The two games of Sunday’s doubleheader were polar opposites, but yielded the same result.
The first was a two-way offensive battle, with Ohio State (23-10, 4-5 Big Ten) losing by one point 9-8. The Buckeyes came close to being shut out in Game 2, scoring a run late in the seventh as they lost 7-1.
Northwestern senior pitcher Danielle Williams allowed just five hits in the second half of the doubleheader, while sophomore right Allison Smith and graduate left Lexie Handley both had their share of problems Sunday.
In the slugfest that was Game 1, Northwestern (27-6, 8-1 Big Ten) won 9-8.
The Buckeyes went first on the board, starting with senior infielder Niki Carver who was hit by a pitch to lead in the bottom of the second inning. After battling for a full count, second infielder McKenzie Bump drilled a double against the wall. Immediately after, second infielder Kami Kortokrax dropped a bloop single on the shortstop’s head to score Carver.
Northwestern responded the next round. Senior catcher Jordyn Rudd smashed a first solo home run to tie the game. After two runners reached, sophomore Hannah Cady picked center field, but senior outfielder Meggie Otte saved a run by throwing home for sophomore catcher Hannah Bryan to score the runner.
Ohio State regained the lead in the bottom half of the frame, courtesy of Carver. First-year outfielder Melina Wilkison started things off with a single, then junior designated player Sam Hackenbracht reached on a four-pitch walk. Carver then hit a three-run homer on the Schumaker Complex side, giving the Buckeyes a 4-1 lead.
After hitting a batter and walking two more to start the fourth, Smith was relieved by Handley. The first batter Handley faced, senior shortstop Maeve Nelson, hit a grand slam right away to center field, making it 5-4 in favor of the Wildcats.
Handley then gave up three walks to charge in, then rookie Grace Nieto picked center to score two more runs.
The Wildcats added a few more in the fifth quarter, starting with graduate outfielder Rachel Lewis doubling down to center right. Rudd hit an RBI single down the middle, then senior infielder Nikki Cuchran singled to tag junior outfielder Emmie Farnam – who ran for Rudd – extending Northwestern’s lead to 9-4.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, junior catcher Taylor Pack walked. Both Wilkison and senior Kaitlyn Coffman picked to charge for Hackenbracht’s goals. The junior crushed a grand slam at dead center field to bring the Buckeyes to a single point.
However, the Buckeyes couldn’t muster any more points, as they fell to Northwestern in the first half of the doubleheader.
“In the Big Ten, game two is more often the high-scoring game because you don’t usually have the aces on the mound. They saved their ace for game three, which gave us the opportunity to get some points,” said head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. “We were up 4-1, I thought it was going to happen. I give Northwestern all the credit in the world because they did what they did. they had to do.
Rudd started Game 2 with a bang, as she hit her second home run of the day – a three-run shot to center field to take the lead.
Cuchran added her own home run, hitting a solo shot on the first pitch she saw in the top of the third inning.
The offensive firepower continued in the fourth inning, with Rudd doubling up with two outs. Nelson followed with another brace to score Rudd, taking Northwestern to a 5-0 lead.
After giving up a single and a walk in the sixth quarter, the North West Runners moved forward in scoring position on some wild pitch. Nelson reached for a defender’s pick, which scored a point. Smith came in relief from Handley, and a wild pitch scored a run on the second batter she faced.
Ohio State’s only run of the game was scored in the bottom of the seventh inning. Carver led off with a single, then Otte hit a double to right center to score it.
Williams went the distance allowing just five hits, one run and two walks, while striking out seven.
“Danielle Williams is one of the best pitchers in the conference, and she’s a senior so she knows what she’s doing,” Schoenly said. “I give her credit and she shifts gears a bit.”
For both games of the doubleheader, the stands were packed, with little to no free space to sit, as fans of both teams gathered to cheer on the Buckeyes and Wildcats.
“I love that they were in it all the way. We have a special product here. We only play a certain number of home games so I would just say to people that when we are at home, it’s a great environment to take your kids and family to because we pack the crowds in. It’s so much fun up there,” Schoenly said. “We knew that with a top 10 team coming in , people want to see that, and obviously we want to beat them and do a good job against them, but hopefully that will bring the crowds in for the rest of the season so they know what our product is.
Ohio State is back in action at Buckeye Field on Tuesday against Toledo at 4 p.m. The match will be broadcast on BTN+.