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Sam Marder earns fourth All-Big Ten honor, Courtney Pruner earns third

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After earning 10 victories and throwing eight complete games in conference play for the NCAA championship bound Ohio State softball team, freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, the league office announced Wednesday evening. She becomes the first Buckeye to earn the distinction since Wendy Allen did so in 2001. She is the only freshman to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors this season.

“We have been thrilled with Melanie this season,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “She was nervous going into the year but she became more comfortable with the team and the level of play with each win.

“Her being able to rank at the top of ERA standings with the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Jordan Taylor as a freshman says a lot about her ability.”

Nichols is joined by senior catcher Sam Marder, senior designate player Courtney Pruner and sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron as First Team All-Big Ten nods, making it the first time in Ohio State history to have four players on the top all-conference team in a season. Junior outfielders Brittany Goodchild and Dee Dee Hillman were each named to the third team.

With a 16-2 conference ledger, Ohio State tied for second with Illinois while Michigan won the Big Ten title with an 18-1 record. The Buckeyes handed the Wolverines their only conference loss this season with Nichols recording Ohio State’s first victory over Michigan since the 2003 season.

The Buckeye award winners and their teammates will play host one of 16 NCAA regional championships this Friday through Sunday. The team welcomes 11th-seeded California, Bucknell and Kentucky to Buckeye Field for the double-elimination regional.

The Scarlet and Gray have compiled a 37-12 overall record and will face the Wildcats (31-25) at 7:30 p.m. Friday while Bucknell and California will open the event at 5 p.m.

THE AWARDWINNERS
Freshman of the Year, First Team All-Big Ten
Freshman Melanie Nichols posted a 1.44 ERA in league play, the best in the Big Ten among players with 12 or more appearances. In 73 innings pitched, she recorded 57 strikeouts, walked just 11 batters, which ranks third in the league, and held her opponents to an impressive .225 combined batting average.

The San Jacinto, Calif., native earned series sweeps vs. Indiana (April 21), Minnesota (April 24-25) and Iowa (May 1-2) en route to a 10-1 ledger. With 21 wins this season, she owns the OSU freshman pitching record for most victories and ranks sixth in the overall record book.

First Team All-Big Ten
Two-time All-American Sam Marder hit the second-most home runs in the Big Ten this season with 17 while ranking first in on-base percentage (.564) and walks (55). This is Marder’s third first team honor and fourth overall after earning second team honors in 2009. In Big Ten games only, Marder was walked 20 times, including three intentional, and scored 16 runs. Against Minnesota (April 25), the Calabasas, Calif., native hit her fourth career grand slam, helping the Buckeyes to a 13-5 victory. Marder holds first on the all-time Ohio State record lists for home runs (60), RBI (189) and walks (226).

Senior designated player Courtney Pruner has been clutch for the Buckeyes in conference play all season long. A first-team honoree in 2007 and second-team selection in 2009, Pruner provided key hits for the squad, especially against No. 18 Illinois (April 10-11) and No. 2 Michigan (April 28). The Akron, Ohio, native was the hardest to strike out vs. the Illini, going 6-for-7 with seven RBI and three runs scored. She homered twice in Champaign, including her fourth-career grand slam in OSU’s 10-2 victory April 11. Against the Wolverines, Pruner gave the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead in the first inning with a three-run homer en route to the squad’s 5-3 upset of the Wolverines. She is second on the team with 20 RBI in league play and third overall with 41 in all games.

After being named a Second Team All-Big Ten selection as a freshman, sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron jumped up to the first team this season after leading the conference in hitting for the majority of the year. Batting .421 through 49 games, she is currently tied for first in the Big Ten. Herron holds first on the team and ranks third in the league with a career-best 15 doubles while also contributing three triples and nine home runs. The Cypress, Calif., native leads Ohio State with 45 RBI, 24 of which came during Big Ten play and ties for second in the conference.

Third Team All-Big Ten
Junior Brittany Goodchild earns her first All-Big Ten honor after batting a career-best .343 in conference play, recording five RBI and scorings seven runs in the nine spot. The West Hills, Calif., native ranks fourth on the team with a .326 overall batting average and has 11 RBI and 18 runs scored this season while playing perfectly in the field.

Junior Dee Dee Hillman, who has been lethal for Ohio State in the leadoff position this season, earns her third All-Big Ten selection. In conference action, the Defiance, Ohio, native batted .356 and was walked seven times while scoring a team-high 20 runs. Overall, Hillman currently ranks third on the squad, hitting .348 and she tied Marder for first on the squad with 39 runs scored. As a freshman, she also earned third team honors and was named to the first team in 2009.

FIRST TEAM ALL-BIG TEN
Meredith Hackett, SO, Illinois 1B
Danielle Zymkowitz, Jr., Illinois 2B
Alicia Herron, So., Ohio State SS
Maggie Viefhaus, Sr., Michigan 3B
Angela Findlay, Sr., Michigan OF
Bree Evans, So., Michigan OF
Hope Howell, Sr., Illinois OF
Sam Marder, Sr., Ohio State C
Nikki Nemitz, Sr., Michigan UT
Courtney Pruner, Sr., Ohio State DP
Jordan Taylor, Jr., Michigan P
Melanie Nichols, Fr., Ohio State P

SECOND TEAM ALL-BIG TEN
Dorian Shaw, Jr., Michigan 1B
Nicole Pauly, Sr., Northwestern 2B
Emily Allard, Fr., Northwestern SS
Molly Garst, So., Purdue 3B
Jennifer Glueckert, Sr., Indiana OF
Hollie Pinchback, Jr., Illinois OF
Taylor Leichsenring, Sr., Iowa OF
Liz Watkins, So., Iowa C
Molly Bausher, Sr., Michigan UT
Michelle Batts, Jr., Northwestern DP
Monica Perry, So., Illinois P
Pepper Gay, Fr., Illinois P

THIRD TEAM ALL-BIG TEN
Brittany Goodchild, Jr., Ohio State OF
Roya St. Clair, Sr., Michigan C
Adrienne Monka, So., Northwestern 1B
Amanda Chidester, So., Michigan 2B
Jennifer Krueger, Jr., Wisconsin OF
Alex Davis, Fr., Minnesota UT
Lisa Akamine, So., Penn State UT
Lindsey Hansen, Jr., Michigan State SS
Liane Horiuchi, Sr., Purdue SS
Dee Dee Hillman, Jr., Ohio State OF
Lindsey Digmann, Sr., Iowa 2B
Shannel Blackshear, Fr., Wisconsin 3B
Letty Olivarez, Sr., Wisconsin UT

PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Nikki Nemitz, Michigan
Maggie Viefhaus, Michigan

PITCHER OF THE YEAR
Jordan Taylor, Michigan

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Melanie Nichols, Ohio State

COACH OF THE YEAR
Terri Sullivan, Illinois