Melanie Nichols pitches 11 innings, wins both games for Ohio State

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Behind the strength of 15 hits and no fielding errors, the No. 21 Ohio State softball team swept in-state rival Ohio in a doubleheader Wednesday at Buckeye Field. The Buckeyes (20-10) won, 9-4, in game one and, 9-3, in game two with freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols earning the ‘W’ in both contests as the Bobcats fall to 5-20.

“I was really happy with the way we played,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “Ohio came out and played tough but we had no errors and hit the ball hard so I am proud of that.”

With two four-run innings, Ohio State recorded a 9-4 victory vs. Ohio in game one to improve to 19-10 overall. Junior Karisa Medrano and freshman Megan Coletta both had three-RBI games while senior designated player Courtney Pruner went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI.

The Buckeyes jumped on the board in the first, as junior Dee Dee Hillman was brought in by Pruner before Medrano knocked out a three-RBI double to left bringing in seniors Sam Marder, Pruner and Rebecca Schultz. The Scarlet and Gray are now 11-1 in 2010 when scoring a run in the first inning.

Ohio starting pitcher Emily Wethington (4-7) started a comeback for the Bobcats in the second with a leadoff home run and the visiting team added two more runs before the inning was over making it a 4-3 ballgame after two.

In the top of the third, freshman Melanie Nichols came in to relieve starting pitcher Megan Miller and took control, allowing just four hits and one run in the remaining five innings for her ninth win of the season. In the bottom of the stanza, the Buckeyes added four more runs after Pruner hit her 32nd career home and freshman Megan Coletta hit an atypical three-RBI single. With the bases loaded, the Buckeye third baseman cleared the left field fence but while running the bases, Coletta passed the OSU runner on first and was ruled out. Still, Ohio State distanced itself from Ohio, leading 8-3 after three.

The Buckeyes tacked on a single run in the bottom of the fourth while the Bobcats added a run of their own in the top of the fifth for the 9-4 final. Ohio State’s Katie Simonton scored an unearned run while pinch running for Marder in the fourth. After stealing second and advancing to third on a Herron single, Simonton came home as Pruner took first on an error by Ohio’s centerfielder.

Ohio State ended the game with eight hits and eight RBI while Ohio had nine runs. Nichols allowed four hits and one run while striking out two.

Game two started knotted up at 2-all after the first before Ohio took a one-run lead in the third. That all changed when sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron pounded the scoreboard at Buckeye Field for a two-out, two-run home run to right center to give the Buckeyes a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

“Alicia has come up with some big shots for us when we needed her in the last couple of games,” Kalafatis said of Herron who ended the game 2-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI.

To begin the game, Ohio put up two runs and Ohio State answered with two of its own in the first. With runners on second and third, senior catcher Sam Marder hit a two-RBI single deep into right-center field to up her all-time OSU career RBI record to 170.

After neither team scored in the second, the Bobcats took a one-run lead in the third as first baseman Emily Wethington knocked a tricky double up through the left side and scored two batters later when Paige Kemezis hit an RBI single to centerfield.

In the fifth, the Scarlet and Gray distanced themselves from Ohio as they did in game one, scoring five unearned runs. Highlighting the half was Marder’s RBI double to center, her second double of the day, which scored Herron for the ninth and final run of the game. The RBI boosts Marder’s career record to 171.

Nichols, who pitched 11 innings on the day, fanned six batters in six innings in game two for her 10th victory of the season. The freshman from San Jacinto, Calif., is the first Ohio State pitcher to get to double-digit wins in 2010. Junior Karisa Medrano pitched her first inning for the Buckeyes this season, striking out one.

For the game, senior outfielder Leah Ledford went 2-for-3 and scored a run while Marder was 2-for-3 with three RBI.

“It was great to have the opportunity to pitch Medrano for an inning,” Kalafatis said. “It also was good to see Leah come along and hit some tough balls out there and get into a groove.”

The Buckeyes jump right back into action at 4 p.m. Friday for a single game against Butler (23-3) at Buckeye Field.