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Ohio State softball wins 3 of 4 games to open up 2016 season

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Shelby Hursh (19) winds up a pitch for Sarah Gutknecht (27) of Michigan State during the Ohio State versus Michigan State softball game Saturday March 22, 2014. The Buckeyes beat the Spartans in back-to-back games, scoring 11-7 and 4-3.

Shelby Hursh (19) winds up a pitch for Sarah Gutknecht (27) of Michigan State during the Ohio State versus Michigan State softball game Saturday March 22, 2014. The Buckeyes won. Credit: Lantern file photo

In softball, consistent control of the game is the key to winning. The Ohio State softball team did just that in its opening weekend at the LSU Tiger Classic. The Buckeyes went 3-1 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, losing only to No. 3 LSU.

OSU’s offense was led by sophomore third baseman Ashley Goodwin, who went 4-for-8 with four RBIs in the four-game outing. Goodwin and junior left fielder Alex Bayne both hit a home run, while six different Buckeyes contributed RBIs.

On the mound, junior Shelby Hursh picked up two of the wins, striking out 10 over the three games she saw action. Freshman Morgan Ray, sophomore Shelby McCombs and junior Lena Springer also had strong showings in their opening weekends.

Game 1

Despite allowing Pacific to get on the board first, the OSU dominated its first game of the 2016 season, beating the Tigers 4-2.

Ray started the game but was relieved by Hursh, who earned the win, in the top of the second. From there, Hursh struck out five, while giving up three hits.

For the Buckeyes, the key was timely two-out hitting, where batters were .455 at the plate. In the second inning, Bayne doubled to drive in Goodwin and put OSU on the scoreboard. Goodwin had a single to center field to start the rally. A Pacific error allowed Bayne to score from third, putting the Buckeyes up 2-1.

With a snap throw to catch senior second basemen Nicole Zapotoczny, who was the top hitter Friday for the Tigers, stealing second, senior catcher Cammi Prantl kept the momentum on OSU’s side heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.

With the bases loaded, the Tigers made a pitching change but could not offset an already-fierce Buckeye offense. Sophomore center fielder Taylor White, who along with Bayne went 2-for-3, put the Scarlet and Gray up 3-1, driving in junior third baseman Anna Kirk. Senior shortstop Maddy McIntyre continued the streak with a two-out single, sending Bayne in to score.

Pacific narrowed the Buckeyes’ lead to two in the top of the fifth inning, but the Tigers could not string enough hits together to score any more runs.

Game 2

In their second Friday matchup, the Buckeyes fell 9-0 to LSU in five innings. OSU gave up five runs in the first inning, giving the Tigers early control of the game.

Like the game before, the Buckeyes’ pitching rotation had a tough time settling in. McCombs, a transfer from Louisville, started the game, only to be relieved by Springer. The pair combined to allow seven earned runs with zero strikeouts.

McCombs opened the bottom of the first with two walks, followed by a bases-loaded situation. LSU senior shortstop Bianka Bell was then hit by a pitch, thus walking home a run to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Sophomore pitcher Carley Hoover struck out five Buckeyes, who went just 2-for-18 at the plate. The Scarlet and Gray were 0-for-5 in situations with runners in scoring position or with two outs.

White and freshman right fielder Brianna Betschel each had a hit for OSU, but the rest of the lineup had difficulty battling Hoover’s effort from the mound.

Game 3

With two games under its belt, OSU came out on top in their first game Saturday, beating Connecticut 7-1.

After coming in as a reliever on Friday, Hursh got the start, striking out four batters in three innings. McCombs, who claimed the win, added five strikeouts once she took over in the bottom of the fourth.

The Buckeyes’ offense, which was jumpstarted by an RBI single by freshman catcher Emily Clark, scored three runs in the second inning. Goodwin, who had four RBIs, homered to left field to continue the scoring streak.

The Huskies were hitless through the first three innings, failing to deliver with the bases loaded. Their first run came in on a walk after an error by the OSU defense led to another bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the fourth.

Despite a pitching change by UConn in the fifth, the Buckeyes put four more on the scoreboard. Senior Jayla Saibene came in to pinch hit for junior second baseman Anna Kirk, contributing two RBIs on a single. Goodwin continued her streak by adding another pair of RBIs with a double.

Along with Saibene, junior Jesse Machovina delivered a single as a pinch hitter. The game against the Huskies was the first appearance by the utility player since the 2014 season because she spent 2015 recovering from surgery.

Fifteen Buckeyes saw action in the matchup, giving players a chance to show their versatility as the season continues.

Game 4

In their final game of the weekend, the Buckeyes defeated North Florida 2-1 despite being outhit by North Florida . A blown save in the seventh wiped out the shutout, but a walkoff double by Machovina in the bottom of the inning sent the Buckeyes out of Louisiana with another win.

OSU went down in order in the first inning, but a single by McIntyre rejuvenated the offense in the second. However, the Buckeyes could not deliver a run.

The Ospreys threatened with runners in scoring position in the third inning, but a double play kept the game scoreless. Throughout the weekend, OSU’s defense was successful in getting out of scoring situations, which kept control of the game on its side.

Bayne, who had gone 0-for-3 in the previous game, hit a solo shot to center field to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 in the bottom of the third inning.

Springer started the game, pitching four innings and striking out two. Ray and Hursh also contributed from the mound, with the latter picking up her second win of the season.

North Florida’s offense was led by freshman utility player Navia Penrod, but its only run came from a passed ball in the seventh inning.

The Buckeyes responded in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win. Machovina hit the walkoff double to center field, which gave Kirk the opportunity to score.

Again, OSU’s coaching staff rotated players, like Machovina, into the game, which provided for key plays on both offense and defense.

What’s next

The Buckeyes are next scheduled to travel to the Atlantic Coast Conference/Big Ten Challenge in Atlanta from Feb. 19-21, where they are slated to face Georgia Tech and Syracuse twice each.

 

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