It’s looking like it is taking a bit of time for the softball Buckeyes to find their groove, as they are now 3-5 on the season. After splitting a two-game series with Notre Dame this past weekend and losing to Clemson twice, it’ll be interesting to see what changes are made next weekend.
Notre Dame series
During the first game against the Fighting Irish, Ohio State really struggled to string together any offense. The team totaled just four hits, and Destinee Noury had both RBIs. She’s actually going to be an interesting player to watch, as she played in just four games last season, but has already started about half of the games this season. First baseman Niki Carver graduated last year, so the Bucks need a replacement and Noury has been filling in just fine.
On the other side of the ball, lefty Allison Smith got the start. She had a great first three innings, but then things fell apart in the 4th. A three-run home run gave ND the one-run lead. Then, freshman Lexi Paulsen took over in the 5th before giving up her own three-run home run in the 6th. Ohio State simply had no answer.
So, with a lack of offense and pitching struggles, the Buckeyes took the L, 7-2. However, they came back Saturday ready to rebound, and that they did in exciting fashion. It took nine innings, but Ohio State won 6-5 thanks to some key players on offense and a solid bullpen job by redshirt freshman Kennedy Kay.
Junior Emily Ruck got the start and went three innings, giving up five hits and three runs, Kay came in the 4th and gave up a run, putting the Buckeyes into a 4-0 deficit. However, super-senior centerfielder Meggie Otte came through with a 2-RBIs triple to cut the Irish’s lead in half. Kay gave up a solo shot in the 5th, but that would be the last run ND would get in the game, as Kay shut the offense down.
Freshman catcher Hannah Church was the hero in this one. First, she knocked in a run with her RBI double, then she scored on a bases-loaded walk, narrowing the margin to one. Otte continued her big day with a RBI double in the 6th to tie the game at five. Fast forward to the bottom of the 9th, Church’s walk-off RBI double gave the Bucks the win. What a big day for the fifth-year and the first-year!
The second game of the day on Saturday was not as exciting, as once again, the Buckeyes produced very minimal offense. Facing Clemson, the scarlet and gray only had three hits in 24 at-bats. Smith got the start once again, and while she had double-digit strikeouts, she also gave up five runs in the 5-1 loss.
An error resulting in a run and a fielder’s choice leading to a run put the Tigers up 2-1 in the 3rd inning. However, the crushing blow came the next inning by way of a three-run home run off Smith. She pitched a complete game, giving up five runs off six hits, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. It was really just those two innings she struggled, as she was otherwise pretty dominant, but that’s all a team needs to take a lead.
Saving the worst for last, the Bucks ended the weekend by way of a 10-0 run-rule loss to the Tigers. The team went 2-for-17 at the plate, and use three pitchers during the five innings played.
Ruck started and didn’t record a single out. She really struggled and gave up two home runs right off the bat. Kay came in to pitch and immediately gave up a home run. She settled in for a few innings, as it was 5-0 at the start of the 5th before things got ugly.
The freshman gave up a three-run home run before freshman Julia Miller made her collegiate pitching debut. She gave up a two-RBI single to give the Tigers their ninth and 10th runs, and the Buckeyes couldn’t respond.
I think the main takeaway is that this team just needs time. They’ve only been playing for two weeks and there has been some positives. All around softball, the women are getting used to playing again, as there have been upsets GALORE! Even No. 1 Oklahoma was taken down by Baylor on Sunday.
The freshmen pitchers are getting some innings in, the team is facing some solid pitching and they are getting the reps in. Next weekend, they head to the Mary Nutter Classic in California for a four-game slate. Let’s see if the Bucks can have a bounce-back series.