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Buckeye-Wildcat matchup pits No. 2 vs. No. 4 in the Big Ten; Senior Day set for Saturday

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Complete with a ceremonial first pitch by Ohio State University President Gordon Gee before game one at 5:05 p.m. Friday, the No. 19/22 Ohio State softball team (35-12, 14-2 Big Ten) will celebrate its 2010 senior class in style while hosting Northwestern (25-21, 10-6 Big Ten) for a two-game series televised live by the Big Ten Network.

The Buckeyes, ranked second in the Big Ten, and Wildcats, ranked fourth in the league, open the series at 5:05 p.m. Friday with game two slated for 3:05 p.m. Saturday. Postgame Saturday, Ohio State will recognize its 2010 senior class on the field.

The Scarlet and Gray are 14-1 in their last 15 games after recording a 10-game winning streak, including a 5-3 victory over the second-ranked Wolverines April 28 at Buckeye Field. OSU’s run was snapped with a 4-3 loss to Michigan in game two of a doubleheader.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
The Ohio State-Northwestern series will be televised live by the Big Ten Network with Randy Rhinehart on the play-by-play and Stacey Phillips as the color analyst.

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
Ohio State trails prominent Northwestern, 29-56-3, in the all-time record series. However, under head coach Linda Kalafatis, the Buckeyes and Wildcats are tied at 15-all. In 2009, Ohio State swept then-No. 15 Northwestern, 7-6 and 10-1, May 2-3 in Evanston, Ill.

The 2010 senior class of Lindsay Bodeker, Whitney Cooper, Leah Ledford, Sam Marder, Megan Miller, Courtney Pruner and Rebecca Schultz has some fond memories against the Wildcats, who perennially have produced a tough Big Ten squad. In 2007, Ohio State won its first and only Big Ten Tournament title, downing the sixth-ranked Wildcats, 2-1, at Buckeye Field.

As a freshman in 2006, Pruner went 6-1 for Ohio State on the mound, winning her first two collegiate games on the same day vs. then-No. 15 ranked Northwestern.

BUCKEYE QUICK HITS
– Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad and is third in the Big Ten, batting .418 overall. The shortstop has started all 47 games and is first on the team with 14 doubles and three triples while tying for first with 40 RBI. Herron is fifth on the all-time OSU home run list with eight this season and 22 in her career.
– Senior catcher Sam Marder leads the squad and is third in the Big Ten with 16 home runs. She also ties Herron with a team-best 40 RBI. Marder holds first on the all-time Ohio State record lists for home runs (59), RBI (186) and walks (221). With four runs scored against Minnesota April 24-25, Marder moved into third on the all-time record list and now has 145 in her career.
– Senior designated player Courtney Pruner is third on the all-time RBI and home run lists with 153 and 36, respectively. Pruner is just 13 RBI and five home runs shy of tying for second in both categories.
– Freshman Melanie Nichols leads the Buckeyes in wins (21), strikeouts (128), ERA (1.86) and innings pitched (161.2). The OSU pitching corps has a combined ERA of 2.30 while its opponents have combined for a 5.71 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.

THANK YOU SENIORS!
Ohio State will congratulate and thank its 2010 senior class of Lindsay Bodeker, Whitney Cooper, Leah Ledford, Sam Marder, Megan Miller, Courtney Pruner and Rebecca Schultz in a postgame celebration after game two Saturday.

These seven Buckeyes have helped Ohio State to 155 wins so far this season and rank as the third-winningest class in program history.

Beyond that, this class helped Ohio State to its highest ranking in the national polls, hitting No. 12 in 2009, en route to the Buckeyes’ first appearance at the NCAA Super Regional.

As freshmen in 2007, they helped Ohio State to its first Big Ten Title since 1990 before winning the Big Ten Tournament Title.

This April, the senior class recorded its first win vs. Michigan, delivering the second-ranked team in the nation its first and so far only conference loss of 2010. The Ohio State victory was the first over the Wolverines since the 2003 season.

GIVING BACK
Last fall, Ohio State hosted its ninth annual Ohio Collegiate Charity Classic at Fred Beekman Park on The Ohio State University campus, an event that has grown into one of the biggest fundraisers for Breast Cancer Awareness in Central Ohio.

The Buckeyes were joined by 19 other universities and colleges from around the state at the classic which raised more than $20,000 for the Stefanie Spielman Fund, a fund started by former All-Pro NFL linebacker and OSU standout Chris Spielman and his late wife, Stefanie. In all, the Classic has raised more than $130,000 for breast cancer research.

