Softball: No. 9 Northwestern victorious in both games of doubleheader, takes 3-0 series sweep over Buckeyes

Ohio State junior Sam Hackenbracht (24) swings at a pitch during the Ohio State-Indiana game on March 25. Ohio State won 6-2. Credit: Katie Good | For the Lantern

Both games of Sunday’s doubleheader were polar opposites, but carried the same result. 

The first one was an offensive battle back and forth, with Ohio State (23-10, 4-5 Big Ten) losing by one run 9-8. The Buckeyes were nearly shut out in the second game, scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh as they fell 7-1.

Northwestern’s senior pitcher Danielle Williams only gave up five hits in the second half of the doubleheader, while sophomore righty Allison Smith and graduate lefty Lexie Handley both had their share of troubles Sunday.

Game 1

In the slugfest that was the first game, Northwestern (27-6, 8-1 Big Ten) prevailed 9-8.

The Buckeyes got on the board first, starting with senior infielder Niki Carver getting hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the second inning. After battling to a full count, sophomore infielder McKenzie Bump drilled a double off the wall. Immediately after, sophomore infielder Kami Kortokrax dropped a bloop single over the shortstop’s head to score Carver.

Northwestern responded the following inning. Senior catcher Jordyn Rudd crushed a leadoff solo home run to tie the game. After two runners reached, sophomore infielder Hannah Cady singled to center field, but senior outfielder Meggie Otte saved a run by throwing home for sophomore catcher Hannah Bryan to tag the runner out.

Ohio State regained the lead in the bottom half of the frame, courtesy of Carver. Freshman outfielder Melina Wilkison started things off with a single, then junior designated player Sam Hackenbracht reached on a four-pitch walk. Carver proceeded to clobber a three-run home run off the side of the Schumaker Complex, putting the Buckeyes ahead 4-1.

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 to straightaway center field, making it 5-4 in favor of the Wildcats.

Handley proceeded to give up three walks to load the bases, then freshman infielder Grace Nieto singled up the middle to score two more runs.

The Wildcats piled on some more in the fifth frame, starting with graduate outfielder Rachel Lewis doubling to right center. Rudd hit an RBI single up the middle, then senior infielder Nikki Cuchran singled to score junior outfielder Emmie Farnam — who pinch ran for Rudd — stretching Northwestern’s lead to 9-4.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, junior catcher Taylor Pack reached on a walk. Wilkison and senior Kaitlyn Coffman both singled to load the bases for Hackenbracht. The junior mashed a grand slam to dead center field to bring the Buckeyes within one run.

However, the Buckeyes could not muster any more runs, as they fell to Northwestern in the first half of the doubleheader.

“In the Big Ten, game two is more times the highest-scoring game because you don’t have the aces on the mound for the most part. They saved their ace for game three, so it gave us an opportunity to get some runs,” head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said. “We were up 4-1, I believed it was going to happen. I give Northwestern all the credit in the world because they did what they needed to do.”

Game 2

Rudd began the second game with a bang, as she blasted her second home run of the day — a three-run shot to center field to take the early lead.

Cuchran added a home run of her own, hitting a solo shot off the first pitch she saw in the top of the third inning.

The offensive firepower continued into the fourth inning, with Rudd doubling with two outs. Nelson followed with another double to score Rudd, lifting Northwestern to a 5-0 lead.

After giving up a single and a walk in the sixth frame, Northwestern runners advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Nelson reached on a fielder’s choice, which scored a run. Smith came in for relief of Handley, and a wild pitch scored a run during 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 field to score her. 

Williams went the distance while only giving up 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 do give her credit and she changes speeds quite a bit.”

For both games of the doubleheader, the stands were packed to the max capacity, with there being little to no open space to sit, as fans from both teams packed in to cheer on the Buckeyes and Wildcats.

“I love the fact that they were in it to the end. We have a special product here. We only play a certain amount of home games, so I would just tell people when we are home it’s such a great environment to bring your kids and family out to because we pack the crowds. It’s so fun up there,” Schoenly said. “We knew 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 I hope that brings the crowds out for the rest of the season so they know what our product is.”

Ohio State is back in action at Buckeye Field Tuesday against Toledo at 4 p.m. The game will be streamed on BTN+.