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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After playing 26 games on the road, the No. 22 Ohio State softball team returns to Columbus for its home opener, a doubleheader vs. Big Ten foe Wisconsin starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at Buckeye Field. The Scarlet and Gray finished their early-season tournament schedule with a 16-10 ledger while the Badgers enter the weekend at 7-15 after dropping two games to Nebraska Wednesday.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
A link for live stats can be found on the softball schedule page at OhioStateBuckeyes.com or UWBadgers.com. In addition, follow the Buckeyes at Twitter.com/OhioStSoftball.

PARKING NOTICE
All softball fans are encouraged to enter off Olentangy River Road and park behind the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the Ohio State-Wisconsin softball doubleheader at 2 p.m. Saturday. Heavy traffic is expected in the area.

ALL-TIME SERIES
Ohio State and Wisconsin are tied at 17-all in the all-time series record. Last year, the Buckeyes notched two road wins, defeating the Badgers, 10-0, in game one and, 6-5 (11 innings), in game two, April 18 in Madison.

BUCKEYE QUICK HITS
– Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the squad, batting .425 with a team-leading 34 hits. The shortstop has started all 26 Buckeye games and has 17 RBI, five doubles and three home runs.
– Senior catcher Sam Marder leads the squad with 20 RBI this season and has 166 in her career -tying the all-time program record.
– All three Ohio State pitchers are seeing a lot of time on the mound with freshman Melanie Nichols throwing 71.2 innings, Lindsay Bodeker 49.1 and Megan Miller 48.0. The pitching corps has an ERA of 2.40 while its opponents have combined for a 4.54 ERA.
– With seven wins, 53 strikeouts and a 1.95 ERA, Nichols leads the Buckeye pitchers.
– Ohio State returns 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 3-1 in their last four games after Central Florida ended Ohio State’s three-game win streak with a 3-0 defeat Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. Prior to falling to the Knights, the Scarlet and Gray blew past Cornell, 18-0, in five innings in a neutral site meeting.

HERRON’S HITTING
Although she still is not satisfied, sophomore Alicia Herron has to be happy she is leading the team with a .425 batting average. The Cypress, Calif., native hit .478 during Ohio State’s seven-game spring break trip in Florida last week after batting .462 at the aTen Construction Tournament in Riverside, Calif., March 5-7.

In Florida, Herron had 11 hits in seven games, scored a team-high six runs and added three RBI. In addition, she successfully stole a team-best three bases.

BUCKEYES DOWN BIG RED, 18-0
Ohio State recorded a season-high 18 runs off 18 hits and had 17 RBI in its shutout of Cornell Wednesday. In all, 10 Buckeyes recorded hits and six individuals had multiple hits, including sophomore Alicia Herron who went 4-5 at the plate. Herron scored four runs and had one RBI. Besides getting it done with the bat, the shortstop was quick with her glove recording a team-high six putouts.

Senior Whitney Cooper went 1-3 but still recorded three RBI and two runs while classmate Rebecca Schultz went 2-3 with a team-best four RBI.

JUMPING AHEAD
The Buckeyes are 9-1 when scoring in the first inning in 2010. Ohio State took a 6-0 lead vs. Cornell Wednesday and posted the gamewinning run vs. South Florida Tuesday in the first inning en route to two of its three wins during spring break.

AND IT’S GONE
Senior catcher Sam Marder notched her 11th home run of the season vs. South Florida to propel Ohio State to a 1-0 victory.

The Buckeyes have seen six players combine for 26 home runs this season with Marder recording a team-high 11 in 26 games while boosting her Ohio State all-time career record to 54. Senior Courtney Pruner, who has 31 homers in her career and sits at No. 3 all-time in the history books, has knocked five over the fence this season.

The Scarlet and Gray pitching corps has allowed its opponents to hit just 10 home runs so far this season.