Ohio State head coach Linda Kalafatis will present a representative of Ohio State’s The James Cancer Hospital with a check prior to the start of game one Friday.

LOOKING AT OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes are 22-3 in their last 25 games after sweeping three-consecutive Big Ten teams in Michigan State (April 17-18), Indiana (April 21) and Minnesota (April 24-25). Ohio State also has swept Iowa (May 1-2) and Penn State (May 8-9) while earning a split with then-No. 18 Illinois (April 10-11) and No. 2 Michigan (April 28).

In the last six games, senior Courtney Pruner has recorded a team-high six RBI and scored three runs. She is 4-for-16 with six walks in the last three Big Ten series, hitting three-run home runs in opening games vs. Michigan and Penn State.

IN THE BIG TEN
With a sweep of Penn State (May 8-9), Ohio State retains its hold on second place in the Big Ten standings with a 14-2 record. The Buckeyes proved they belonged at the top of the standings after earning a split with top-ranked Michigan (16-1) April 28. Illinois is currently tied for second with a 14-2 ledger while Northwestern (10-6) defended its position in fourth.

The Buckeyes have swept six Big Ten opponents in Wisconsin (March 27), Michigan State (April 17-18), Indiana (April 21), Minnesota (April 24-25), Iowa (May 1-2) and Penn State (May 8-9) while splitting with Illinois (April 10-11) and Michigan (April 28). April 7, Ohio State lost two games to Mother Nature while visiting Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.

As a team, the Scarlet and Gray rank third in the league with a .299 team batting average and 2.30 combined ERA.

Sophomore Alicia Herron is third in the league with a .418 overall batting average and 14 doubles. Senior Sam Marder leads the Big Ten with a .549 on base percentage and 50 walks while ranking third with 16 home runs and fourth with an .833 slugging percentage.

Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols owns the fourth-best ERA in the conference with a 1.86 and ties for second with 21 wins.

AGAINST THE CONFERENCE
In Big Ten games only, sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron is hitting a team-best .393 with 19 RBI and 15 runs scored.

Junior Dee Dee Hillman is second with a .377 batting average while junior Brittany Goodchild is third with a .350 average. Senior Whitney Cooper leads the squad with 17 runs scored while classmate Courtney Pruner has 16 RBI and 11 runs scored.

Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols is 10-1 against Big Ten foes, winning nine-consecutive league contests. The San Jacinto, Calif., native owns a 1.50 ERA against league opponents and has fanned 56 batters.

Through 16 games, Ohio State has outscored its conference opponents, 109-44.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Ohio State owns a 12-1 record at home in 2010, outscoring its opponents, 99-36, at Buckeye Field.

At home, sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad with a .500 batting average while recording 17 RBI and scoring 15 runs. The Cypress, Calif., native has hit six of her team-leading 13 doubles at Buckeye Field while going long four times. Junior leadoff hitter Dee Dee Hillman is second with a .412 batting average and has scored the most runs, crossing home plate 16 times.

With 10 of her 21 wins coming at home, freshman Melanie Nichols owns a team-best 1.49 ERA while pitching 56.1 innings at Buckeye Field.

21-2
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols came in prepared for Division I NCAA fast pitch softball. The rookie leads Ohio State with 21 wins, 128 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.86 in 161.2 innings pitched. Nichols is on a 10-game win streak which started with a 4-0 victory over Bowling Green in game one of a doubleheader April 14.

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.  

SETTING ROOKIE RECORDS
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols is rewriting the OSU freshman pitching records in 2010. The native of San Jacinto, Calif., already owns the all-time wins record for a freshman with 21 victories. Her 21 wins also ties for sixth overall in the Ohio State season record book.

With a 13-5 run rule of Minnesota April 25, Nichols posted her 17th career victory, bypassing All-American Kim Reeder (2006-09) and Netherland Olympian Kristi DeVries (2001-04) who were tied with 16 apiece as rookies.

Nichols is currently on a 10-game win streak, which ranks fifth overall in the program record book for consecutive wins in a season.

Where Melanie Nichols Ranks:
Freshman Pitching Records
Wins
1. Melanie Nichols           21           2010

Innings Pitched
1. Lori Capozza              208.0     1988
4. Melanie Nichols           161.2     2010

Strike Outs
1. Kristi DeVries                173         2001
4. Melanie Nichols             122         2010

Shutouts
1. Kristi DeVries                6              2001
T-3. Melanie Nichols          4              2010

Complete Games
1. Lori Capozza               23           1988
T-3. Melanie Nichols         15           2010

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.

