In the first game of their third-straight trip to the NCAA regionals, the Ohio State Buckeyes used a sixth-inning rally to defeat the USF Bulls 3-1 in their Game 1 matchup. Now, the Buckeyes will face off with the region’s host, the No. 2 Florida Gators in their second game of the weekend on Saturday, May 19 at 2:30 p.m. ET, after UF no-hit the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, 8-0, on Friday.
The Ohio State softball team finished their regular season 34-13, and 14-8 in Big Ten play, before being eliminated in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament by Iowa.
Despite their short conference-tournament run, the team still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tourney. The Buckeyes were bracketed with USF, No. 2 Florida, and Bethune-Cookman for the double-elimination regional. Each region will feature six or seven games (depending on if the “if-necessary game” ends up being necessary), with the winner advancing to a best-of-three series in the super regionals. (Full Bracket)
What happened in Game 1?
Friday’s game was a pitching duel between OSU and USF, as the score remained knotted at zero into the bottom of the sixth inning. Buckeye pitcher Shelby McCombs went the distance giving up just one run on two hits, while striking out five. The Bulls’ Georgina Corrick had been matching McCombs out for out, but things turned south for USF in the home half of the sixth.
McCombs singled, and then was lifted for pinch-runner Amy Balich, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, before the bases were loaded on back-to-back walks to Kallie Boren (yes, of those Borens) and Becca Gavin.
Then, Buckeye head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly made the decision that would ultimately decide the game, calling on freshman Taylor Stevens to pinch hit. Stevens roped a double off of the base of the wall in right-center field clearing the bases, and giving OSU the 3-0 lead. The three RBI were the first of Stevens’ OSU career, and they couldn’t have come at a better time.
USF did get on the board in the top of the seventh with an RBI single from Lindsey Devitt, but it wasn’t enough, as the Buckeyes collected their first NCAA win under the program’s third-year head coach.
“It was a pitching dogfight out there,” exclaimed Schoenly. “It’s a classic postseason battle with it coming down to that one big hit. So much credit to the hitters that battled to get on base in the sixth and then a clutch performance by Stevens!”
What should I know about Florida softball?
Hmmm, what should you know about Florida Gator softball? First and foremost, they’re really good. With a 51-8 record on the season, they earned the nation’s second overall seed heading into the postseason.
Their only loss in the last five weeks came in the middle game of their three-game series against the No. 14 LSU Tigers. LSU won 3-0 in that one, but the Gators sandwiched the L between 7-0 and 5-3 victories.
UF swept through the SEC Tournament last weekend, winning three games against top-15 teams by a combined score of 18-5. They first dispatched the No. 13/15 Alabama Crimson Tide 5-2, then followed up by defeating No. 7/8 Tennessee, 10-2, and finally won the conference tournament title by beating No. 12/14 South Carolina 3-1.
The Gators have earned their place at the top of the softball food chain with an impressively well-rounded game. They are the only team in the SEC to rank in the top-four in team batting (.290), team pitching (1.33), and team fielding (.984).
At the plate, Florida is paced by junior outfielder Amanda Lorenz, who is hitting .418 on the season with 55 RBI. In the circle, UF has two of the best pitchers in the SEC. Junior Kelly Barnhill has a 0.99 ERA and a 26-1 record in 35 appearances to go along with her 281 strikeouts. Then senior Aleshia Ocasio also boasts a 1.22 ERA and 20-6 record in 28 appearances. Ocasio has 150 Ks compared to just 14 walks.
Against Bethune-Cookman on Friday, Barnhill picked up the win, while Ocasio closed the door on the 8-0 no-hit victory. The pair combined for 14 strikeouts and just a single walk.
Nicole DeWitt and Jaimie Hoover both hit homers for the Gators.
What’s the Buckeyes NCAA history?
The 2018 berth will be Ohio State’s 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, with this marking their third-consecutive season thanks to Schoenly. Both the 2016 and 2017 title runs started by way of the Knoxville Regional, with the Buckeyes losing in their first two games in both years.
In 2016, the Buckeyes were eliminated after falling to Arizona (2-0) and Tennessee (10-1), and last season, the team was knocked out of the tournament thanks to losses to USC Upstate (7-3) and Longwood (3-1). That means, making the tournament for a third time will be pretty meaningless unless Ohio State gets their first tournament win under Kovach Schoenly.
Overall, the Buckeyes are 134-18 in NCAA Tournament play, and the furthest they’ve ever advanced was in 2009, when the squad made it to the Super Regionals.
How to watch Ohio State vs. No. 2 Florida in the Gainesville Regional
- Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, Gainesville, Florida
- TV: ESPN/ESPN2 depending on region; ESPN3 everywhere
- Online: Live Stats
Full weekend schedule
Saturday, May 19
Game 3: Ohio State vs. No. 2 Florida | 2:30 p.m.
Game 4: USF vs. Bethune-Cookman | 5 p.m.
Game 5: G3 Loser vs. G4 Winner | 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 20
Game 6: G3 Winner vs. G5 Winner | 12 p.m.
Game 7: G6 Winner vs. G6 Loser (if necessary) | 2:30 p.m.