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ORLANDO, Fla. – Fourteen innings. No runs. Five hits allowed. 17 strikeouts. It was a good day to be a pitcher for the Ohio State softball team. Shelby McCombs, Morgan Ray and Shelby Hursh combined to put up all zeros over two games in wins over Delaware State and Mercer and extend the Buckeyes’ season-high winning streak to three games. Ohio State is now 10-6 overall.
THE SHORT STORY
McCombs and Ray combined on a two-hit 7-0 shutout of Delaware State in the opening game of the day, and that performance was backed up at the plate by nine different players who recorded hits. In the nightcap, Hursh fanned 10 and didn’t allow a hit after the fifth inning to register her team-leading sixth win of the year as Ohio State blanked Mercer, 4-0.
GAME TWO: Ohio State 4, Mercer 0
Hursh ran in to trouble early in the game, allowing the first two batters to reach via singles that created a two-on, nobody out jam in the top of the first. She quickly settled down, however, and got a strikeout and two foul outs to end the threat.
In the bottom half of the inning, Emily Clark once again showed her knack for delivering key two-out hits, as she belted a pitch down the left field line and scored Anna Kirk, who had led off the inning with a single.
From there, Hursh worked around a lead-off walk in the top of the second and then retired Mercer in order in the third. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s lead would be increased to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth when some alert base running by Lilli Piper allowed her to score from third on a wild pitch. Piper reached base on a Mercer error.
The third and final hit on the night for the Bears came with one out in the top of the fourth. From there, Mercer had just two more base runners, both of whom reached after being hit by pitches. Single runs by Ohio State is the fifth and sixth innings – an Alex Bayne single that scored Bri Betschel and a two-out infield single by Betschel that allowed pinch runner Andi Farrah to score – gave the Buckeyes all the breathing room they’d need.
THREE STRAIGHT SHUTOUTS
The last time an Ohio State team recorded three straight shutouts was 2013 when it blanked Pittsburgh, George Mason and Canisius. On the season, the Buckeyes have already have five shutouts in the first 16 games.
Betschel swung one of the hottest bats this weekend, going five-for-nine (.556) with three RBI and a .600 on-base percentage in three games. Bayne was the team’s best run producer, driving in six runs while also batting .400.
DOMINANCE IN THE CIRCLE
Over 25 innings this weekend, the group of McCombs, Springer, Ray and Hursh combined for a 1.12 ERA, .212 batting average against and gave up just four earned runs. Hursh (13 Ks, 11.0 IP) and McCombs (seven Ks, 6.0 IP) each averaged better than one strikeout per inning.
Just as impressive as those numbers is the Buckeyes’ staff WHIP for the weekend: 1.36. All of the pitchers were under a 2.00 individually, led by Ray (no hits, no walks over 2.0 innings) and Hursh (1.45 in 11.0 innings).
GAME ONE: Ohio State 7, Delaware State 0
McCombs and Ray combined to allow just two hits over seven innings and register the Buckeyes’ fourth shutout of the season is a 7-0 win over Delaware State.
McCombs pitched the first five innings, scattering just two hits while striking out a season-high six. She was also able to end both the first and second innings with stirkeouts. In the first, her punch out of Mika Lumsden stranded a runner at third base.
In the top half of the next inning, a key two-out hit off the bat of Betschel scored both Farrah and Maddie Marotti, who had reached on an infield single. That 2-0 lead would hold up until the fourth inning when two more runs came in via a two-run RBI single up the middle from Kirk. The first three batters of the inning all reached, thanks to a Becca Gavin single, Marotti walk and Bailee Sturgeon single.
In the sixth, the game was put out of reach when Delaware State committed an error in center field with the bases loaded that allowed Kirk, Betschel and Sturgeon to all score. That 7-0 lead would be more than enough for McCombs and Ray, who didn’t allow a base runner after the fifth inning.
AT THE PLATE
A 11-hit attack saw 10 different players record a hit, including all nine starters. Alex Vargas came off the bench in the seventh inning and recorded her first hit of the season, a double off the right centerfield fence. Both Betschel and Kirk finished with two RBI.
DID YOU KNOW
Nearly half of the runs that were driven in this weekend came with two outs (eight of 19). Additionally, Kirk extended her reached base streak to 14 consecutive games and since taking over the lead-off spot, she’s hitting .348 with a .500 on base percentage.
Ohio State’s Spring Break trip continues on Tuesday, March 14 with a contest at Stetson in DeLand, Fla. From there, the Buckeyes take on Bethune Cookman on Wednesday and then head to Tampa, Fla. for four games the weekend of March 17-18.