May 6, 2017
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URBANA, Ill. – Taylor White used her bat, speed and arm to lift Ohio State to a 7-4 series-opening victory over No. 22 Illinois on Friday night at Eichelberger Field in Urbana, Ill. With the win, the Buckeyes – who earned another win this year against a ranked opponent – improve to 32-14 overall, 14-7 in the Big Ten while the Illini are now 35-16, 13-7.
THE SHORT STORY
White provided the biggest hit of the game – a first-inning grand slam – and made two key defensive plays in the fifth inning to help keep a potent Illinois offense at bay while Morgan Ray came on to record three outs in the seventh inning for her second save of the season. White’s grand slam was part of a five-RBI effort that now gives her 32 in 21 Big Ten games.
HOW THE RUNS WERE SCORED
• A quick-staring Buckeye offense put for runs on the board before Illinois even came to bat. The first three batters of the game – Anna Kirk, Alex Bayne and Lilli Piper – got on via a hit by pitch, walk and single, respectively. After Emily Clark grounded into a fielder’s choice, White homered deep over the left field fence on a 1-1 pitch from Illinois starter Breanna Wonderly. It was White’s ninth home run of the year and second grand slam in conference play.
• Ohio State extended its lead to 5-0 in the top of the second when Lilli Piper, who was 3-for-4 on the day, drove home Kirk via a two-out double to left center. Kirk had reached when she legged on an infield bunt single between the catcher, pitcher and third baseman.
• After holding Illinois – one of the top offensive teams in the conference – scoreless over the first two innings, the Buckeyes surrended two runs in the bottom of the third after Stephanie Abello doubled to left center with the bases loaded, scoring Nicole Evans and Ruby Rivera. Ohio State was able to avoid further damage, however, by recording the final two outs on a fly out to center and a fielder’s choice to second.
• The score stayed at 5-2 in favor of the Scarlet and Gray until the top of the sixth inning when Ohio State tacked on what proved to be a pair of key insurance runs. It started when Bri Betshcel reached on an error and continued when Kirk also benefited from an error as she was attempting to sacrifice Kirk to second. With runners on the corner and one out, Piper lofted a ball then fell in front of the centerfielder, allowing Betschel to score. After a pop out by Clark, White drove in her fifth run of the game with a single to left field, making the score 7-2.
• Illinois put together a seventh-inning rally when Rivera scored from third on a wild pitch (she had walked to lead off the inning) and Leigh Farina grounded out to shortstop with the bases loaded, but Morgan Ray shut the door by getting Maddi Doane to ground in to a game-ending fielder’s choice.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
• Holding a 5-2 lead in to the bottom of the fifth, White backed up her performance at the plate with a pair of defensive gems in the outfield that prevented Illini runs from scoring. After a one-out walk to Evans, Abello sent a shot to straightaway centerfield, but White tracked it down at the wall for the second out of the inning. Two batters later, Rowan McGuire singled to center and White quickly picked up the ball and fired a perfect strike home to throw out Evans at the plate for the final out of the inning. White also made a key throw home in the third inning that prevented an Illinois run to come home on what would have been a sacrifice fly.
• Illinois left two runners on base in the bottom of the first immediately after the Buckeyes took their 4-0 lead. The second batter of the inning – Alyssa Gunther – walked and stole second and with two out Evans also walked, but Shelby Hursh struck out Abello swinging for the final out of the half inning.
• Ray entered the game with no outs and two on after a pair of walks in the bottom of the seventh. She promptly struck out Abello for the first out and recorded the last two on a pair of groundouts for her second save in the last seven days.
STARS OF THE GAME
White: 3-for-4, HR, 5 RBI
Piper: 3-for-4, 2B
Hursh: 6.0 IP, 5 hits allowed, 3 earned runs
Ray: 1.0 IP, save, 1 K
STREAKS AND SNIPITS
• The Buckeyes now own 11 true road wins on the year with six of those coming in conference play.
• White’s 32 RBI in Big Ten-only games are the second most in the conference. She now is just nine shy of 100 for her career.
• With three hits on the night, Piper is now batting .416 for the season and .424 in Big Ten games. She has a team-high 21 multi-hit games.
• Ohio State owns multiple wins over ranked opponents for the fourth consecutive season. In 2017, they’ve knocked off No. 16 Michigan and No. 22 Illinois. The Buckeyes also have wins against North Carolina and Missouri, who were ranked previously this season.
• White’s grand slam was Ohio State’s seventh of the season. The Buckeyes and currently third in the league with 56 home runs on the year.
• In her last seven appearances, Ray is 2-1 with two saves, a 0.93 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. She’s given up just eight hits in that span with a .111 batting average against.
• Before the game, Illinois honored Ohio State assistant coach Jenna Hall with a video board tribute. Hall was the Illini’s first All-American and a finalist for the 2006 National Player of the Year award.
Ohio State and Illinois continue their series tomorrow with a 1 p.m. game at Eichelberger Field. Live stats can be found on OhioStateBuckeyes.com and a stream of the game is available at FightingIllini.com (subscription required).