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Ohio State softball uses timely hits to split 4-game weekend in the desert

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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 Ohio State softball team (11-6) continued to build upon its past momentum this weekend in Tempe, Arizona, going 2-2. Out of the Buckeyes’ four games, three were played against top 25 teams, including an upset over No. 18 Arizona State.

From the mound, four OSU pitchers combined for 23 strikeouts, approximately half of which came from junior Shelby Hursh.

Nine out of the Buckeyes’ 27 runs this weekend came during two-out situations. Both sophomore center fielder Taylor White and first baseman Erika Leonard had extra-base hits in three games. The senior Leonard also had two home runs and five RBIs, while junior Anna Kirk chipped in six RBIs.

Game 1

OSU’s first game in Tempe ended in a 7-4 loss to No. 9 James Madison (22-2). The Buckeyes left runners on base in five innings and, despite big hits from senior shortstop Maddy McIntyre, Leonard and Prantl, could not start the weekend with a win.

The Dukes took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a home run by senior Jailyn Ford. Ford, who relieved sophomore Megan Good in the third, was also the winning pitcher.

OSU’s White, who doubled earlier in the inning, scored on second baseman Kirk’s single in the second.

The Buckeyes extended their lead to 3-2 in the third inning with Leonard’s two-run homer to left field. But in response, James Madison added two runs, one on a passed ball and the other on a sacrifice fly by junior second baseman Madyson Moran.

McIntyre, who had four RBIs over the weekend, attempted to start an OSU streak with a two-out, RBI double but was left stranded.

The Dukes then stretched their lead to four in the fifth inning when junior Taylor Newton brought three runs home with her four-bagger to left center.

A trio of OSU pitchers faced James Madison batters in the matchup, but only Hursh contributed any strikeouts. Sophomore Shelby McCombs gave up four runs, while junior Lena Springer held the Dukes at seven runs during the final two innings.

Game 2

OSU bounced back in its second game Friday against Georgetown (5-16). After a tight struggle for most of the game, the Buckeyes came out on top, beating the Hoyas 8-4.

Prantl, White and Leonard remained a threatening force in the middle of the lineup, while Hursh and freshman Morgan Ray each struck out four Hoyas.

White and Georgetown senior Taylor Henry had the only two extra-base hits of the game, making the effectiveness of strategic and timely singles the key for both offenses.

The Buckeyes swiftly gained momentum in the second inning, thanks to Leonard’s leadoff single. The first baseman’s shot down the left-field line opened the door for freshman second baseman Emily Clark’s two-run single to center.

A pair of hits, including Henry’s double, gave Georgetown a run, but redshirt junior Alex Bayne’s speed put the Buckeyes up two once again in the third inning.

The Hoyas took advantage of a fruitless fourth by OSU when they added two runs of their own on a fielding error by Hursh.

Prantl responded with a leadoff single in the fifth inning, and the catcher scored on a fielder’s choice. Leonard also extended her dominant weekend with a line drive to right field.

A tight 4-3 game in the sixth inning motivated the Buckeyes to score three runs on a pair of big singles from Leonard and White, both of whom had two RBIs in the game. OSU then cemented its win in the final inning, thanks to Bayne’s infield single.

Only one of the Hoyas’ four runs was earned, but the Buckeyes’ defense forced Georgetown to strand runners in all seven innings.

Game 3

OSU’s lone game Saturday ended in a tough 5-4 loss to No. 23 Nebraska, which is currently second in the Big Ten behind Michigan.

The Cornhuskers (15-6) trailed the Buckeyes for most of the game, but they grabbed the win after a big final inning.

Both Leonard and Prantl continued their impressive weekends with back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the first. These two hits extended the seniors’ hitting streaks to eight games each, while also bumping their home run count to three.

Nebraska senior shortstop Alicia Armstrong answered promptly with a single that drove in two runs and tied the game. OSU retorted with two runs of its own, one on a squeeze bunt by sophomore Becca Gavin and the other on a deep double by McIntyre.

Springer, who is boasting an ERA of 1.48, aided the Buckeyes in keeping control of the game until the top of the sixth. The Cornhuskers exploded with the final three runs of the game, thanks to a pair of two-out hits by Armstrong and sophomore Kaylan Jablonski.

The matchup ended with a double play by the Nebraska infield to hand OSU a winless Saturday.

Game 4

With a six-run final inning to thank, OSU bested No. 18 Arizona State 11-5 in its final game of the weekend.

Following back-to-back singles by freshman Taylor Becerra and senior Abby Spiel, the Sun Devils took control of the game in the first inning.

The Scarlet and Gray responded with three quick singles by Leonard, White and Goodwin to level the game in the second. The Buckeyes had another chance to extend their lead in the following inning, but Leonard could not bring Bayne and Prantl around the bases.

Goodwin then hit a two-out, RBI double in the top of the fourth, while Arizona State left a runner stranded in the bottom of the inning. But the Sun Devils took advantage of a two-out walk when junior center fielder Jennifer Soria crushed an RBI double to tie the game. Sophomore Nicole Chilson followed with a single to right field to bring in the go-ahead run.

After the Sun Devils regained the lead, McCombs relieved Ray to try and get out of the inning. Ray finished the game with two strikeouts and one walk.

Goodwin, with her second homer of the season, brought in freshman Bri Betschel to put OSU on top once again in the top of the sixth. Bayne extended the lead to two with an RBI single to left field. The two runs prompted Arizona State to make a change inside the circle, as redshirt junior Kelsey Klesser relieved sophomore Breanna Matcha.

In the bottom of the sixth, OSU made its own pitching change, subbing Springer for McCombs. The junior promptly walked in a run to make the game 5-4 heading into the final inning.

Redshirt junior Jess Machovina extended her ongoing role as designated hitter by bringing in Leonard, who had doubled to start the inning, with a single to left-center field. McIntyre and Bayne continued tack on runs with a two-run double and a squeeze bunt, respectively.

The Sun Devils could not come back from the seven-run deficit in the bottom of the final inning, giving the Buckeyes their second win of the weekend.

Coming up

The Buckeyes are set to face San Diego State on Wednesday before playing four games in the San Diego State Tournament from Thursday to Sunday. OSU’s matchup against the Aztecs is slated to start at 9 p.m.

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