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April 12, 2005

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – When the Ohio State softball team hosts Iowa and Illinois this weekend, it will not just be the Buckeyes’ 2005 Big Ten home opener, but OSU’s first home league games in nearly a year. The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes visit Buckeye Field for single games Fri. at 6 p.m. and Sat. at noon, while the Fighting Illini are in town for a Sunday double-header beginning at noon. GameTracker will be available for all four games.

Ohio State, winner of three of its last four games, is 19-11 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten. Iowa, which defeated Ohio State March 6 in a non-conference game in Georgia, is now 32-9 and has a win over No. 1 Michigan to its credit. The Hawkeyes are 4-4 in the Big Ten, however, to sit in a three-way tie for fourth place in the conference standings with Ohio State and Penn State (3-3 Big Ten). Illinois, which plays at Penn State Fri. and Sat., is 17-19 overall and 0-8 in the Big Ten.

When the first pitch is thrown in the OSU-Iowa game Fri., it will mark the Buckeyes’ first home Big Ten game since Apr. 18, 2004. Ohio State’s last 14 Big Ten games, dating back to last season, have all been on the road. Ohio State is coming off a 10-game road trip, with six of those games being inside the Big Ten as the Buckeyes played their first six league games all away from Columbus for just the second time in program history.

This week will mark the last time this season Ohio State will not play a midweek game. Iowa and Illinois, meanwhile, host midweek non-league games prior to making their trips east.

BUCKEYES VS. IOWA AND ILLINOIS
At Buckeye Field, Ohio State is 8-18 all-time against Iowa and 3-1 against Illinois. In all games, Iowa leads the all-time series against the Buckeyes, 53-31, while OSU leads the all-time series against Illinois, 8-7. Ohio State last swept both opponents in 2002. Illinois has never swept Ohio State, while the Hawkeyes’ last sweep came at Buckeye Field in 2003.

Last year, Ohio State and Iowa split two games in Iowa City. The Buckeyes later knocked the Hawkeyes out of the Big Ten tournament with a 5-1 win in Ann Arbor, Mich. Ohio State was 16-20 against Iowa from 1987-1996, but is 5-18 since, including 1-9 in the last 10 games at Buckeye Field. The OSU-Illinois regular-season games were rained out last year, but the two teams met in the Big Ten tournament, with the Fighting Illini winning, 6-0.

BUCKEYES 3-3 IN THE BIG TEN
Ohio State has swept, been swept and split in its first three Big Ten series. The Buckeyes dropped their first two games (at Wisconsin), then won two straight (at Minnesota) before splitting a double-header at Michigan State last weekend.

The Buckeyes saw host Wisconsin narrowly win both games, as the Badgers took the first game Apr. 1, 2-1, and won the second game Apr. 2 in extra innings, 9-7. Ohio State bounced back, however, with its first-ever sweep of the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis, winning 13-1 and 5-1 Apr. 3. The 13 runs scored in the opener at Minnesota ties the OSU record for most runs scored in a Big Ten game. Previously, the Buckeyes won 13-0 at Michigan State March 30, 2002 and won a double-header from Minnesota Apr. 17, 1994, by 13-0 and 13-5 scores.

In Ohio State’s only games last week, the Buckeyes split a pair of games at Michigan State. OSU won the opener, 6-1, by scoring all six of its runs with two outs in the third inning. The Spartans took the second game, however, 7-4.

ROAD GAMES MATCH OSU RECORD
For just the second time in program history, the Buckeyes faced their first three Big Ten opponents (six games total) all away from Columbus. The 1987 OSU squad also opened its Big Ten schedule with three road opponents, including games at Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana.

The just-completed road stretch is the just the third such overall six-game span of Big Ten road games in program history. What the 1987 Buckeyes first did, last year’s OSU squad duplicated when it played its final six league games all away from home.

