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Doubleheader features the Top 2 teams in the conference

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A perfect storm is brewing in Columbus as the No. 19/24 Ohio State softball team (30-11, 9-1 Big Ten), ranked second in the Big Ten, prepares to host No. 2 Michigan (37-5, 13-0 Big Ten), the league’s top-ranked squad, for a crucial conference doubleheader Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Buckeye Field.

The Scarlet and Gray enter the contest on a nine-game win streak and own an 11-0 ledger at home after sweeping both Indiana and Minnesota last week.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
The Ohio State-Michigan series will be televised live on the Big Ten Network with Leah Secondo on the play-by-play and Jennie Ritter and Heather Lyke, Ohio State Associate Athletic Director and former Michigan softball player, adding analysis.  

In addition, a link for live stats can be found on the softball schedule page at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

THE BUCKEYES ARE ON THE RADIO
Softball fans can tune into Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio at www.ohiostatesports.net as senior Ohio State students Evan Winkofsky and Joey D’Amico call the action at Buckeye Field this spring.

ALL-TIME SERIES
In 91 meetings between the Ohio State and Michigan softball teams, the Wolverines lead the all-time series record, 72-19. The Buckeyes last defeated the Wolverines in 2003 with a 4-0 victory April 19 after dropping a 4-0 contest April 18. Prior to that, OSU edged UM, 3-2, at home April 22.

Last season, the two programs met in Ann Arbor, Mich., with both squads ranked in the nation’s Top 25. Michigan won both games of a tightly contested doubleheader, 6-3 and 5-2, May 6.

BUCKEYE QUICK HITS
– Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad, batting .432 overall. The shortstop has started all 41 Buckeye games and is second on the team with 37 RBI and first with 13 doubles while hitting eight home runs. Herron is fifth on the all-time OSU home run list with 22 in two seasons.
– Senior catcher Sam Marder leads the squad with 16 home runs and 38 RBI this season. Marder holds first on the all-time Ohio State record lists for home runs (59), RBI (184) and walks (211). With four runs scored against Minnesota last weekend, Marder moved into third on the all-time record list with 142 in her career.
– Senior designated player Courtney Pruner is third on the all-time RBI and home run lists with 147 and 34, respectively.
– Freshman Melanie Nichols leads the Buckeyes in wins (15), strikeouts (101), ERA (1.95) and innings pitched (122.1). The OSU pitching corps has a combined ERA of 2.37 while its opponents have combined for a 5.87 ERA.
– Ohio State returned 14 letterwinners and seven starters from its 2009 squad that went 47-11 and 16-4 in the Big Ten, finishing second in the league.
– The Buckeyes have made three NCAA appearances in the last four years, including their first run in program history to the NCAA Super Regional in 2009. Ohio State also made the tournament in 2006 and ’07.
– Last season the team recorded the second-most wins, runs and RBI in program history with a 47-11 ledger, 329 runs scored and 293 RBI. OSU also recorded the second-most shutouts in program history with 23, one shy of the record.

LOOKING AT OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes are 17-2 in their last 19 games after sweeping three-consecutive Big Ten teams in Michigan State (April 17-18), Indiana (April 21) and Minnesota (April 24-25). The team is on a nine-game win streak, its longest of the season.

In the last six games, junior Dee Dee Hillman owns a .524 batting average after hitting .714 against Minnesota last weekend. The leadoff hitter went 5-for-7 against the Gophers, scoring two runs. Senior Whitney Cooper is second on the team with a .471 batting average in the last six games, scoring a team-high 10 runs.

IN THE BIG TEN
After a sweep of Minnesota last weekend, Ohio State moved into second place in the Big Ten standings with a 9-1 ledger. Michigan is first with a perfect 12-0 conference record while Iowa dropped to third place with an 8-2 record.  

The Buckeyes have swept Wisconsin (March 27), Michigan State (April 17-18), Indiana (April 21) and Minnesota (April 24-25) while splitting a series vs. Illinois (April 10-11). April 7, Ohio State lost two games to Mother Nature while visiting Purdue in West Lafayette.

Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the league with a .432 overall batting average and 57 hits while holding second with 13 doubles. Senior Sam Marder leads the Big Ten with a .563 on base percentage, 16 home runs and 42 walks. Marder also ties Michigan’s Maggie Viefhaus for first in the conference with an .894 slugging average.

Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols owns the third-best ERA in the conference with a 1.91, sitting behind Michigan’s Jordan Taylor (1.18 ERA, 20-2 record, 148.1 IP, 226 SO) and Nikki Nemitz (1.77 ERA, 15-3 record, 107.0 IP, 126 SO).

AGAINST THE CONFERENCE
In Big Ten games only, sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron is hitting a team-best .429 with 16 RBI and 11 runs scored. Senior catcher Sam Marder is second to Herron in two categories with a .414 batting average and 13 RBI while scoring 12 runs. Senior second baseman Whitney Cooper has scored a team-best 14 runs against conference foes.

Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols is 6-1 against Big Ten foes, winning all four games last week. The San Jacinto, Calif., native owns a 1.39 ERA against league opponents and has fanned 37 batters.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Ohio State owns an 11-0 record at home in 2010, outscoring its opponents, 91-29, at Buckeye Field. At home, sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad with a .514 batting average while recording 15 RBI and scoring 14 runs. The Cypress, Calif., native has hit six of her team-leading 13 doubles at Buckeye Field while going long four times. Senior Sam Marder is second, hitting .478 with 15 RBI. Junior leadoff hitter Dee Dee Hillman has scored the most runs, crossing home plate 15 times.

