A season-high 1,598 fans packed themselves inside Buckeye Field to watch the Ohio State softball team try and win its third Big Ten series of the season.
After splitting game one and two of its weekend series against Purdue on Friday and Saturday, the crowd was roaring and the bleachers were shaking throughout all of Sunday’s exciting rubber match.
But despite a late rally by OSU (20-20, 6-6) against the Boilermakers (21-21-1, 9-3), the Buckeyes came up just short, losing the game, 5-4. OSU lost both games to Purdue by one-run margins.
With junior pitcher Olivia O’Reilly in the circle for the Buckeyes in the rubber match, Purdue stormed ahead to a 5-0 lead through four and a half innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, OSU redshirt-sophomore pinch-hitter Erika Leonard got the Buckeyes on the scoreboard with an RBI double. The Buckeyes continued their comeback in the next inning, as a groundout by senior second baseman Melaina Saafeld scored a run for OSU. With one runner left on base, senior pinch-hitter Leesa Gresham hit a two-run home run to cut the deficit to one heading into the final inning.
“I was just thinking it was my time to come through, I’ve had chances the last few games I haven’t come through for the team when there was runners in scoring position so I knew it was my time,” Gresham said after the loss.
With one out in the seventh, junior outfielder Caitlin Conrad raced around the bases for a triple after her hit smacked off the top of the wall, nearly clearing the fence. However, the Buckeyes’ next two hitters were unable to send Conrad home and OSU’s rally would come up short.
It was a busy week for O’Reilly, pitching in both games of a doubleheader Wednesday against Ohio and starting all three games against the Boilermakers. In that span O’Reilly pitched 25.2 innings with three complete games, two shutouts and just six earned runs.
Despite the recent heavy workload, OSU coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said O’Reilly’s 103.1 innings pitched so far this season is on the low side for a number one pitcher at this point in the season.
“I think Olivia is just putting her heart out on the field for us and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Schoenly said. “She just wants to help anyway she can, she knows she’s not going to strike people out every time but she gives us a chance by just not letting them hit it that hard.”
Saturday was a different story, as 11 hits for OSU coupled with four errors by the Boilermakers set the tone. The Buckeyes went on to win, 8-0, in five innings.
Junior outfielder Taylor Watkins and sophomore outfielder Cammi Prantl led the team at the plate, going a combined 6-for-7 with three RBI and four runs scored in the win.
“We attacked their pitchers early and often to keep that a short game, so I was definitely proud of that,” Schoenly said on the win after Sunday’s game.
Dominant pitching from both teams was on display in game one of the series Friday. O’Reilly threw a complete game, giving up one run, four hits and four strikeouts. However, that one run would prove to be too much for OSU’s offense to overcome, as Purdue went on to win the game 1-0.
OSU threatened early in the first inning with bases loaded and only one out, but a pair of swinging strikeouts sent the Buckeyes back into its dugout with nothing to show for it. Boilermaker starting pitcher Lilly Fecho had nine strikeouts and no walks in her complete-game shutout. Fecho was also the winning pitcher on Sunday, however, OSU was able to adjust and produce four runs in the loss.
“I was disappointed with Friday because we didn’t make our adjustments to hit (Fecho) better,” Schoenly said after Sunday’s game. “But to show that they could come back and do what they did today against that pitcher, I thought they did a nice job of letting Friday go and coming back and attacking her again.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to hit the road Tuesday for a game against Wright State in Dayton. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.