COLUMBUS, Ohio – Whitney Cooper hit a two-homerun in the bottom of the sixth inning to break open a 15-15 tie and score the deciding runs in the No. 16 Ohio State softball team’s 17-15 win Sunday afternoon at New Buckeye Field. The game, which lasted three hours and 27 minutes, gave the Buckeyes their eighth-consecutive win with a 32-6 overall record and a  9-1 mark in the Big Ten, while moving into a first-place tie with Northwestern at the top of the conference standings. Illinois drops to 22-12 on the season and 5-4 in the conference.

The 32 runs scored Saturday were the highest in Buckeye Field (new or old) history, eclipsing the 21 scored last season against Illinois in Ohio State’s 11-10 win, and the second-most in Big Ten history.

Illinois pulled out to a 4-0 lead after 1.5 innings to mark just the eighth time this season an Ohio State opponent has put itself on the board first. The Buckeyes came back, however, with seven runs in the bottom half of the inning to pull ahead 7-4. Ohio State battled back in the bottom half of the inning, using four walks and a grand slam en route to a seven-run inning. The Buckeyes loaded the bases after an error, pair of walks and a fielder’s choice, then a wild pitch plated OSU’s first run from Alicia Herron. After a bases-loaded walk made it 4-2, All-American and player of the year finalist Sam Marder smacked a grand slam over the wall in left field to put the Buckeyes on top, 6-4. Ohio State added one more run on a RBI single from Courtnet Pruner that plated Whitney Cooper.

The two teams continued to battle back and forth, as Illinois went back on top in the third thanks to a two-run shot to left field by Katrina Ross and Pinchback’s two-RBI base-knock, but the Buckeyes responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to once again take a one-run lead. Tory Haddad hit a two-RBI double to left center that sent Marder and Vanessa Spears home to make the score 9-8 after three innings.

The fourth passed quietly with neither team scoring before Illinois once again took the lead in the fifth with four runs. OSU cut the lead to two thanks to another Illini error in the fifth, but Illinois came back with another homerun, a three-run blast by  Kelley Wedel that extended the Illini’s lead to 15-10.

Again, though, the Buckeyes were not deterred, putting up another seven-run inning in the bottom of the sixth. Haddad’s three-run double tied the game, scoring Spears, Dee Dee Hillman and Katie Simonton, as a pinch runner for Marder before Cooper’s two-run homer gave OSU the lead for good.

Both starting pitchers exited the game early before re-entering later and become the pitchers of record. Buckeye starter Lindsay Bodeker (12-3) picked up the win, going 4 1/3 allowing seven earned runs on eight hits. Kim Reeder pitched 2 2/3 relief innings, giving up six earned runs on eight hits. Illini hurler Monica Perry (17-10) took the loss, tossing 1 2/3 innings to start the game, then re-entered for the final 1/3.

The Buckeyes return to action at 5 p.m. Wednesday with a single game against non-conference foe Evansville at New Buckeye Field. Admission is free.