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Ohio State softball wins 4 games before dropping final one in USC Upstate Tournament

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OSU then-freshman pitcher Shelby Hursh (19) throws a pitch during a game against Northwestern on April 28, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

OSU then-freshman pitcher Shelby Hursh (19) throws a pitch during a game against Northwestern on April 28, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

The Buckeyes are still looking for a weekend without experiencing defeat.

This weekend in South Carolina, the Ohio State softball team (9-3) came a game away from an unblemished weekend but were defeated in their final game against South Carolina Upstate (11-2).

Three Buckeyes combined for five home runs over the weekend, three of which came from junior Alex Bayne. The outfielder now has 11 RBIs on the year, which is only two short of her 2015 total.

The tournament marked the first of 2016 in which all five OSU pitchers saw action, which allowed the team to maintain its stamina throughout the weekend. Junior Shelby Hursh now has 44 strikeouts this season, and the staff’s combined ERA is a mere 1.88.

Game 1

OSU started strong in another weekend opener with a 13-0 shutout against Virginia Tech (4-10) on Friday. The Hokies only delivered one hit, a double by redshirt senior catcher Katey Smith, and momentum remained on the Buckeyes’ side.

All of OSU’s runs were earned, and five Buckeyes contributed multiple hits. Bayne and sophomore center fielder Taylor White both had three RBIs, but sophomore pitcher Shelby McCombs led the squad with four RBIs while going 2-for-3.

McCombs, who played as the game’s designated hitter, delivered a stellar performance offensively last weekend in Atlanta, including a walk-off home run in OSU’s first matchup against Georgia Tech. McCombs got the Buckeyes on the scoreboard first with a one-out, two-run single after senior shortstop Maddy McIntyre ignited the offense with a leadoff single in the first inning. White hit a single to left field to make the game 3-0.

OSU ballooned its lead to 10 in the second inning after a handful of wild pitches by Hokies senior Maggie Tyler advanced runners into scoring position. Bayne, White and senior catcher Cammi Prantl contributed two-run singles, and junior second baseman Anna Kirk recorded an RBI with a sacrifice fly.

The Buckeyes did not become complacent though. Bayne and McCombs teamed up to deliver two home runs in the third inning and three more RBIs. Bayne now has six homers on the year, while McCombs has two.

From the mound, Hursh struck out three in her two innings pitched. The Buckeyes’ comfortable lead over the Hokies allowed freshman Katya Duvall to make her debut for the team, in which she also struck out three and earned the win.

Game 2

OSU continued an unstoppable Friday outing, beating Furman (7-9) in the second game of the doubleheader. Building upon a strong offense against the Hokies, seven Buckeyes, led by Bayne, contributed RBIs in the team’s 15-3 win.

Bayne added two home runs, one in the top of the first inning and one in the sixth. The left fielder’s bat seemed to inspire the rest of the Scarlet and Gray because the team combined for nine multiple-base hits. Prantl and sophomore Becca Gavin each hit one over the fence, and Prantl continued her streak, going 4-for-4.

These key hits provided OSU with a 7-3 lead heading into the seventh inning, after the Paladins took advantage of passed balls and a throwing error by the Buckeye defense in the sixth. Furman sophomore third baseman Brittany Houston had a two-run single to center field against freshman Morgan Ray, who had just stepped onto the mound to relieve McCombs.

The Buckeyes responded loudly in the top of the seventh and added eight more runs to solidify their win. Five of these runs were scored with two outs as the Paladins began to run out of steam. Senior first baseman Erika Leonard, senior pinch hitter Jayla Saibene and freshman second baseman Emily Clark all gave the Buckeyes a final push at the plate.

Defensively, OSU made plays that kept the Paladins from scoring or even stringing hits together. In the bottom of the third, the infield cleared the bases with a double play. In the following inning, McCombs, who got the win in the matchup, hit two batters but was able to strike out two more to get out of the situation.

