckeyes swept six consecutive league foes on their way to a school record 55 wins. It was that same season when Ohio State last swept a doubleheader from a ranked opponent (vs. No. 25 Minnesota and at No. 20 Iowa). That season was also the last time OSU had beaten Northwestern.
“My team really showed up this weekend and I am so proud of them,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “With (starting pitcher) Kim Reeder out, we needed Courtney Pruner to step up and she really did that and more. Northwestern is a very good team and nationally ranked, but our hitters really executed. We’ve been focusing on our sacrifice bunts and between those and a few big hits, we were able to win these two games.”
Thanks to one of those sacrifice bunts the Buckeyes manufactured their winning run in the sixth inning. Junior Megan Schwab (Glendale, Ariz./Sunrise Mountain), who hit her 14th career home run in the fourth inning, led off the sixth inning with a walk and was moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Pruner. One batter later, senior Chelsea Baker (Gahanna, Ohio/DeSales), the hero of game one when she hit the game-winning walk-off home run, lined a single to centerfield to score Schwab and put Ohio State up for good.
Schwab’s 14 career home runs ties her for fourth all-time at Ohio State with Ashley Cutcliff (2003-05).
The Buckeyes tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning thanks to two sacrifice bunts and a Northwestern throwing error. Junior Jamee Juarez (La Puente, Calif./Wilson) hit a one-out single to left field and moved to third on a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by junior Lauren Daykin (Melbourne, Australia/Manatee C.C., Fla.). One batter later, junior Christina Douglas (Mesa, Ariz./Dobson) laid down a suicide squeeze to score Juarez.
Northwestern pitcher Courtnay Foster, who was drafted in the fourth round of the National Pro Fastpitch League in February, falls to 14-5.
Ohio State returns to action at 5 p.m. Tuesday when Toledo visits Buckeye Field for a doubleheader.
### GO BUCKS! ###