ALREADY TOPPING 2004 TOTALS
Several Buckeyes have already bettered their statistical totals from a year ago. Sophomore Megan Schwab has already improved almost all of her numbers from 2004, including home runs (7 in `05, 3 in `04) and RBI (30 in `05, 25 in `04) and is batting .420 compared to .295 last year. Sophomore Nycole Koyano has six triples after having none in 2004. Junior Billie Jo Carder has eight doubles and 17 RBI this season, which are more than her combined freshman and sophomore totals (five doubles, 10 RBI).

Sophomore Christina Douglas has 29 hits, four home runs and 25 RBI this season after having 11 hits, one homer and seven RBI in 2004. Junior Stacy Hibma has three home runs, matching the career total of her first two seasons. Sophomore Jamee Juarez is 15-8 in the circle with 125 strikeouts after compiling a 13-10 record with 118 strikeouts in 2004.

Those with batting averages significantly up from last year include Carder (.255 in 2004, up to .333), senior Ashley Cutcliff (.329 up to .450), Douglas (.216 up to .326), Hibma (.237 up to .290), Juarez (.279 up to .385), junior Nicole Lancaster (.000 up to .267) and Schwab (.295 up to .420).

Among Ohio State’s team numbers up from last year, the Buckeyes’ 14 triples are double the seven they had in 2004. OSU has already turned more double plays (10 in `05, 9 in `04), and is on pace to better its’ 25 home runs (24 so far in 2005), 70 stolen bases (49 in 2005) and 230 runs (188 in 2005).

JUAREZ IS THE OSU WORKHORSE
Sophomore Jamee Juarez has started in the circle in 10 of Ohio State’s last 11 games. She has pitched at least three innings in 12 of Ohio State’s last 13 games. Juarez has been the pitcher of record in 15 of the Buckeyes’ last 17 games and owns a 10-5 record over that span.

Juarez, twice the Big Ten Player of the Week in 2005, has already compiled 129.1 innings pitched and 125 strikeouts this season, and along with her 15-8 record is on her way to turning in one of the all-time best single-season pitching performances in OSU history. Juarez was 2-4 in her first six decisions before winning nine consecutive games from Feb. 27 to March 24. Her 243 career strikeouts are sixth all-time at Ohio State, and she is closing in on No. 5 Shelly Eger’s 254 strikeouts.

At the plate, Juarez has been just as impressive. Her .385 batting average and 17 RBI rank third on the team and her 30 hits are second. Juarez posted a career-best 11 game hitting streak from March 5 to Apr. 3.

OHIO STATE QUICK HITS
Ohio State’s .325 batting average overall is best in the Big Ten and OSU ups that to .335 in league games, which is ranked No. 2. OSU opponents are hitting .257 overall and .289 in league play. In all games, the Buckeyes have more than twice as many doubles (48-22) and over three times as many triples (14-4). OSU has outscored its opponents by average of nearly two runs per game (4.7-3.0).

Ohio State is 16-for-40 (.400) when the bases are loaded with three grand slams. In 197 innings played, the Buckeyes’ leadoff batter has reached base 79 times (.401). OSU increases its batting average to .367 with runners in scoring position and to .500 (31-for-62) with a runner on third base and less than two outs. Buckeye pitchers have racked up 168 strikeouts, while OSU hitters have struck out only 119 times and have nearly twice as many walks (101 to 62).

The Buckeyes are 18-5 when scoring at least three runs and 12-2 when holding their opponents to two or fewer runs. OSU is 8-1 when scoring in the first inning and 17-4 when scoring first in the game. Ohio State is 18-2 when outhitting or having the same number of hits as its opponent.

BUCKEYES AMONG BIG TEN LEADERS
Ohio State’s .325 overall batting average is best in the Big Ten, as are the Buckeyes’ 14 triples. OSU’s .335 average in Big Ten games only is second behind Northwestern’s .341 clip. Ohio State’s 119 strikeouts are by far the fewest in the Big Ten, as Wisconsin has the second-fewest with 165. Also in all games, the Buckeyes rank No. in stolen bases (49). In all games, the Buckeyes rank No. 10 in team pitching and No. 8 in team fielding, but up those rankings to No. 7 and No. 5 in Big Ten games.