THE STRIKEOUT BATTLE
With 12 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched last week, freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols took over the team lead in the category with 53 ‘Ks’ on the year. Redshirt junior Lindsay Bodeker is close behind in second with 47 (49.1 IP) while senior pitcher Megan Miller has 29 (48.0 IP).

7-1
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols came in prepared for Division I NCAA fast pitch softball. The rookie leads Ohio State with seven wins, 53 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.95 in 71.2 innings pitched. Nichols’ first loss of the season came to Central Florida Wednesday as the Knights scored one earned and two unearned runs in a 3-0 defeat of the Buckeyes.

I’LL TAKE A SAM MARDER, PLEASE
Senior catcher Sam Marder was inducted into the inaugural sandwich club at Sloopy’s, a restaurant in Ohio State’s new student union, March 16.

From June 2010 until June 2011, Ohio State students will be able to order a Sam Marder Bistro Turkey at Sloopy’s. For her athletic and academic laurels, Marder was selected out of more than 200 applications for the honor. In total, 13 sandwiches are being named each year at the restaurant.

The Bistro Turkey is a delicious sandwich of turkey, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and A1 steak sauce on a marble rye.

GIVE HER A HAND
Freshman outfielder Brittany Mills recorded her first hit and first multiple-hit game vs. Cornell Wednesday. Mills went 2-2 while scoring two runs and posting her first career RBI against the Big Red.

MILLER’S GAME
Senior pitcher Megan Miller allowed just two hits and walked just one batter as the Buckeyes shut out Cornell Wednesday. She is 6-2 on the year with a 2.04 ERA after going 1-1 over spring break last week with a 0.98 ERA in 14.1 innings.

LEADING OFF
Of Ohio State’s 26 home runs, five have been leadoff homers and three have come in the sixth inning. The Buckeyes are 4-1 when they have an individual hit a leadoff home run.

TAKE A BASE
Two-time All-American Sam Marder has been walked 22 times this season, including seven intentional. She has been walked 193 times in her career, the most in Buckeye history. Since she joined Ohio State in 2007, Marder has been put on base intentionally 45 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.

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 22nd in both the NFCA and USA Softball Collegiate polls, is 114-58 all-time when ranked, including 43-13 at home when owning a Top 25 mark. 

BODEKER BLOWS BY UCLA
Lindsay Bodeker turned in an extraordinary game Feb. 28, shutting out then-No. 5 UCLA, who had been averaging 8.25 runs a game prior to meeting Ohio State. The redshirt junior, who was sidelined all offseason because of injury, limited the Bruins to batting just 2-11 with runners on base and jammed the Pac-10 squad into 15 ground outs. Overall, UCLA combined for a .188 batting average.

COOPER IS CLUTCH
Against No. 5 UCLA Feb. 28, senior second baseman Whitney Cooper recorded a season-high eight assists and had two putouts with no errors to help Ohio State to a 7-0 victory. At the plate, the captain went 2-3 with a three-run homer.

At the 2010 Cathedral City Classic, Cooper batted .375 and stole three bases. She had 17 total assists and 11 putouts.

HERRON’S THE HERO
In an inning scripted much like one filmed on a Hollywood lot, sophomore Alicia Herron recorded her second career grand slam to propel Ohio State to a 8-7 extra inning victory vs. Oregon State Feb. 27.

With the Buckeyes down 7-2 heading into the top of the seventh, the squad started to chip away the five-run deficit as junior Rachael Shepherd hit an RBI single down the left-field line. Ohio State then loaded the bases with two outs and Herron up to bat. With a full count, the Cypress, Calif., native sent a ball sailing over the left-center fence to tie things up at 7-all. In the eighth, senior Leah Ledford, batting in the sixth spot, hit an RBI single to bring in the gamewinning run.

Herron’s first career grand slam came vs. Big Ten rival Indiana April 8, 2009.

