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Buckeyes look to remain perfect at home

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After splitting a Big Ten series at No. 18 Illinois last weekend, the No. 20/24 Ohio State softball team returns home to host in-state rival Bowling Green for a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Buckeye Field.

The Buckeyes (22-11, 3-1 Big Ten) have won nine of their last 11 contests and will face the 8-12 Falcons who are 4-2 in their last six games.

AND ON THE MOUND, SAMMY HARDY!
Prior to the start of the Ohio State-Bowling Green doubleheader, the Buckeyes will introduce Sammy Hardy as a member of their family when she throws out a ceremonial first pitch Wednesday.

Head coach Linda Kalafatis and the 2010 Ohio State squad welcomed Sammy into the Buckeye family this year, adopting her through the Safe on the Sidelines program in connection with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. (For more information on the program Click Here)

In January, the Buckeyes met Sammy for the first time after a practice, introducing themselves and showing her the team’s clubhouse and have been keeping in contact with her ever since. Sammy, a softball player herself, has two younger brothers, including one with a serious medical condition.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
Fans can watch Ohio State softball home games live online this season on Buckeye Vision at OhioStateBuckeyes.com or BigTenNetwork.com. Standard rates apply.

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. Audio from the Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio show also can be heard on the Buckeye Vision live streaming production at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

ALL-TIME SERIES
Ohio State leads Bowling Green, 22-10-1, in the all-time series and is 10-2 vs. the Falcons under head coach Linda Kalafatis. The programs last met at the Buckeye Invitational in Columbus in 2008 where Ohio State edged BG, 3-2, March 21.

The Scarlet and Gray are a perfect 5-0 in their last five meetings with the Falcons.

BUCKEYE QUICK HITS
– Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad, batting .419 overall. The shortstop has started all 33 Buckeye games and has 25 RBI, eight doubles and five home runs.
– Senior designated player Courtney Pruner moved into third on the Ohio State all-time career RBI record list last Saturday, batting in both OSU runs in the 3-2 loss at Illinois for her 138th and 139th runs batted in. Pruner added five more RBI – thanks in part to a grand slam – Sunday and has 28 on the season and 144 in her career.
– Senior catcher Sam Marder is second on the squad with 26 RBI this season and has 172 in her career to hold No. 1 in the all-time program record book. Marder also is the all-time home run (54) and walks (203) leader.
– Freshman Melanie Nichols leads the Buckeyes in wins (11), strikeouts (74), ERA (2.29) and innings pitched (97.2). The OSU pitching corps has a combined ERA of 2.54 while its opponents have combined for a 5.19 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 9-2 in their last 11 games after splitting a Big Ten series at Illinois last weekend. Ohio State fell, 3-2, in game one Saturday before bouncing back with a 10-2 victory Sunday. The Scarlet and Gray lost two conference games to Mother Nature last Wednesday, as persistent rain held Ohio State and Purdue off the field in West Lafayette, Ind.

IN THE BIG TEN
With a 3-1 ledger, Ohio State is currently third in the Big Ten standing. Michigan is first with a 7-0 conference record while Iowa holds second at 6-1.

Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the league with a .419 overall batting average and is tied for second with 44 hits. Senior Sam Marder leads the Big Ten with an .826 slugging average, .557 on base percentage and 32 walks. Marder also is third in the conference with 11 home runs.

In Big Ten games only, senior Courtney Pruner leads the Buckeyes with a .667 batting average, nine RBI and six runs scored. She has a 1.250 slugging average and .733 on base percentage against conference foes. As a team, the Buckeyes have outscored their league opponents, 30-13, in four games.

PRUNER POUNDS ILLINI
Senior Courtney Pruner was named Big Ten Player of the Week Monday after proving to be the hardest batter to get out in the Illinois-Ohio State series last weekend, going 6-for-7 with seven RBI and three runs scored.

