The Ohio State softball team beat Wisconsin 9-7 Friday in the first of a three-game series against Wisconsin behind a five-run sixth inning to complete a comeback and pick up its first Big-Ten win of the season in its home opener.
Freshman third baseman Niki Carver got the sixth inning started for the Buckeyes (20-7, 1-3 Big Ten) with a single to left field, giving the team some much-needed energy as they were trailing 7-4 to Wisconsin (15-12, 1-1 Big Ten).
Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly credited the huge momentum change to Carver, saying that she “came out and hit the center of the ball all day long.”
Center fielder Taylor White followed up Carver’s single with a double, then shortstop Lilli Piper walked to load the bases. Second baseman Emily Clark then picked up her first hit of the game, a two-run single to pull the Buckeyes within one run of the Badgers. Her hit not only brought in two runs, but brought the energy back to the Buckeyes. First baseman Ashley Goodwin grounded out, scoring the tying run.
Then with the game tied, pitcher Shelby McCombs knocked a two-run homer to left-center field to give Ohio State a two-run lead and its fourth and fifth runs of the inning.
“They’ll never admit that it was really important to them because they think every game is the same game,” Kovach Schoenly said. “But I think being here and showing our fans that we’re going to be that team that’s fighting and to continue to be those people, that team, is so important.”
Junior pitcher Kat Duvall sealed the Buckeye win in the top of the seventh, striking out the side to end the game.
“We got on the board and got up ahead of Wisconsin, so I just wanted to go in there and throw strikes so that we had a chance to win,” Duvall said.
The Badgers took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when junior designated player Stephanie Lombardo singled to drive home freshman third baseman Taylor Johnson.
Ohio State responded in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of runs due to a pair of Wisconsin errors.
But Wisconsin got it going again in the top of the second inning. The Badgers were walked four times in the inning and scored a pair of runs on RBI doubles. A third run came around when junior pitcher Morgan Ray issued a walk with the bases loaded to push the Wisconsin lead to 4-2.
Walks proved to be the primary issue for Ohio State in the winning effort. Though the Buckeyes out-hit the Badgers 12-4, the Ohio State pitching staff walked 13 batters compared to just two allowed by Wisconsin.
Piper shot a double to left field to score a run in the bottom of the second inning, but Wisconsin got two runs back in the top of the fourth. Carver hit a solo home run in the bottom half of the inning to pull her team within two runs.
Just before Ohio State’s five-run inning, Wisconsin added a final run on an RBI fielder’s choice in the top of the sixth.