The Ohio State softball team dropped their first game of the NCAA tournament on Friday night in Knoxville, TN. The Buckeyes lost to Atlantic Sun champion USC Upstate, 7-3. After trailing for most of the game, back-to-back home runs from Lilli Piper and Emily Clark gave the Buckeyes a brief 3-2 lead heading into the seventh inning.
However, after OSU starting pitcher Shleby Hursh and reliever Shelby McCombs held the Spartans to two runs (one earned) on five hits through 5.2 innings, Morgan Ray entered the game, and after closing the door in the sixth, gave up five runs in the seventh as USC Upstate batted around in the decisive frame.
Spartan leftfielder Brittany Case led off the seventh with a single to short, and then OSU committed three errors on the next two plays to open the floodgates; shortstop Piper and third baseman Anna Kirk committed back-to-back fielding errors, and centerfielder Taylor White added a throwing error in between. All nine Upstate batters in the inning reached base, with only Kori Wancheck’s RBI single leaving the infield.
Spartan pitcher Holly McKinnon threw a complete game, and other than the sixth inning home runs, stifled the Buckeye hitters. Kirk broke up the pitcher’s perfect game bid with a leadoff single up the middle in the fourth, the first of three consecutive hits to open innings for the Buckeyes. However, in the fourth and fifth, the next three batters went in order to eliminate the OSU threat.
The Buckeyes will now play an elimination game on Saturday against the loser of the game between No. 8 Tennessee and Longwood. That contest will happen at 2:30pm ET on Saturday. The winner of the four-team, double-elimination regional will advance to the Super Regionals next weekend.