The No. 22 Ohio State softball team begins its road series with Northwestern fresh off sweeping a doubleheader against Penn State Wednesday.
Junior second baseman Emily Clark, as well as Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly, said that the Buckeyes (26-8, 7-4 Big Ten) can move into the Northwestern (23-13, 6-5 Big Ten) series confident in their ability to beat up on solid pitching given what they did against the Nittany Lions.
“It’s good that we faced pretty decent pitching,” Clark said. “We did well and we succeeded on that, so I think that will give us confidence as this weekend approaches.”
Northwestern will enter the series with a pair of starting pitchers who maintain ERAs below 4.00 in Kenna Wilkey and Morgan Newport. Overall, the team has found success in the circle, recording a 3.99 team ERA in 235.1 innings of work.
Kovach Schoenly said Northwestern brings more to the table than just its pitching staff, however. She said Northwestern is a team more than capable of scoring runs in bulk and that the two high-powered offenses could be in for a back-and-forth battle.
But again reflecting upon the Penn State series, Kovach Schoenly believes her team has what it takes to come out on top against the Wildcats.
“The way we battled back when Penn State scored every time and then we would score, and we knew that we just had to keep scoring,” Kovach Schoenly said. “I feel like it’s going to be those types of games.”
Clark also agreed saying the series will be “a slugging fest.”
Though Ohio State brings an impressive offense to the matchup, Northwestern has the Buckeyes beat soundly in total offensive production. Northwestern has scored 271 runs compared to Ohio State’s 188. But the Buckeyes aren’t looking at the numbers feeling too anxious about their chances.
“They run a lot so that plays into our game,” Kovach Schoenly said. “Becca [Gavin] is a really strong catcher so we’ll be up for that challenge.”
Kovach Schoenly said that although she would love to have her shutout this juggernaut offense, she anticipates Northwestern’s ability to put the ball into play will force her team to make some big plays for any shutout to be possible.
“They may score a run,” Kovach Schoenly said, “It’s kind of one of those concepts of, we’ll bend but don’t break, like giving one run, not four, so keeping it small each inning.”
Kovach Schoenly said Northwestern has an offense similar to Ohio State, given the comparable ability to hit the long ball.
“I just know that they can hit,” Kovach Schoenly said. “They’re kind of similar to our offense in that they have some kids that can hit the long ball.”
Ohio State currently has 45 home runs so far this season, led by junior shortstop Lilli Piper with 16, while Northwestern has 30, led by freshman utility player Rachel Lewis’ 12.
The two teams will battle it out starting at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Sharon J. Drysdale Field in Evanston, Illinois.