Despite opening up Big Ten play with a sweep last weekend, the Ohio State softball team (19-8-1, 4-1-1) was unable to keep those dominant ways going, splitting its weekend series at Wisconsin (18-14-1, 3-2-1). Both the Buckeyes and the Badgers earned a win, while the final game Sunday was left in a tie.
Offensively, sophomore Taylor White led the Buckeyes, going 7-for-10. The outfielder combined with redshirt senior Maddy McIntyre, redshirt junior Alex Bayne and junior Alex Kirk to deliver home runs. Bayne, who played the weekend in right field, now has 12 homers on the year, which is triple her 2015 total.
The Badgers snapped the Buckeyes’ six-game winning streak in a tight 6-5 contest on Friday. Both teams were scoreless through the fourth inning due to the solid pitching from junior Shelby Hursh, who struck out six, and Wisconsin junior Kirsten Stevens.
OSU jumped ahead in a big way in the top of the fifth after hits from Kirk and White, followed by sophomore Becca Gavin’s walk, sent Stevens and the Wisconsin defense into a bases-loaded situation. McIntyre came up big last weekend with a walk-off home run against Maryland, and she followed that up with another statement, blasting a grand slam to give the Buckeyes the lead.
Wisconsin got on board after Hursh walked in the first run, which prompted freshman Morgan Ray, who earned the loss, to step in the circle for the remainder of the game. The Badgers then added two more in the bottom of the sixth after a series of infield singles and a walk moved runners around the bases.
The slim 4-3 lead inspired OSU to push its lead to two following senior catcher Cammi Prantl’s RBI single to right field. Earlier in the inning, freshman Bri Betschel entered the game to pinch hit, and her sacrifice bunt brought Gavin into scoring position for Prantl.
But the Buckeyes could not maintain their grasp on the lead as the Badgers headed to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore first baseman Samantha Arents jumpstarted the late rally with a deep double, and senior left fielder Katie Christner drew a walk to keep Wisconsin’s streak alive. Freshman Melanie Cross ended OSU’s hope for a win with her walk-off, three-run homer, putting OSU on the other side of the dramatic ending after last weekend.
After cold temperatures left Saturday’s game postponed until the following day, OSU bounced back with a tight 10-8 victory in Sunday’s first matchup. Junior Lena Springer, who only saw one inning of action last weekend against Maryland, got the start in the circle but did not strike out a single Wisconsin batter in her four innings pitched.
Both the Buckeyes and Badgers went scoreless in the first inning after leaving runners stranded in scoring position. After a quiet Friday, Bayne sent a two-RBI single through the left side after White, freshman second baseman Emily Clark and Gavin ignited the offense with a trio of singles in the second inning.
Wisconsin brought in a run of its own in the bottom of the frame after Springer hit two batters and a string of infield groundouts moved the runners around the bases. OSU’s defense got out of a bases-loaded jam, and its offense lengthened its lead on White’s RBI triple in the top of the following inning.
The Buckeyes’ 4-1 lead prompted an early pitching change by the Wisconsin pitching staff, swapping senior Taylor-Paige Stewart for sophomore Mariah Watts. Still, the Scarlet and Gray scored one more in the third on Clark’s deep double.
After spending two games last weekend recovering from an injury, sophomore infielder Ashley Goodwin returned briefly for the Buckeyes in order to ease back into the lineup. Freshman Bailee Sturgeon and redshirt junior Jess Machovina also filled designated player roles in the matchup to keep the Badgers defense on its toes.
The Badgers added one run in the bottom of the fourth inning on a quick single by second baseman Macy Oswald but again left a runner stranded. White continued her hit streak with a leadoff single, but it was Kirk’s two-run shot over the fence that frustrated Wisconsin’s defense. Watts returned to the game for Stewart, which turned the tide of momentum back to the Badgers.
Wisconsin scored six runs on just three hits in the bottom of the fifth inning, beginning with a solo home run by Cross. McCombs entered the game to relieve Springer, but a handful of wild pitches moved runners into scoring position. Oswald added two runs with an outfield single, prompting another pitching change — Hursh for McCombs — for OSU. Sophomore Kelsey Jenkins sent a ball of her own over the fence to give the Badgers their first lead of the game.
White, who went 4-for-4, then tied it up in the top of the seventh with a solo home run, and the bottom of the order followed up with a pair of singles. McIntyre brought Kirk home with a sacrifice fly to right field, and Bayne beat the throw from shortstop Ashley Van Zeeland to put the Buckeyes up two. In the bottom of the inning, Wisconsin went down in order, making the series a 1-1 split heading into the final game.
OSU carried its offensive momentum into the final game of the series, kickstarted by Bayne’s two-run homer in the top of the first inning. The Buckeye defense then got out of a one-out, bases-loaded situation to stop Wisconsin from scoring any runs.
Prantl added another double to her tally, which is now eight shy of OSU’s all-time record, bringing in Bayne with no outs in the third inning. Machovina hit an RBI double of her own to make the score 4-0, but a bases-loaded opportunity to add more runs was obstructed by Stewart’s effort from the mound.
Cross put up her third home run of the weekend to give Wisconsin its first two runs, and a string of singles to the outfield gave the Badgers another big inning and a 5-4 lead.
In what was only her third appearance of the season, OSU freshman Katya Duvall relieved Hursh, who struck out four batters in her outing. Duvall did not fan any batters of her own but held the Badgers to three earned runs.
Machovina continued her clutch pinch hitting with a single to bring in Prantl and Bayne, sending the Buckeyes up again. Kirk gave OSU another comfortable lead with her second home run of the series, and season, a three-run shot.
In the fifth inning, Van Zeeland bunted in a run due to an error by Kirk, and Cross continued her stellar weekend with a two-run double. In the following inning, Van Zeeland laid down another RBI bunt to tie the game at nine and send the teams into extra innings.
After over three hours of play, time constraints left the game in a tie, closing the series without a clear weekend victor.
OSU is next scheduled to face Penn State in a doubleheader at home on Wednesday before traveling to Piscataway, New Jersey, for a weekend series against Rutgers. First pitch from Buckeye Field is set to be at 4 p.m.