May 2, 2001
COLUMBUS, Ohio- The schedule lists the game between the Ohio State softball team (44-16 overall, 12-6 in the Big Ten) and Akron played at Firestone Stadium Wednesday night as an away game for the Buckeyes, but in many ways the 4-1 win over the Zips had the feel of a Buckeye homecoming.
OSU head coach Linda Kalafatis coached the Zips from 1994-96 before taking over the OSU program. Assistant coaches Belinda Cernava and Drema Neal both served on Kalafatis’ staff at Akron before joining Kalafatis in Columbus.
Katie Chain (So., North Canton, Ohio/Hoover), Liz Kacsanek (Uniontown, Ohio/Green) and Holly English (Sr., Akron, Ohio/Springfield) all received a warm welcome when their hometowns were announced. All three gave those who came to see the Akron-area Buckeyes return something to cheer about.
Chain improved her record to 22-5 – two wins away from tying the OSU record for wins in a season – by striking out 10 and allowing just three hits in the complete-game effort.
After holding the Zips scoreless for three innings, Chain gave up a home run to designated player Tiffany McCoy, but rebounded to hold Akron scoreless for the remainder of the game.
“Katie has thrown a lot of games and a lot of innings lately and I was concerned she would be tired,” Kalafatis said. “But I knew she would be excited to play in front of her hometown people. I think she threw well. The changeup was a big part of the evening. It wasn’t always there for strikes, but it worked favorably for her.
“She had one bad pitch that a really good player (McCoy) took care of. Other than that, I thought she threw fantastic.”
Chain said she noticed a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, which brought out her best.
“It felt like high school again,” Chain said. “I think I play better in front of people I know.”
Following the home run she gave up, Chain struck out leftfielder Kerstin Sewell to end the inning. The Zips managed just one hit the rest of the evening.
“My goal this year has been to strike out the next batter after I give up a home run and to move on,” Chain said. “I did that tonight.”
Added Kalafatis, “Katie’s maturing. She learned a lot from two Big Ten seasons.”
Chrissy Fowler (Jr., Utica, Ohio/Utica) and Sarah West (Jr., Galloway, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) provided offensive spark for the Buckeyes, each going 3-for-4 from the plate.
Fowler put OSU up 1-0 in the top of the first with a single to center field that scored Wendy Allen (Fr., Moreno Valley, Calif./ Moreno Valley). Allen had reached first on a throwing error by pitcher Tina McCauley.
OSU added a run in the second inning when Anna Smith (Jr., Walnut, Calif./Diamond Bar), pinch running for West, who singled and reached second on a throwing error by shortstop Angie Hill, scored another error by Hill on a ground ball from Kacsanek.
West opened the third inning with a single to right center field. She moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Rogeanna Hottinger (So., Newark, Ohio/Newark). English, playing in just her second game after returning from surgery in game two of a doubleheader Tuesday, followed with a single to right field to score West.
“That was nice to see,” Kalafatis said of English’s RBI. “We weren’t sure if she was ready to start, just coming back. It was a last minute decision to start her. She made a nice adjustment on the pitch and dumped the ball in to bring in a run. She came through in a really key situation for us.”
After the Akron home run by McCoy narrowed the OSU lead to 3-1, the Buckeyes added a run in the top of the sixth. A single by Kristi DeVries (Fr., Corona, Calif./Corona) scored West from second base. West had singled to center field to open the inning and moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt
Known for her defense at shortstop, Kacsanek did not disappoint the gathering from nearby Uniontown.
“Liz played like she has all season,” Kalafatis said. “There is a reason why she has only three errors on the season: she makes plays with her glove and she did that tonight in front of her hometown friends and family.”
Chain finished strong, striking out the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.
The Buckeyes conclude the regular season this weekend, playing host to Penn State in single games Saturday and Sunday.