ATHENS, Ga. Courtney Pruner hit a three-run homerun in the top of the third inning that gave the No. 11-seeded Ohio State softball team a four-run lead, but sixth-seeded Georgia scored six unanswered runs to give the Buckeyes a 6-4 loss in the NCAA Super Regional Thursday night at UGA Softball Stadium. This was the Buckeyes’ first game in program history in the Super Regional round as they drop to 47-10 on the season and 3-1 in the NCAA Tournament. Georgia improves to 43-11 overall and 4-0 in the tourney.
“This is certainly frustrating, but the future is under our control” head coach Linda Kalafatis said. “We made some mistakes in the field tonight and had some missed calls, but recognizing your mistakes is the first step to correcting them. I think we are confident in our ability to correct those mistakes before tomorrow and force a third game. The Big Ten schedule and the number of the doubleheaders that we have played this season has prepared us mentally and physically for the test that lays ahead tomorrow.”
Alisa Goler homered twice for Georgia, putting up a pair of solo shots to lead the comeback effort and marking just the third time this season the Buckeyes have given up two opponent homeruns in a single game.
Pruner’s blast was her 11th of the season and the sixth for the Buckeyes this postseason. The team now has 67 on the year, a mark that continues to exceed the previous record of 54 set during the 2002 season.
Lindsay Bodeker absorbed the loss, dropping her record to 16-5 after she relieved starter Kim Reeder in the fifth inning. Reeder pitched four complete innings before giving up three runs in the fifth and making way for Bodeker who allowed the final four, earning three.
An untimely mistake by the Bulldogs gave Ohio State the early lead in the top of the first. Three-consecutive walks by starting pitcher Christie Hamilton loaded the bases for the Buckeyes and caused the hurler to get pulled with just one out in favor of Sarah McCloud, who pitched Whitney Cooper to a 2-2 count before an illegal pitch set things in motion. By stepping outside of the pitching box, McCloud gave all Buckeye runners a base and Vanessa Spears returned home for the score.
They went on to stretch the lead to four in the top of the third with Pruner’s blast. Sam Marder was intentionally walked before giving way to Katie Simonton as a pinch runner and the speedy freshman advanced to second on a passed ball. Cooper took the open base with a single to third base, advancing Simonton to third and putting runners on the corner for Pruner, who took the 0-1 pitch and sent it high over the right field wall, clearing the row of evergreens in the distance.
Georgia cut the score the 4-1 with a solo homerun in the fifth by Goler, just the eighth given up by Reeder this season, and ignited a five-run rally in the inning that put the Bulldogs on top 5-4. After a single and a RBI double from Brianna Hesson that made the score 4-2, Reeder gave way to Bodeker with zero outs in the fifth. With an inherited runner on second, Bodeker gave up two more hits in the inning that, combined with an error in the Buckeye infield, led to three more runs, one credited to Reeder and one of the remaining two earned by Bodeker.
Trailing 5-4, the Buckeyes went down in order in the top of the sixth and went on to give up a sixth and final run in the bottom half of the inning with a solo homer to Goler to right center to lead off the inning. Bodeker forced three ground outs from the next four batters to end the inning, but the Ohio State was unable to put anything in play, going down in three in the seventh.
The Buckeyes and Bulldogs take the field at 4:30 p.m. Friday in game two of the series LIVE on ESPN. If Ohio State wins, it will force a third contest in the best-of-three series, set to be played at 7:05 p.m. or 20 minutes following the conclusion of game two. The winner of the Super Regional advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., beginning May 27. Neither team has ever made a trip to the WCWS.