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Softball: Buckeyes take series from Nebraska, look ahead to Big Ten Tournament

On graduation weekend, too!

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It was the final regular season series for the Buckeyes this past weekend, and they came up big. Their series win gave them the No. 6 seed for the Big Ten Tournament which starts this week. Additionally, it was commencement weekend, but as the Bucks were at Nebraska, they honored their seniors in a special way. Let’s get into all things Ohio State softball from these past three days!

Game 1

It was a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel in the opening game, as Allison Smith was back on her A-game this weekend. Neither teams scored until the fifth inning, and Ohio State struck first. Shortstop Kami Kortokrax, the clutch hitter that she is, singled up the middle to score Kaitlyn Farley and put the Buckeyes on the board.

The Cornhuskers responded in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run off of Smith, tying the game at one. However, the Buckeyes stole their lead back the next inning, as Kortokrax once again singled to score McKenzie Bump. Smith held strong in the seventh to give Ohio State the series opening win.

Kortokrax and Smith were truly the two stars of the game as the former went 3-for-4 with 2 RBI, as the rest of the offense went a combined 3-for-27. Smith, in her complete game, only gave up six hits and three walks. Additionally, after this game Smith became the seventh pitcher in program history to reach the 400 career strikeouts milestone — and she’s only a junior.

Game 2

There was a bit more offense in Saturday’s game, and unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Nebraska had more than them. Emily Ruck got the start in this game and gave up her first run in the first inning with a single by the Cornhuskers. Bump tied it up in the next inning with a sacrifice fly.

The Bucks piled on with two more in the third, starting with a Sam Hackenbracht RBI single. She was the offensive leader in this game, as this was her first of three hits. Meggie Otte then hit a sacrifice fly of her own to score Kortokrax, giving them the 3-1 lead.

Nebraska answered immediately as Ruck gave up a leadoff home run in the bottom half of the frame. Then, it wasn’t until the sixth inning until either team scored again. The Cornhuskers scored on a fielder’s choice and a fielding error to go ahead, 4-3. Ohio State didn’t have a response in the seventh, so they fell in this second game of the series.

Ruck pitched 5.1 innings, giving up four runs off seven hits and one walk before Kennedy Kay came in for relief for the final two outs of the sixth, giving up zero hits or walks.

Game 3

It took a combined effort from Smith and Ruck to earn the series win, but with help from their offense, they got it done Sunday. Smith started the game and gave up two runs in the first inning to give Nebraska the early lead. After she gave up another run in the second, Ruck came in for relief and she pitched the rest of the game.

However, it is important to note that Smith earned her 200th strikeout of the season in this game, becoming the sixth pitcher in school history to do so.

Ohio State’s offense was quiet until Taylor Heckman came in to pinch hit in the fourth inning, and her triple scored Bump, which triggered a chain reaction for the rest of the lineup. Mariah Rodriguez singled to score Heckman, Hackenbracht hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Rodriguez, Otte doubled to score Hackenbracht and Kortokrax and Jaycee Ruberti singled to score Otte.

Got all that? If not, I’ll do the math for you — the Bucks went up 6-3 after this inning.

Ruck gave up her lone run in the bottom of the fifth as a result of a RBI groundout. However, she was lights out the next two innings to give the Buckeyes the series win! In total, she pitched 5.1 innings, giving up eight hits and one walk.

Graduation On The Road

Three Buckeyes graduated this spring: Taylor Pack, Meggie Otte and Tegan Cortelletti. Ohio State’s Commencement was Sunday afternoon, but the softball team was a little busy taking the series from Nebraska. Therefore, the team had a ceremony of their own at their hotel to celebrate these three women.

Big Ten Tournament

Ohio State improved to 32-19 overall and finished the regular season with a 12-11 mark in conference play. The Buckeyes will be the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and face 11th-seeded Rutgers on Wednesday at noon on BTN.

Ohio State and Rutgers met earlier this season April 7-9 with the Buckeyes taking two of three from the Scarlet Knights in Columbus.

It’s officially postseason time! Let’s get it!