With nine of her 17 wins coming at home, freshman Melanie Nichols owns a team-best 1.70 ERA while pitching 45.1 innings at Buckeye Field.

THE GRAND SALAMI
Sam Marder already has a sandwich named after her at the new Ohio Union on campus called the Turkey Bistro, but a more aptly named sandwich for the Ohio State all-time home run hitter would have been the Grand Salami.

Marder hit her fourth career grand slam in the fourth inning vs. Minnesota last Sunday, registering as her 59th career home run.

Sam Marder Career Grand Slams
April 25, 2010 – vs. Minnesota; fourth inning, two outs
April 12, 2009 – vs. Illinois; second inning, one out
Feb. 12, 2008 – vs. Providence; second inning, two outs
Feb. 9, 2007 – vs. New Mexico; fifth inning, two outs

GETTING IN THE SWING OF THINGS
Freshman third baseman Megan Coletta is quickly proving her abilities not only in the field but at the plate. The rookie from Fullerton, Calif., batted .500 in the eighth spot last weekend against Minnesota, recording her sixth career multiple RBI game with three on Sunday.

She has 22 RBI on the season to rank fifth on the squad. A tall and fast third baseman, Coletta has a .924 fielding percentage, playing in 33 games and starting 26.

WITH RUNNERS ON THIRD
In 12 opportunities, freshman Megan Coletta has recorded 10 RBI with runners on third base for a team-best .833 average. Senior Courtney Pruner and junior Dee Dee Hillman are tied with a .667 percentage while sophomore Alicia Herron is third with a .636 average.

DOUBLE TROUBLE
Sophomore Alicia Herron leads Ohio State with 13 doubles while 13 Buckeyes have combined for a total of 62 doubles on the year. Senior Whitney Cooper has eight for second on the team while classmates Sam Marder and Courtney Pruner are not far behind with six apiece.

Senior Rebecca Schultz and junior Dee Dee Hillman have five each while juniors Brittany Goodchild, Karisa Medrano and Rachael Shepherd also have chipped in four apiece.

JUMPING AHEAD
The Buckeyes are 17-1 when scoring in the first inning in 2010. Ohio State took a 4-0 lead against Minnesota in the first inning last Sunday en route to a 13-5 run-rule victory.

Last Wednesday, OSU took a 4-0 lead in game one and a 6-0 lead in game two en route to earning two run-rule victories over Indiana at Buckeye Field.

Ohio State’s lone loss came to Syracuse March 19 in Clearwater, Fla. The Buckeyes scored a single run in the bottom of the first and was unable to gain momentum, eventually falling, 11-3, in five innings.

AND IT’S GONE
In the last two weeks, Ohio State has hit 12 home runs to up its total to 45 this season. Against Indiana and Minnesota, the Buckeyes combined for seven homers including a grand slam by Sam Marder Sunday.

The senior catcher has launched a team-high 16 in 41 games while boosting her Ohio State all-time career record to 59. Pruner, who has 34 career homers and sits at No. 3 all-time in the history books, has knocked eight over the fence this season. Sophomore Alicia Herron also has hit eight home runs this season and holds fifth on the all-time Buckeye record book with 22 in her career.

The Scarlet and Gray pitching corps has allowed its opponents to hit just 17 home runs so far this season.

LEADING OFF
Of Ohio State’s 45 home runs, 11 have been leadoff homers. The Buckeyes are 9-2 when they have an individual hit a leadoff home run.

TAKE A BASE
Two-time All-American Sam Marder has been walked 42 times this season, including 15 intentional. She has been walked 213 times in her career, the most in Buckeye history. Since she joined Ohio State in 2007, Marder has been put on base intentionally 53 times – by far the most in school history dating back to the 1998 season. The second-most times a Buckeye had been intentionally-walked in a career in the last decade is six.

17-2
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols came in prepared for Division I NCAA fast pitch softball. The rookie leads Ohio State with 17 wins, 109 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.91 in 132.0 innings pitched.

Nichols’ first loss of the season came to Central Florida March 24 as the Knights scored one earned and two unearned runs in a 3-0 defeat of the Buckeyes. April 11, the freshman battled hard against a strong Illinois team, which ranked third in the nation in runs per game, holding the Illini hitters to just three runs off of seven hits in the 3-2 loss.   

ONE HITTER
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols threw her first career one hitter, shutting out Indiana, 8-0, last Wednesday at Buckeye Field. Nichols faced just 19 batters, striking out six and retiring the Hoosiers in order in five of the six innings.

NOTING THE RANKINGS
Last season, the Buckeyes spent 14-consecutive weeks in the national rankings, spanning from Feb. 20 when they debuted at No. 23 through the NCAA Super Regional May 22 as they concluded the season with the highest ranking in program history at 12th.

The 14 weeks spent in the Top 25 set an Ohio State record for consecutive weeks in the polls. Previously, the 2003 and 2008 squads had maintained a Top 25 ranking for eight-consecutive weeks.

Ohio State, currently ranked 19th in the NFCA and 24th in the USA Softball Collegiate polls, is 127-59 all-time when ranked, including 54-13 at home when owning a Top 25 mark.