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Softball: Ohio State makes history, wins series against Michigan for first time in 33 years

The Lantern
Ohio State picked up a series win against Michigan, defeating Michigan 8-7 in Columbus on Monday. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

It took three games in 24 hours for the Ohio State softball team to put its stamp on history.

By capturing the first half of a doubleheader Sunday and another win in the rubber match Monday, the Buckeyes (20-8, 2-1 Big Ten) for the first time since 1990 won a series over its arch rival, Michigan (14-13, 1-2 Big Ten).

After dropping game one 3-1 in 10 innings, Ohio State fired back with a 11-2 thumping in game two and held on to win game three 8-7.

“We’re super pumped that we hung on there at the end, and we did enough to take the series,” Buckeye head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said. “For our team, we have goals that are more than just about one weekend, but I know this one was important to us.”

The Buckeye bats started off strong Monday, recording seven hits by the fourth inning — including a two-run home run from sophomore outfielder Melina Wilkison in the bottom of the second — giving them an 8-1 lead.

Sophomore right-hander Lauren Derkowski, who outdueled the Buckeyes in game one Sunday and pitched 10 complete innings, again got the ball to start the game for Michigan but was replaced in the second inning by junior right-hander Jessica LeBeau.

The Wolverines then rallied, scoring three runs in the fifth and loading the bases with one out before junior right-hander Emily Ruck came in relief for junior righty Allison Smith, the Buckeyes’ game one starter, and helped get Ohio State out of the inning.

Michigan scored three more in the sixth inning to get within one, but that was as close as it would get.

“I think both of us knew that our starters weren’t going to make it the whole way through,” Schoenly said. “Allison gave her heart yesterday, and we got over four innings today, which is all she could give.”

Ruck used back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout at second base in the seventh inning to seal the win.

“That is so huge because that game could have completely turned right then,” Schoenly said.

Ruck said she used to not like coming in relief, but she is now proud of how far she has come.

“It is definitely anxiety-ridden,” Ruck said. “Now growing up, I realize how important it actually is being given these opportunities.”

Ohio State’s game-three win came after a thrilling first two games Sunday, viewed by a standing-room-only crowd that included dozens who waited in a line extending from the Buckeye Field entrance all the way to Bill Davis Stadium.

Game one was highlighted by Smith’s 10 strikeouts and 10 innings pitched. Derkowski, her Wolverine counterpart, mirrored Smith in strikeouts and innings pitched.

“They had to reinvent themselves as the game went on because the fourth and fifth time in the order, you can’t keep doing the same thing,” Schoenly said. “Both pitchers did an excellent job at disguising what their plan was each time.”

The Buckeyes fought a hard game, making plays and making contact at the plate but not finding the gaps. Both teams kept each other in check throughout the game, working the pitchers to full counts multiple times.

Ultimately, it was the Wolverines who took the first game of the doubleheader, after two runs scored in the top of the 10th inning after a two-RBI hit from graduate utility player Melina Livingston.

Game two was a complete turnaround for Ohio State, as it mercy-ruled Michigan 11-2 in five innings.

Seven Buckeyes recorded at least one hit, including senior catcher Sam Hackenbracht who went 2-for 3 and hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first.

“Thank goodness for her,” Schoenly said. “She’s a leader on our team and when she goes, we go.”

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