Ohio State’s softball season ended in a disappointing manner on Saturday, as they fell to the Longwood Lancers 3-1 in the first elimination game of the NCAA tournament’s Knoxville, TN regional. Having lost to USC Upstate on Friday, the Buckeyes would have needed to beat the Lancers to keep their season alive. However, for the second straight game, the team’s bats weren’t consistent enough to maintain their regular season scoring prowess.
Longwood pitcher Sydney Gay dominated the Buckeyes from start to finish, allowing only four hits and giving up OSU’s only run of the game with two outs in the seventh. She finished with just two strikeouts, but coaxed 11 flyouts and eight groundouts from Ohio State batters.
Things looked promising for the Buckeyes early, as with two outs in the top of the first, OSU shortstop Lilli Piper singled up the middle and was moved into scoring position by second baseman Emily Clark’s walk. However, both were stranded after centerfielder Taylor White struck out looking. Both teams would finish the game with five runners left on base.
The scoreless tie continued into the fourth when Buckeye pitcher Shelby McCombs walked Longwood third baseman Krista Kelly with two outs, and then gave up an RBI double to leftfielder Glenn Walters. Then in the fifth, a walk to rightfielder Jessica Smith and back-to-back doubles to catcher Kaylynn Batten and CF Jordan Clark increased the Lancer lead to 3-0.
Lena Springer, who did not pitch for OSU on Friday, came in to relieve the starter; she gave up just one hit in 1.1 innings of work.
Down to their last at-bat, the Buckeyes attempted to mount a late comeback. White led off the seventh inning with a single to second base, and after the next two batters were put down, Alex Vargas drove a pinch-hit double to center to score OSU’s first run of the game. However, the rally was short-lived as the next batter, catcher Becca Gavin, flew out to left to end the contest.
The Lancers will now move on to play USC Upstate in another elimination game. The winner will need to beat the No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers twice to move on to next week’s Super Regionals.
Ohio State’s offense, which ranks fourth in home runs per game and 16th nationally in slugging percentage, couldn’t get going during the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes mustered only nine total hits in the two games. While two of those hits were home runs in Friday’s contest, Kelly Kovach Schoenly’s team couldn’t string together enough baserunners to avoid elimination on Saturday.
The loss brings Ohio State’s record to 35-17 as they end their season on a down note; the team’s elimination marks the second consecutive year in which OSU has seen its softball season end in the Knoxville regional. However, with a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Championship, and the first back-to-back NCAA appearances since 2009 and 2010, the program is on solid footing moving forward. The 2010 season was also the last time that the Buckeyes made the NCAAs.