PICKING UP THE WIN
Senior pitcher Megan Miller entered the Oregon State game (Feb. 27) in the middle of the third inning after the Beavers had taken a 6-0 lead. Miller shut down Oregon State’s offense, allowing them just one more run in the game on four hits. In extra innings, the Woodland Hills, Calif., native eliminated the batters in order to close out the game.

THE BUCKEYES ARE RUNNING
Aggressive running helped Ohio State to its first 10 wins of the season. The Buckeyes were a perfect 15-15 when stealing in their first 15 games of 2010.

STEALING HOME
Pinch running against No. 5 UCLA, junior Brittany Goodchild stole home on a UCLA miscue to add to the Buckeyes’ lead en route to a 7-0 victory Feb. 28.

ON THE MARK
Senior Courtney Pruner batted .529 at the Hatter Invitational Feb. 19-21, including a 4-4 appearance vs. Stetson (2 runs, 2 RBI, 1 2B and 1 HR) Feb. 19 and a 3-3 outing vs. No. 8/9 Alabama Feb. 21. On the weekend, the Akron, Ohio, native recorded nine hits, three RBI and two runs.

Junior Dee Dee Hillman had the second-best batting average (.474) with nine hits, four runs, two RBI and two stolen bases.

COLETTA CONNECTS
Freshman Megan Coletta recorded her first hit and first triple as a Buckeye during the second weekend of the season. The Fullerton, Calif., native posted her first hit vs. Stetson Feb. 19 before pounding out a two-RBI triple vs. Rhode Island Feb. 20.

MARDER MAGIC
Senior catcher Sam Marder was named Big Ten Player of the Week Feb. 15, her fifth-career honor, after batting .500 through five games, including a 1.700 slugging percentage, at the Marriott Houston Hobby Classic. Marder recorded six RBI off four home runs.

Against No. 15 Baylor Feb. 13, her second-inning homer jump started the Buckeyes’ 4-3 comeback win. Batting in the No. 2 spot, Marder sent in the first runs vs. Sam Houston State, Baylor, Louisville and Kansas Feb. 13-14.  Behind the plate, she recorded 37 putouts and three assists with no errors.

BEGINNERS LUCK
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols started her Ohio State career off on the right foot, winning two games for the Buckeyes at the Marriott Houston Hobby Classic Feb. 12-14. In 14.2 innings pitched, the San Jacinto, Calif., native fanned a team-high 16 batters while allowing just six hits on the weekend.

Earning her first start and win vs. a Top 25 Baylor team Feb. 13, Nichols threw her first career complete game with six strikeouts. Coming in to relieve senior pitcher Megan Miller vs. Kansas Feb. 14, she threw a perfect game through six innings, striking out six while allowing no hits and walking no batters.

ON THE ROAD
Ohio State opened 2010 with five-consecutive early-season tournaments on the road, playing 26 away games before hosting a Big Ten series vs. Wisconsin Saturday-Sunday in Columbus.

The Buckeyes posted a 16-10 record through their early-season tournament, playing eight games against ranked opponents.

Over spring break, Ohio State went 1-3 at the USF ‘The Game’ Tournament last weekend in Clearwater, Fla. The Scarlet and Gray opened the month going 3-1 at the aTen Construction Tournament March 5-7 in Riverside, Calif., after posting a 4-1 ledger vs. a tough slate at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., including a shutout win vs. No. 5 UCLA, 7-0, Feb. 28.

To open the season, Ohio State won the Marriott Houston Hobby Classic Tournament with a 4-1 record Feb. 12-14 and finished second at the Hatter Invitational (2-3) Feb. 19-21. Ohio State had to play then-No. 8/9 Alabama three times in DeLand, Fla., losing two heartbreaking decisions, a 5-3 defeat Feb. 19 and 5-4 loss Feb. 20, before falling, 7-1, in the championship game Feb. 21.

UP NEXT
Ohio State opens its 2010 home schedule and Big Ten slate vs. Wisconsin March 27-28 at Buckeye Field. Both contests will be held at 2 p.m.