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Softball: Ohio State sweeps Rutgers, starts 4-0 in conference

OSU then-sophomore Taylor White (21) makes a catch during a game against Penn State on April 6, 2016 at Buckeye Field. Credit: Lantern file photo

The No. 25 Ohio State softball team (22-7, 6-0 Big Ten) completed a three-game sweep of Rutgers on Sunday, downing the Scarlet Knights 12-1 in five innings, thanks to an offensive explosion highlighted by back-to-back home runs in the second inning.

Rutgers loaded the bases in the top of the second inning, trailing 4-0, and though the Scarlet Knights didn’t manage a run, they seemed to have a little momentum. The Buckeyes killed that momentum almost immediately as senior right fielder Alex Bayne and sophomore shortstop Lilli Piper led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back home runs.

“That’s been nice to see the balls going out of the park because it’s so contagious and it makes your whole offense feel confident,” OSU coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said. “If someone does not throw a good pitch to us and it’s fat, we’re going to make them pay.”

OSU pushed across two more runs in the second, thanks to a two-RBI double from junior pitcher Shelby McCombs. The four-run second inning gave the Buckeyes an 8-0 lead, adding to the four runs scored in the first when McCombs, sophomore catcher Emily Clark, junior center fielder Taylor White, and sophomore left fielder Bri Betschel each hit an RBI single to give OSU four runs.

While the offense was clicking, the Buckeyes had a strong day in the circle as well. McCombs allowed just one run on five hits through her four innings. White said whenever the team can score early, she thinks it gives the pitchers confidence.

“I think it gives our pitchers a lot of room to relax when we start hot,” White said. “They can just go out there and throw their game and know that we’re going to get runs early and often.”

The Scarlet Knights managed just one run at the top of the third while the Buckeyes continued to score. Following the Rutgers run, White had a two-RBI single in the third to give the Buckeyes a 10-1 lead. In the fourth, Bayne and Piper each had another RBI to give OSU a 12-1 lead, which would hold for the remainder of the game.

“It’s not just one person who’s getting it done every game,” White said. “We’re able to count on everyone on the team to come through in their big moments so it’s been nice.”

With the win, the No. 25 Buckeyes have now won 15 of their last 16 games, including the first four in conference.

“It’s a good start for us,” Betschel said. “I feel like we’re very confident right now. Everyone is stringing hits together and it’s a team effort. That’s what makes it so much fun is that everyone is contributing to the wins.”

OSU returns to action Friday when they kick off three-game home series with rival Michigan.

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