Sometimes all a team needs is the home field advantage to get back on the winning side.
After being swept by archrival Michigan over a weekend series, the Ohio State softball team swept a doubleheader against Ohio University Wednesday at Buckeye Field.
OSU junior pitcher Olivia O’Reilly took the circle to kick off the first game. After more than five hours of home runs, diving catches and last inning heroics, fittingly, O’Reilly was back in the game to close out a two-game sweep for the Buckeyes.
OSU (19-18, 5-4) defeated OU (19-17, 4-2), 6-0 in game one and 10-9 in game two. After losing to the Bobcats, 7-3, March 7 as part of the Red and Black Classic, the two wins give OSU the season series win against the Bobcats.
The Buckeyes’ game two starting pitcher, freshman Shelby Hursh, found herself in trouble early after giving up back-to-back solo home runs in the second inning. OSU’s offense struck back in the bottom of the inning, though, as an RBI double by junior shortstop Keelia Nester and a two-RBI double by junior outfielder Caitlin Conrad gave the Buckeyes a 3-2 lead.
The Bobcats hit back-to-back home runs in the third off senior pitcher Audrey Plant, giving them a two-run cushion once again. OSU rummaged through its bullpen in the next inning, this time giving redshirt-senior pitcher Melanie Nichols the ball.
Nichols continued the pitching staff’s woes in the fifth, walking two straight batters with the bases loaded to bring the score to 8-3.
After sophomore outfielder Cammi Prantl hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, senior first baseman Evelyn Carrillo said Prantl rushed back to the dugout to get the team pumped up.
“Cammi did a great job rallying the team. She’s only a sophomore and she’s stepping up as a leader and that’s really what we want from our young girls,” Carrillo said after the win. “She did a really good job of leading the team and saying ‘Hey let’s get it together, let’s do this, we can win,’ and that helped me out as well.”
Prantl said after being frustrated in the outfield for most the game watching balls sail over her head, she knew she had to pick the team up.
“I just really wanted to be the spark that we needed to win, so when I got in the dugout I was like ‘OK, let’s go, the game’s not over, so let’s pick our stuff up and we can win,’” Prantl said. “I think that me doing that, me getting more emotional, I think that’s what really pulled the team together to kind of step up.”
After another run by the Bobcats in the seventh, OSU was down to its last three outs of the night and trailed by four runs. With two outs and the bases loaded, Carrillo walked up to the plate.
“Usually I have a lot going through my head, but I was just staying calm and making sure I was breathing and looking for something I could drive,” Carrillo said.
Carrillo crushed the ball over the wall for a game-tying grand slam.
“With two outs, I didn’t feel pressure which is a good thing, but as a veteran you know I was like ‘It’s time for me to step up for my team and help them out,’ so I think I did that well,” Carrillo said.
In extra innings, O’Reilly went back onto the mound to earn her second win of the night. She struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 inning to give the offense the chance to win.
With senior pinch runner Melaina Saalfeld on second base, Nester hit a liner to left-field to score Saalfeld and win the game for the Buckeyes.
After earning her second win of the night, O’Reilly said these wins were huge for the team moving forward.
“These are the games you live for, coming back like that is a great feeling,” O’Reilly said.
Game one of Wednesday’s doubleheader went much smoother for OSU, as O’Reilly threw a complete game shutout, giving up just three hits and two strikeouts.
“Our defense helped me out a bunch in our first game, there were a couple shots that they just snagged for me, I may not have had all my stuff today, but they had my back,” O’Reilly said. “Credit to the defense for keeping me in the zero.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to return to action Friday at 6 p.m. against Purdue at Buckeye Field.