The Akron, Ohio, native homered twice, including a grand slam in Ohio State’s 10-2 victory Sunday, to up her career mark to 34. The two-time captain, who has had hip surgery twice, also made a critical diving catch in the bottom of the second to limit the Illini to just one run.

HITTING MILESTONES
With two home runs last weekend, senior captain Courtney Pruner upped her career record to 34. She still ranks third in the Buckeye all-time career record book but is just seven shy of tying for second.

With seven RBI vs. Illinois, Pruner took over the team lead and has 28 on the season and 144 in her career. Last Saturday, she brought in both Ohio State runs in the one-run loss to the Illini to take over the No. 3 spot on the all-time Ohio State RBI list. The Akron, Ohio, native also hit the century mark with her 100th walk Saturday.

SOLID PITCHING
Senior Megan Miller and freshman Melanie Nichols both held No. 18 Illinois, who was ranked third in the country in runs per game (7.50) prior to entering the Big Ten series, to just two runs. Miller recorded her eighth win on the season, allowing just six hits Sunday and one earned run.

PRUNER AND GRAND SLAMS
Courtney Pruner knows how to rise to the occasion. After batting just .333 between March 27 and April 2, the senior captain came through big for Ohio State against No. 18 Illinois last weekend, going 6-for-7 with 7 RBI in Champaign.

Pruner earned four of those seven RBI off a two-out, sixth inning grand slam Sunday – her second of the season and fourth career. It turns out Pruner thrives under pressure as three of her four grand slams have come with two outs already recorded.

Her grand slam Sunday was the first to come in a month whose name does not start with an ‘M.’

Pruner Career Grand Slams
April 11, 2010 – at Illinois; sixth inning, two outs
March 5, 2010 – vs. East Tennessee State; fifth inning, two outs
May 22, 2009 – at Georgia; first inning, two outs
March 20, 2007 – at Long Beach; fourth inning, one out

DOUBLE TROUBLE
Senior Whitney Cooper and Alicia Herron lead Ohio State with eight doubles apiece while 12 Buckeyes have combined for 49 doubles. Senior Sam Marder has six and classmate Courtney Pruner has five while juniors Dee Dee Hillman, Karisa Medrano and Rachael Shepherd have four each.

JUMPING AHEAD
The Buckeyes are 13-1 when scoring in the first inning in 2010. Ohio State took a 1-0 lead in the first vs. Butler April 2 en route to a 7-5 victory, the Buckeyes’ fifth victory in a row.

AND IT’S GONE
Senior Courtney Pruner hit two home runs vs. Illinois last weekend, including her second grand slam of the season, to up Ohio State’s grand total of homers in 2010 to 33.

The Buckeyes have seen seven players combine for 33 home runs this season with senior catcher Sam Marder recording a team-high 11 in 31 games while boosting her Ohio State all-time career record to 54. 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. Herron and senior Whitney Cooper are tied for third on the team with five each.

The Scarlet and Gray pitching corps has allowed its opponents to hit just 15 home runs so far this season.

11-2
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols came in prepared for Division I NCAA fast pitch softball. The rookie leads Ohio State with 11 wins, 74 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.29 in 97.2 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. Last Saturday, 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.   

IN THE CLUTCH
Beyond leading the Buckeyes and Big Ten with an overall batting average of .419, sophomore Alicia Herron is batting .443 (27-for-61) with runners on and .500 (3-for-6) with bases loaded. Freshman Megan Coletta also is batting .500 (2-for-4) with bases loaded.

TAKE A BASE
Two-time All-American Sam Marder has been walked 32 times this season, including nine intentional. She has been walked 203 times in her career, the most in Buckeye history. Since she joined Ohio State in 2007, Marder has been put on base intentionally 47 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.

LEADING OFF
Of Ohio State’s 33 home runs, seven have been leadoff homers and three have come in the sixth inning. The Buckeyes are 4-2 when they have an individual hit a leadoff home run.

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 20th in the NFCA and 24th in the USA Softball Collegiate polls, is 120-59 all-time when ranked, including 48-13 at home when owning a Top 25 mark.