Like McCombs, Furman sophomore Lindsey Bert also hit two batters, but her effort on the mound, along with that of senior Alex Sappington, could not trip up the Scarlet and Gray as they moved to an undefeated Friday.

Game 3

The Buckeyes got off to another quick start Saturday with a comfortable 9-1 win against Morehead State (5-6). Junior Lena Springer got her first chance of the weekend on the mound and her first complete game of the season.

Like its two previous matchups in South Carolina, OSU got on the board first with Leonard’s RBI groundout. The Buckeyes extended their lead to 3-0 in the second inning when Prantl singled up the middle, which was followed by two throwing errors by the Eagles.

OSU left runners on base in all six innings but still managed to chip away at Morehead State’s defense and pitchers, sophomore Mackenzie Grossmann and junior Megan Tymorek. The Buckeyes left the bases loaded in the third inning but returned in the fourth to score another run on a triple to right field by McIntyre.

The Eagles did not score until the final inning with an unearned run on senior first baseman Dana Hutchins’ double. Morehead State, which went winless over the weekend, put the ball in play but could not find gaps to send runners home.

Game 4

The Scarlet and Gray’s second matchup against Virginia Tech resulted in a much tighter contest than the first. OSU won the game 6-5 after a back-and-forth struggle over seven innings.

The Buckeyes rotated three pitchers onto the mound, starting in the second inning when Ray gave up two runs. Hursh earned the win with three innings pitched and five strikeouts, and McCombs received her first save of the season after stopping the Hokies’ offense in the final two innings.

For OSU’s offense, extra-base hits made the difference. McIntyre opened the game with a double, followed by Leonard’s RBI double to left field. The Buckeyes then extended their lead to four in the second inning, after Prantl sent a solo shot over the centerfield fence and White and Gavin stole home.

Virginia Tech responded in the bottom of the third inning when Hursh walked junior Elizabeth Birle with the bases loaded. A couple of batters later and the bases still loaded, Hursh walked sophomore center fielder Breanna Davenport for the Hokies’ second run of the inning.

The Hokies’ redshirt freshman Chelsea Whitcomb walked six batters throughout her four innings on the mound. Two of those walks set up OSU runners in scoring position in the top of the fifth inning, and both scored after White doubled on her first and only hit Saturday.

The Buckeyes’ narrow 6-4 lead tightened even more in the bottom of the fifth after two Virginia Tech hits through the gap moved freshman right fielder Emma Strouth to third base. Strouth then scored on McCombs’ wild pitch.

The game came down to the bottom of the seventh inning, but Virginia Tech went down in order to cement the Buckeyes’ second win over the Hokies and fourth of the weekend.

Game 5

Even though OSU had more hits than its final opponent of the weekend, USC Upstate edged out the Buckeyes 2-0 on Sunday. The Spartans’ two runs came from a timely home run, while the Buckeyes could not execute at the plate to bring any of their eight runners left on base home.

The first two innings were scoreless for both teams, despite a two-out double by Saibene in the second. The Buckeyes came close again in the third, when Prantl and Leonard each delivered a single with two outs, but the two seniors were left stranded on base.

USC Upstate’s offense ignited in the bottom of the third, thanks to freshman second baseman Megan Obier’s leadoff double. Freshman left fielder Brittany Case then blasted a home run to center field, giving the Spartans their 2-0 advantage.

The Buckeyes spent the next four innings trying to start a rally, but even with leadoff singles from Prantl and junior pinch hitter Jess Machovina, they could not get one sparked.

The stars of the game were the pitchers of both teams: Hursh for the Buckeyes and junior Holly McKinnon, who came on in the first after only one batter, for the Spartans. Hursh struck out seven, while McKinnon collected eight of her own.

Coming up

The Buckeyes do not see any action next weekend, but they are scheduled to head to Tempe, Arizona, from March 11 to 13 to face four opponents at the Arizona State Tournament. OSU’s first matchup is scheduled against No. 10 James Madison and is set to begin at 1 p.m.

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