May 12, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. - Ohio State capped Friday's first-round action with a wild, back-and-forth win over No. 5 Penn State to complete Saturday's semifinal slate. With the win, Ohio State improves to 38-20 and moves on to face top-seeded Northwestern.
Heading into the teams' third contest this year, Ohio State had only claimed two runs against Penn State's hurlers -- ranked 10th in the nation with a 1.15 team ERA -- all season. The Buckeyes, who lost both games in their regular season-ending series with the Lions, quickly matched that total by the end of the first inning and finished with 10 hits, including a home run and two triples, to take home the 9-6 victory.
After Penn State jumped on the board early with first base Ashley Esparza's two-run shot over the left field jump, Ohio State responded by grinding out two runs. With no outs and bases load, pitcher Jamee Juarez grounded out to shortstop, but not without scoring Nycole Koyano from third to cut the Lions' lead in half. Two batters later, Courtney Pruner leveled the game with a single through the left side, sending rightfielder Brittany Vanderink across home plate.
The Buckeyes took a 3-2 in the second inning when Juarez collected her second RBI of the day on a single up the middle with two on and two out, scoring Vanderink again.
The Nittany Lions quickly evened the score again in the top of the third. Leftfielder Danielle Kinley sent a two-base shot to left center to score Williams and even the game at 4-all. After Pruner took over pitching duties for Juarez, she shut down Penn State's Leigh Murray and forced Hollee Haines to foul out at first to end the inning, stranding three Lions on base.
Ohio State centerfielder Chelsea Baker made her only hit count, giving the Buckeyes the lead for good with a solo home run down the leftfield line. The Buckeyes tallied two more in the fourth, scroing on a triple from leftfielder Megan Schwab and a fielder's choice off a bunt from shortstop Billie Carder to extend the OSU lead to 6-3.
The Nittany Lions pulled within one off a double from Haines that scored both Kinley and Rebecca Bautista, but Ohio State again pulled away with a three-run spree in the fifth. With one out, Penn State pitcher Missy Beres tossed back-to-back walks before Vanderink stepped to the plate again. The rightfielder launched a triple to right center, scoring Koyano and Stephanie Hill. On the next at-bat, Schwab grounded out at first but Vanderink crossed home in time, scoring her third run of the day.
Trying to spark another comeback run, Esparza hit a single to shortstop that scored Wolfer from third, cutting the Buckeyes' lead to 9-6, but it wasn't enough as Kim Reeder came in and struck out two Lions to end the game in the seventh.
The only squad to sweep Northwestern this season, Ohio State will try to make it 3-0 against the regular season champion Wildcats when the two teams collide in the second semifinal at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.