Ohio State had a bounce-back weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California, where some of the best teams in the sport participated. The team won their first three games before losing on Sunday, bringing their record to 6-6 on the season.
Friday: 12-0 Win against Cal State Northridge
The Buckeyes started this game with a bang, literally. Well, actually two bangs. Right-fielder Melina Wilkison and left-fielder Jaycee Ruberti hit back-to-back home runs to begin the game on a good note. These were the first home runs of the season for the team after going without one in their first eight games.
The 3rd inning is where all of the action happened. A grand total of EIGHT runs were scored, with the big one coming off the bat of pinch-hitter Taylor Heckman — a bases-clearing double to put the Bucks ahead 8-0. Kirsten Eppele hit a solo home run in the 4th and another run was scored in the 5th to allow Ohio State to win via mercy rule.
As for pitching, lefty Allison Smith continued her solid start to the year, throwing four innings, giving up two hits and four walks while striking out eight. Freshman Lexi Paulsen came in for relief in the 5th, only giving up one hit and striking out two. All around, a great start to the weekend.
Saturday: 6-0 Win against Oregon State
This game had a revenge feel to it, as it was the Beavers who knocked the Buckeyes out of the NCAA Tournament last season. However, this time it was Ohio State that came out on top, again by way of strong pitching and strung-together offense.
The main highlight in this game for me was seeing junior Emily Ruck pitch a complete game shutout. It took her a few games to find her stride from last season, but she looked amazing against the Beavers. In seven innings, she only surrendered three hits and four walks, and actually had zero strikeouts. So, it was also nice to see her defense backing her up. Her season ERA is now at 2.88.
Saturday: 5-4 Win against San Diego State
This was a gritty, come-from-behind win for the Buckeyes, as they were down 4-0 heading into the 5th inning. I absolutely loved seeing this win, because as much as a 12-0 run rule is nice, it’s these games where they have to dig deep and pull it together in order to get a win that prove what kind of team they are.
Starting in the 5th inning, Wilkison had a nice RBI single to get the Buckeyes on the board. Then Ruberti followed it up with a two-run double to cut the Aztecs’ lead to one. This one-two punch at the top of the lineup was killing it this weekend, I must say.
Ohio State took the lead in the 6th, thanks to a two-run single coming from second baseman Kaitlyn Farley. Paulsen, who pitched the second half of the game, held strong in the 7th to give the Buckeyes the win, and her first of her collegiate career. Smith pitched the first half, giving up one earned run off five hits and two walks.
Sunday: 9-1 Loss against Utah
The Buckeyes just ran out of steam by the time Sunday rolled around, as they were run-ruled in five innings by the Utes. The offense didn’t do too much and none of the three pitchers who pitched could get it done.
Ruck started the game, but gave up three runs off five hits in two innings. Kennedy Kay came in for relief and sat Utah down 1-2-3 in the 3rd inning, but struggled in the 4th, giving up three runs off four hits in 1⁄3 of the inning. This put the Utes ahead 6-1. Then, Smith entered the game and gave up three runs in the 5th to seal the run rule. The one run scored from the Buckeyes was a result of a Meggie Otte home run, so that was a nice highlight.
Overall, there are a lot of positive takeaways from this weekend. The bats finally got going and with some power, too. The defense really showed out against Oregon State to complete the shutout, so hopefully they can get a little more consistent moving forward. As for pitching, Paulsen pitched really well in both of her appearances. Ruck looked great in her CG and Smith was steady all weekend long.
The Buckeyes get this upcoming weekend off before beginning their busiest stretch of the season March 10-19 with a 13-game, nine-day Spring Break road trip to South Carolina and North Carolina. It begins March 10-12 at Coastal Carolina where Ohio State is slated to play Canisius, Coastal Carolina and Houston Christian.