The Ohio State softball team’s bats waited until the second game of a matinee doubleheader against Penn State to get going. But with junior Shelby Hursh not allowing a single hit in Game 1, the Buckeyes really weren’t required to hit much.
OSU (21-8-1, 6-1-1) secured two wins against Penn State (17-16, 6-2) on Wednesday behind the strength of Hursh in the first game and potent offense in the second. The Buckeyes had to overcome a nearly two-hour rain delay in Game 2 to pull off the sweep.
The blustery weather and early start time might have kept fans from filling the stands at Buckeye Field, but that did not stop Hursh from tossing seven dominant innings in the first game. The Buckeyes had not seen a no-hitter since 2014, which was also accomplished by Hursh, that time against Utah Valley.
“I definitely knew, but we don’t talk about it because we think it jinxes it,” she said, when asked about what was going through her head throughout the game.
On the day, sophomore Taylor White went 5-for-7, while junior Alex Bayne added her 13th and 14th home runs of the year and tacked on five RBIs to her team-high total of 32. Bayne is now five homers away from breaking the team’s single-season record, with 20 games still remaining.
Senior catcher Cammi Prantl hit two doubles and a home run in the second game to bring in four runs, while redshirt junior Jess Machovina drove in three runs on a home run and single.
“I’m just glad to be back on the field playing, and my hitting’s coming through,” Machovina said. “I can finally produce for the team, and that feels so good.”
In her 12th start of the season, Hursh took the mound on the windy morning to throw her second career no-hitter in the Buckeyes’ 3-0 win on the Nittany Lions.
Hursh struck out 10 in what turned out to be a war of pitchers against Penn State junior Marlaina Laubach, who registered six of her own.
The weekly noon tornado test sirens wailed as Hursh recorded the final out of the game, a swinging strikeout by Penn State left fielder Macy Jones.
“I think it has a lot to do with pitch-calling,” Hursh said. “(Prantl) did a great job, and she always just works so hard behind the plate.”
OSU’s lead in Game 1 started early. After senior Maddy McIntyre fouled off six pitches and ultimately walked, Bayne pulled a long ball over the left-field fence in the bottom of the first.
The Nittany Lions went down in order in the second and third innings, while the Buckeyes also remained scoreless, leaving two runners on. In the third inning, the shortstop McIntyre snagged a high line drive to keep the leadoff hitter, senior Reina Furuya, from getting aboard.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bayne narrowly beat out the throw on a leadoff single up the middle. After Prantl drew a walk, sophomore first baseman Erika Leonard sent a single up the middle. Leonard earned an RBI thanks to Bayne’s speed, as she made the trip from second base to home before center fielder Lexi Knief could make the throw.
White loaded the bases with her third single of the game after Penn State second baseman Mollie Sorenson missed the tag on Leonard as she advanced to second, yet back-to-back strikeouts from sophomore Ashley Goodwin and junior Anna Kirk halted OSU’s lead at three runs.
Hursh hit four batters in her outing, including junior Shelby Miller, who advanced to second on a passed ball in the sixth inning. However, the Nittany Lions failed to score after Miller’s shoe slipped off on her way to third after Knief put a ball in play to the left side of the infield.
Both OSU and Penn State went down without scoring for the remainder of the game, as both offenses struggled to even put the ball in play.
Thunder and lightning rolled in during the top of the sixth inning, sending the second game into a severe weather delay with the Buckeyes up two. After lightning continued to strike and the dark clouds passed through, Prantl hit a two-run homer to solidify the Buckeyes’ 12-10 win.
In the bottom of the first inning, Prantl recorded her ninth double of the season but was left stranded. With a chance to make a statement and two runners on, Penn State junior Kristina Brackpool ripped a three-run home run to left field to give Penn State its first lead of the day.
The Buckeyes answered with a home run by Machovina, which brought in White with no outs. The homer, the first baseman’s first of the year, sparked OSU’s offense, which later tied up the game on Bayne’s single to center field. Prantl followed with another double to bring in two runners, and Leonard hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring in Bayne from third.
“Our offense is obviously there, especially after putting up 12 runs in that second game,” Machovina said.
With the fourth home run to left field of the day, Jones hit a solo shot to lead off the third inning to narrow the Buckeyes’ lead to two. Jones’ homer and Miller’s follow-up single up the middle sent OSU junior starting pitcher Lena Springer to the bullpen and freshman Morgan Ray to the mound.
Ray struggled to stop a hot Penn State offense with the bases loaded, as the Nittany Lions reclaimed the lead on senior Erin Pond’s bases-clearing double.
While the first game only saw one pitcher on each side, both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions utilized much of their pitching staffs to combat tough offenses. Penn State freshman Madison Seifert took an early exit, giving way to Laubach to make a reprise in the circle. After Ray allowed another run in the fourth inning, Hursh also returned to the mound.
“We all have different roles, and those roles change,” Hursh said. “And we just have to be ready to go in and shut teams down.”
OSU tied it at eight on Bayne’s booming two-run homer to center field and then retook the lead in the following inning on Machovina’s single through the gap. Freshman Bri Betschel lengthened the lead to two on a slap hit past Furuya to bring pinch runner Megan Choinacky in from second base.
Prantl’s home run brought the score to 12-8 heading into the top of the seventh inning, where the Nittany Lions brought only two runs across the plate, sealing a day that featured their first two Big Ten losses of the year.
OSU is scheduled to make a trip to Rutgers to take on the Scarlet Knights in a weekend series. Friday’s game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s affairs set for 1 p.m. and noon, respectively.