Freshman delivers bases-loaded, two-out shot to wall in Buckeyes’ final Big Ten home game

COLUMBUS, Ohio Ohio State freshman Rachael Shepherd picked a good time for her first game-winning hit. With two outs, the bases loaded and the game tied at  3-3, Shepherd lined a one-ball, two-strike offering from Penn State’s Jackie Hill off the wall in straight-away centerfield to give the Buckeye softball team a 4-3 walk-off win over the Nittany Lions.

Seniors Liz Caputo and Brittany Vanderink were honored after the game following the final home Big Ten contest of their illustrious careers. They both broke into the starting lineup as freshmen and then helped lead the Buckeyes win the Big Ten championship last season.

With the doubleheader split, Ohio State is now 27-20 overall and 5-11 in the Big Ten, while Penn State slips to 31-16 overall and 5-7 in the league.

Trailing 3-2 heading into Ohio State’s final at bat, Caputo led off the bottom of the seventh inning with her first double of the season a fly ball over the leftfielders’ head. With Caputo on second after a sacrifice bunt by freshman Dee Dee Hillman, Penn State intentionally walked sophomore Sam Marder, bringing freshman Karisa Medrano to the plate. Medrano drew a full-count walk to load the bases, but Hill was able to get a shallow fly out to centerfield to keep the bases loaded and send Ohio State to its final out still trailing by a run.

Sophomore Tory Haddad then saw Hill throw three straight balls before throwing a strike to move the count to 3-1. Haddad swung at the next offering to produce a full count, then took a pitch down and in to earn a walk and force home Caputo for the game-tying run.

After dropping an 11-inning heartbreaker in the first game Sunday, Ohio State would not let the nightcap go extra innings. With sophomore Leah Ledford on third base pinch-running for Marder, Shepherd calmly scorched a line drive to centerfield that came within about a foot of leaving the yard for a walk-off grand slam. It goes down as a single officially since Ledford needed to advance only one base for the game-winning run, but nevertheless it gave the Buckeyes their fifth walk-off win of the season.

“In the past we would have let those early deficits affect us, but today we decided to just forget about it and continued to play hard like we did early on this season,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “We came out today and said we were going to fight the whole day, both games, and that was going to be our mentality.”

Ohio State sophomore pitcher Megan Miller did a lot of that fighting, holding the Nittany Lions to six hits and allowing only one earned run. She walked three, struck out two and stranded six in improving to 7-4 and 2-1 in Big Ten games. Miller retired the last seven PSU batters of the game in order to give Ohio State a chance to win it at the end.

Ashley Esparza’s solo home run in the top of the first inning staked Penn State to an early 1-0 lead, but the Buckeyes reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the first with a pair of unearned runs. Senior Brittany Vanderink singled through the left side, then PSU third-baseman Desi Giordano committed a pair of errors on grounders hit by OSU sophomore Tory Haddad and freshman Rachael Shepherd. The first error allowed Vanderink to score, then sophomore Whitney Cooper singled through the left side to send Haddad home.

The Ohio State lead would be short lived, however, as the Nittany Lions answered with two runs in the top of the second. Hill knocked an RBI single and Ashley Griffith added an RBI single to erase the Buckeyes’ lead and put Penn State on top, 3-2.

That is where the score would remain until Ohio State’s game-winning two-run outburst in the bottom of the seventh.

Shepherd and sophomore Whitney Cooper both had two-hit games for Ohio State.

Ohio State wraps up the eight-game home stand at 5 p.m. Wednesday against Ball State in a doubleheader.

Postgame Notes Ohio State 4, Penn State 3  GAME TWO … April 20, 2008
– Not in the Box Score: The win marked Ohio State’s fifth walk-off win of the season. The Buckeyes have not had an opponent register a walk-off win against them this season.
– Ohio State is now 11-5 in one-run games this season.
– The win marked the Buckeyes’ ninth come-from-behind victory of the season.
– Buckeyes at the plate: Senior Brittany Vanderink’s single in the first inning was her 207th-career hit, which ties Megan Schwab (2004-07) for seventh-place all-time at Ohio State in base hits.
– Vanderink’s run scored in the first inning was her 125th as a Buckeye, which moves her past Schwab for fifth-place all-time at Ohio State.
– Buckeyes in the circle: Sophomore Megan Miller threw her fifth complete game of the season and with only one earned run allowed, lowered her ERA in Big Ten games from 4.01 to 3.30.
– Weather: Partly cloudy and 64 degrees at first pitch. No wind.
– The Buckeyes are now 39-26 all-time against Penn State, including 17-5 at Buckeye Field.

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Contact: Tim Stried,