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Buckeyes have just two Big Ten series remaining in regular season

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 19 Ohio State softball team (33-12, 12-2 Big Ten) will pack its bags for its second-consecutive Big Ten road series, this time facing Penn State at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday in University Park, Pa. For the Buckeyes, this is the final away series before the team concludes its regular season at home hosting Northwestern May 14-15.  

The Scarlet and Gray are 12-1 in their last 13 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.

The Nittany Lions are currently on a four-game losing skid after dropping two games each to Northwestern (May 1-2) and Syracuse (April 27). Penn State broke its last four-game losing streak with a series sweep of Iowa, 7-1 and 5-3, at home April 24-25.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
A radio broadcast of the Ohio State-Penn State Big Ten series will be aired on News Radio 1390 WRSC in State College, Pa.

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

ALL-TIME SERIES
Ohio State leads the all-time series record vs. Penn State, 41-25. The Buckeyes are 6-1 vs. the Nittany Lions in the last three seasons and are 18-12 under the guidance of head coach Linda Kalafatis in the last 14 seasons.

Last year in Columbus, the Scarlet and Gray swept PSU, 6-0 and 2-0, in a doubleheader May 9 after splitting with the Nittany Lion, 2-3 and 4-3, April 20, 2008.

BUCKEYE QUICK HITS
– Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad and the Big Ten, batting .429 overall. The shortstop has started all 45 games and is first on the team with 13 doubles and three triples while holding second with 39 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 the Big Ten with 16 home runs. She also owns a team-best 40 RBI. Marder holds first on the all-time Ohio State record lists for home runs (59), RBI (186) and walks (219). With four runs scored against Minnesota April 24-25, Marder moved into third on the all-time record list and now has 143 in her career.
– Senior designated player Courtney Pruner is third on the all-time RBI and home run lists with 150 and 35, respectively. Pruner is just 16 RBI and six home runs shy of tying for second in both categories.
– Freshman Melanie Nichols leads the Buckeyes in wins (20), strikeouts (122), ERA (1.90) and innings pitched (154.2). The OSU pitching corps has a combined ERA of 2.38 while its opponents have combined for a 5.79 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 20-3 in their last 23 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) while earning a split with then-No. 18 Illinois (April 10-11) and No. 2 Michigan (April 28).

In the last six games, junior Dee Dee Hillman owns a .524 batting average after hitting .714 against Minnesota April 24-25 and .500 vs. Iowa last weekend. The leadoff hitter went 5-for-7 against the Gophers, scoring two runs. Senior Sam Marder has had seven RBI in the last six games while tying classmate Whitney Cooper for first with five runs scored.

Freshman Megan Coletta is batting .350 in her last six games, recording five RBI and four runs scored.

IN THE BIG TEN
After a sweep of Iowa last weekend, Ohio State has held onto second place in the Big Ten standings with a 12-2 record. The Buckeyes proved they belonged at the top of the standings after earning a split with top-ranked Michigan (14-1) April 28. Illinois is currently third with a 10-2 ledger while Northwestern (9-5) moved into fourth and Iowa (8-5) fell to fifth.

The Buckeyes have swept Wisconsin (March 27), Michigan State (April 17-18), Indiana (April 21), Minnesota (April 24-25) and Iowa (May 1-2) 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.

As a team, the Scarlet and Gray rank third in the league with a .304 team batting average and 2.38 combined ERA.

Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the league with a .429 overall batting average while holding third with 13 doubles. Senior Sam Marder leads the Big Ten with a .557 on base percentage, 16 home runs and 48 walks. Marder is second in the conference with an .833 slugging percentage.

Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols owns the third-best ERA in the conference with a 1.90, sitting behind Michigan’s Jordan Taylor (1.45 ERA, 22-3 record, 163.2 IP, 255 SO) and Illinois’ Pepper Gay (1.51 ERA, 13-1, 88.0 IP, 85 SO).

AGAINST THE CONFERENCE
In Big Ten games only, sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron is hitting a team-best .420 with 18 RBI and 13 runs scored.

Junior Dee Dee Hillman is second with a .413 batting average while senior Sam Marder is third with a 3.59 average. Senior Whitney Cooper leads the squad with 16 runs scored while classmate Courtney Pruner has 13 RBI and 10 runs scored.

Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols is 9-1 against Big Ten foes, winning eight-consecutive league contests. The San Jacinto, Calif., native owns a 1.56 ERA against league opponents and has fanned 50 batters.

Through 14 games, Ohio State has outscored its conference opponents, 101-43.

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 20 wins coming at home, freshman Melanie Nichols owns a team-best 1.49 ERA while pitching 56.1 innings at Buckeye Field.

TOUGHING OUT FOR TWO WINS
It was not a walk in the park, but Ohio State escaped Iowa City with two one-run victories over Iowa, winning 4-3 Saturday and 6-5 in nine innings Sunday. Freshman Melanie Nichols (11.2 IP, 15 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 7 SO, 1 BB) earned both wins while senior Megan Miller (4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R) pitched a stellar game in relief in game two.

Freshman third baseman Megan Coletta, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, hit a two out double down the left-field line in the ninth and senior Leah Ledford followed with a double to centerfield to bring home the gamewinning run in the tightly contest affair Sunday.

In game one, Sam Marder went 2-for-4 with two RBI as Ohio State posted a come-from-behind victory Saturday.

20-2
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols came in prepared for Division I NCAA fast pitch softball. The rookie leads Ohio State with 20 wins, 122 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.90 in 154.2 innings pitched. Nichols is on a nine-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 20 victories. Her 20 wins also rank as the seventh most by a Buckeye pitcher of any class standing in a season.

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 nine-game win streak, which ties for fifth overall in the program record book for consecutive wins in a season.

JUMPING AHEAD
The Buckeyes are 18-1 when scoring in the first inning in 2010. Ohio State took a 3-0 lead over Michigan April 28 in game one after senior Courtney Pruner hit a first pitch, three run home run off Jordan Taylor. The Scarlet and Gray eventually won the game, 5-3.

Against Minnesota, Ohio State took a 4-0 lead in the first inning April 25 en route to a 13-5 run-rule victory.

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

AND IT’S GONE
In the last 10 games, Ohio State has hit 14 home runs to up its total to 47 this season. Seniors Courtney Pruner and Rebecca Schultz hit multiple-run home runs to propel the Buckeyes past No. 2 Michigan in game one of a doubleheader April 28. For Pruner, it was the 35th home run of her career and she is just six shy of tying for second in the all-time OSU record book.

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 45 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 47 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 13 doubles while 13 Buckeyes have combined for a total of 68 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 48 times this season, including 16 intentional. She has been walked 219 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.