The No. 21 Ohio State softball team (23-9, 5-2 Big Ten) defeated No. 16 Michigan (28-8-1, 8-1 Big Ten) behind a complete-game shutout from junior pitcher Shelby McCombs, snapping a 21-game losing streak to the Wolverines.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t even speak,” McCombs said. “It feels awesome. The rivalry is there, that’s for sure.”
McCombs opened the game with three and two-thirds no-hit innings and had four strikeouts against her first seven batters. She finished the game with 10 strikeouts through her seven shutout innings and allowed just three hits in the game.
Her success was due primarily to her ability to get players to swing at balls outside of the strike zone which led to softly hit balls, Ohio State coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said.
“Shelby was a master out there at getting them to hit non-strikes,” Kovach Schoenly said. “I think she picked and chose her time to throw a strike and got them to swing at pitches outside the zone. You want every pitcher to do that; it’s ideal.”
Though she was undoubtedly the player of the game, McCombs was quick to deflect all praise to her teammates.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates — Ashley (Goodwin) hitting that bomb, Anna (Kirk) starting off with a bomb, Becca (Gavin) hitting that changeup to right field — I don’t know what would have happened,” McCombs said. “Props to them. I wouldn’t have to do it without them.”
The Buckeye offense supported McCombs with five runs, all coming against Michigan senior Megan Betsa, one of the nation’s top pitchers. Betsa entered the game leading the nation in strikeouts and the Big Ten in shutouts and hit allowed per game, but OSU lit her up on Sunday, forcing a pitching change in the fifth inning.
“I honestly think she’s one hell of a pitcher,” said junior first baseman Ashley Goodwin. “She’s great, she throws good and she’s very consistent. We just kind of stuck to our game plan and took it pitch by pitch.”
Betsa held OSU scoreless through two innings before junior third baseman Kirk hit a solo home run to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead after three innings. OSU added to its lead in the fifth with an RBI single from junior catcher Becca Gavin before breaking the game open with a three-run home run from Goodwin.
“I was just trying to honestly get a base hit for my team,” Goodwin said. “We’d been waiting for something like this and it finally happened.”
Michigan loaded the bases in the game’s final inning, but McCombs got out of the inning and the game unscathed, finishing the complete-game shutout and giving the Buckeyes a 5-0 win.
OSU lost the series 2-1 after Michigan won both games on Saturday, but the Buckeyes were happy to celebrate their first win against the Wolverines in nearly seven years, snapping a 21-game losing streak to Michigan dating back to April 28, 2010.
“It was awesome,” Goodwin said. “We wanted to do it for our team, our coaches, our fans. It was the best feeling ever.”
With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 23-9 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten. OSU travels to Penn State Wednesday for a mid-week doubleheader before returning home Friday for a weekend series with Indiana.