Remaining in the Top 25 for the 14th-consecutive week this season, the squad has tied its record set last year and has the opportunity to set a new high next week. The Buckeyes have been ranked nationally for the last 28-consecutive weeks.

Ohio State, currently ranked 19th in the NFCA and 22nd in the USA Softball Collegiate polls, is 132-60 all-time when ranked, including 57-14 at home when owning a Top 25 mark. 

HERRON NAMED ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT
Sophomore Alicia Herron was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV Second Team for the first time in her career May 7. The second-year starter at shortstop, Herron leads the Buckeyes with a .418 batting average while maintaining a grade-point average greater than a 3.30 in nursing.

The Cypress, Calif., native becomes just the sixth Buckeye to earn the academic distinction as a sophomore and the first since Wendy Allen (2001-02) was named to an All-District IV team in 2002.

“Alicia Herron is a great representation of what our program is about,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said. “She excels in the classroom as well as on the softball diamond.”

Herron, who set the freshman record for home runs in 2009 with 14, currently ranks fifth in the all-time Ohio State record book with 22 homers to date. She has started 101-of-102 games played in her short career and joins seniors Sam Marder, Courtney Pruner and Whitney Cooper as part of the Buckeyes’ power hitters.

JUMPING AHEAD
The Buckeyes are 19-1 when scoring in the first inning in 2010. Ohio State took a 3-0 lead over Penn State last Saturday off a three-run home run to left center by Courtney Pruner en route to a 3-1 victory.

Pruner did the same thing vs. Michigan April 28 (game one), giving the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead in the first. The Scarlet and Gray eventually won the game, 5-3.

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 but were unable to gain momentum, eventually falling, 11-3, in five innings.

AND IT’S GONE
In the last 10 games, Ohio State has hit 17 home runs to up its total to 49 this season. Seniors Courtney Pruner and Whitney Cooper hit a pair of three run home runs vs. Penn State in game one and game two, respectively, to help the Buckeyes earn their sixth conference sweep. For Pruner, it was the 36th home run of her career and she is just five shy of tying for second in the all-time OSU record book.

Pruner and Rebecca Schultz also hit multiple-run home runs to propel the Buckeyes past No. 2 Michigan in game one of a doubleheader April 28.

Against Indiana and Minnesota, Ohio State combined for seven homers, including a grand slam by Sam Marder April 25. The senior catcher has launched a team-high 16 in 47 games while boosting her Ohio State all-time career record to 59.

Sophomore Alicia Herron also has added 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 20 home runs so far this season.

LEADING OFF
Of Ohio State’s 49 home runs, 11 have been leadoff homers. The Buckeyes are 9-2 when an individual leads off with a home run.

WITH RUNNERS ON THIRD
In 13 opportunities, freshman Megan Coletta has recorded 11 RBI with runners on third and less than two outs for a team-best .846 average. Senior Courtney Pruner and junior Dee Dee Hillman are tied with a .667 percentage.

DOUBLE TROUBLE
Sophomore Alicia Herron leads Ohio State with 14 doubles while 13 Buckeyes have combined for a total of 69 doubles on the year. Senior Whitney Cooper has eight for second on the team, classmate Courtney Pruner has hit seven and Sam Marder and Dee Dee Hillman have recorded six doubles apiece.

Senior Rebecca Schultz and freshman Megan Coletta have five each while Leah Ledford, Brittany Goodchild, Karisa Medrano and Rachael Shepherd have chipped in four apiece.

TAKE A BASE
Two-time All-American Sam Marder has been walked 50 times this season, including 16 intentional. She has been walked 221 times in her career, the most in Buckeye history. Since she joined Ohio State in 2007, Marder has been put on base intentionally 54 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.

TAKING TWO VS. PSU
Behind a three-run home run from senior Courtney Pruner and a six strikeout performance from freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols, Ohio State posted a 3-1 victory over Penn State last Saturday in a very windy and chilly University Park, Pa.

The Buckeyes concluded the series sweep vs. the Nittany Lions as senior pitcher Megan Miller went the distance for her 11th victory of the season and eighth complete game in OSU’s 5-0 win. The Nittany Lions threatened throughout the game, recording seven hits, but Miller and the Buckeye defense prevailed and held Penn State off the scoreboard.