Coletta, Ledford propel Buckeyes with clutch at-bats

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In another cat-and-mouse contest at Pearl Field, the No. 19 Ohio State softball team overcame an early deficit and resisted Iowa’s continual charge to secure a 6-5 victory and series sweep in nine innings Sunday afternoon in Iowa City.

“Wow, we pulled one out there,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “We stayed at it and Megan Coletta and Leah Ledford came through with two super clutch doubles for us.”

Freshman third baseman Megan Coletta, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, hit a two out double down the left-field line in the ninth and senior Leah Ledford followed with a double to centerfield to bring home the gamewinning run in the tightly contest affair.

With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 33-12 overall and 12-2 in the Big Ten to hold onto second place in the league and maintain a two-game lead over Illinois (10-2). The Hawkeyes fall to 23-19 overall and 8-5 in the Big Ten.

The dueling game saw five pitchers throw, two for Ohio State and three for Iowa. Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols started and ended the game for the Buckeyes while senior Megan Miller pitched a perfect game in relief, finishing up the bottom of the second and working through the sixth inning. Nichols was the pitcher of record and notched her 20th victory of the season, scattering eight hits and allowing four earned runs in 4.2 innings. Miller limited the Hawkeyes to just three hits and zero runs in 4.1 innings pitched.

“Megan was pitching a great game and I think Mel had her best inning of the day in the ninth,” Kalafatis said. “Everyone in the Big Ten knows Iowa is a tough place to play so we had to maintain composure, especially when they took the momentum in the seventh.”

After Iowa jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, Ohio State’s Dee Dee Hillman hit a two out, RBI single to centerfield in the top of the second to score senior Rebecca Schultz who got on base with a single up the middle. With the score at 2-1, the Hawkeyes again produced a two-run inning in the bottom of the second stanza to jump ahead 4-1.

The Buckeyes tied things up at 4-all in the third, scoring three runs. Sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron, who is on a 13-game hitting streak, opened a the inning with an infield single before senior Courtney Pruner was walked and Whitney Cooper reached first on an error by the Hawkeye right fielder to load the bases. Coletta then worked the count to walk in a run before Iowa brought in Chelsea Lyon to replace Amanda Zust in the circle. Lyons was charged with an illegal pitch while facing her first batter, giving up a run as Pruner scored from third. The Hawkeyes were charged with a second illegal pitch, bringing Cooper home and prompting the Hawkeyes to bring Katie Brown in to pitch for Lyon. Iowa quickly escaped the inning, striking out Ledford and catching Coletta off of third before Schultz grounded out.

In the fifth, Ohio State took its first lead of the game after Coletta hit her first double of the day batting in the No. 6 spot and Ledford buried a single into centerfield to bring the speedy third baseman in from second.

Re-entering Nichols in the bottom of the seventh to face Liz Watkins, the Buckeyes posted two outs but the Hawkeyes were still able to move a runner to third. On an OSU error in the infield, Lindsey Digmann scored the game tying run pushing the game into extra innings.

After neither team scored in the eighth, it was all Buckeyes in the ninth as Ohio State scored the gamewinning run off back-to-back doubles before its defense retired Iowa in order.

The Buckeyes continue Big Ten action on the road, meeting Penn State for a two-game series next Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.