COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 11-ranked and seeded Ohio State softball team advanced to the Super Regional for the first time in six trips to the NCAA Tournament after taking down Kentucky, 7-2, Saturday afternoon at New Buckeye Field in the regional round of competition. Four players Alicia Herron, Sam Marder, Courtney Pruner and Vanessa Spears each hit a homerun in the win, while Kim Reeder took over the top spot among all-time winningest Buckeye pitchers on both the career and season charts.
Ohio State stands at 47-9 with second-most wins in school history, trailing the 2002 team by eight (55), and will take on Georgia in the Super Regional beginning Thursday after the Bulldogs captured the Chapel Hill Regional with three-consecutive wins. The site for the meeting between the Bulldogs and Buckeyes will officially be announced by the NCAA later this weekend.
“I cannot say enough about how our kids have fought, persevered and worked through tough stuff,” head coach Linda Kalafatis said. “We knew we had the ingredients. We knew we had some kids that really, really wanted this badly. Our leadership has been excellent and we feel like we are a veteran team. Even our young kids; they have mixed in well. We felt like if we stayed on the right path [this season], then we would do it.”
Ohio State, playing as the designated visitor’s, started things off early with a 1-0 lead off of a solo homerun from Spears in the second at-bat of the game. The Buckeyes added a run to their lead in the top of the second inning with back-to-back singles before Dee Dee Hillman brought in a run from second with a double into left center for the 2-0 advantage.
In a wild second inning Kentucky plated two to tie the ballgame, taking advantage of two errors by the Buckeyes. Brittany Cervantes led off the inning and went on to score the first run off a Rachel Riley single through the right side. Ohio State staved off another run when a Wildcat runner was called for interference during a run-down between third and home, but an error in the outfield allowed Jennifer Young to cross the plate and tie the game in the bottom of the second.
With their backs against the wall, the Buckeyes fell back on what they have done best all season hitting homers. Ohio State pulled away with a three-run fifth inning off the Marder and Pruner out-of-the-park hits to take a 5-2 lead. Hillman reached base on a throwing error by the Kentucky second baseman, advancing to second and then making her way to third on a ground out to Spears. Marder, the all-time leader in season and career homers, tallied the two-run blast for her 19th of the season before Pruner, just two batters later, hit a solo shot to left center.
Ohio State added to its lead with the fourth homerun of the game in the top of the seventh. After Hillman reached on an error the Buckeyes drove in two more runs on the round-tripper by Herron making the final margin of 7-2.
Kentucky went down in order off three-consecutive ground-outs to close out the game, giving Reeder her 26th win of the year (26-5) and 77th of her four-year career (77-40) both of which stand as new records for Ohio State.
Stay tuned to OhioStateBuckeyes.com for details on the Super Regional match-up with the Bulldogs.