Individually, Megan Schwab owns the Big Ten’s No. 3 batting average (.420) and No. 3 slugging percentage (.773). She is tied for seventh in home runs (7) and her .490 on base percentage ranks fifth behind teammate Nycole Koyano (.491). Koyano leads the league in triples (6) and is No. 3 in walks (24), while Juarez ranks seventh in on base percentage (.479) and ninth in batting average (.385).

Juarez ranks sixth in the Big Ten in innings pitched (129.1) and her 24 appearances are ninth. Her 15 wins are fourth and her 125 strikeouts are eighth.

In Big Ten games only, Billie Jo Carder’s four doubles are tied for the league lead. Liz Caputo’s .500 batting average is fifth, while Ashley Cutcliff’s .467 average is sixth. Those two also rank among the Top 10 in slugging percentage and on base percentage.

NOTING THE BUCKEYES
Chelsea Baker’s two-run home run in the seventh inning against 19th-ranked Georgia Tech March 6 was her second of the season and fifth of her career. She pitched four innings against Michigan State last Saturday, marking her first time in the circle since March 6. She had made her previous six appearances as a pinch runner.

Liz Caputo is batting .339 overall, which ranks fifth on the team, and raises that to .500 (6-for-12) in Big Ten games, second-best on the team. She was a perfect 6-for-6 in the double-header at Minnesota Apr. 3 and hit her third home run of the year in game one of that double-header to move into a third-place tie for home runs by a freshman at OSU. Her 16 RBI are fourth-most on the team, with a team-best 12 of those coming with two outs. Caputo hit two home runs Feb. 27 vs. Long Island, one of which was a grand slam, to set an OSU freshman record with seven RBI.

Billie Jo Carder has six hits in her last five games, with four of those hits being doubles, which is tied for the Big Ten lead in conference games only. Her eight doubles are tied for the team-lead. Her doubles total and 17 RBI are already more than her first two seasons combined. Carder had a career-high four hits in Ohio State’s 12-7 win over Marshall in the championship of the Buckeye Invitational March 20. Her grand slam against Mississippi State March 6 helped vault OSU to an 11-0 win.

Ashley Cutcliff has seven hits in her last five games and leads Ohio State with a .450 batting average, which she ups to .467 in Big Ten games (sixth in conference). In the two games at Minnesota Apr. 3 she went 5-for-7 with three RBI. Seven times in her career has she collected three hits in a game, including twice in 2005. Cutcliff has started in the DP spot in six of OSU’s last seven games. Her 11 career home runs are tied for sixth-most in OSU history.

Christina Douglas shares the team-lead in doubles with eight and ranks No. 2 in RBI with 25. A team-leading eight of her RBI have come in Big Ten games, which ranks fourth in the league. She is batting .400 in Big Ten games and ups that to .500 (8-for-16) with runners on base. Douglas was named to the all-tournament team of the Buckeye Invitational March 18-20 after hitting .500 (4-for-8) in the event with two doubles, a grand slam and eight RBI.

Karisa Evans is batting .292 overall and raises that to .375 with runners on base. Her career batting average of .325 is ninth-best in school history. Evans has started in 27-of-30 games this season at three different positions.

Nicole Gragson pitched six solid innings against Iowa (now ranked No. 19) March 6 in the championship game of the Buzz Classic. Her six innings, as well as her four strikeouts, marked her career bests. She had her first collegiate win March 4 when she went four innings to beat SDSU. Natalie Hales hit her fourth career home run March 23 in OSU’s 6-1 win at Cal State Fullerton. Jennifer Johnson owns a team-best 59 fielding assists in 2005. She has committed just one error in 27 fielding chances in Big Ten play.

Stacy Hibma went 2-for-3 at California-Riverside March 26. She hit two home runs against Boston March 5, her career-best, then hit a three-run homer against Eastern Michigan March 18. Over spring break March 24-26 she batted .429 (3-for-7). Stephanie Hill has entered the game as a pinch runner 18 times this season, most on the team. She has scored 11 runs and has five stolen bases.

Jamee Juarez continues to add to her stellar numbers this season (see earlier note). In the circle, she sports a 15-8 record with 125 strikeouts and a 2.00 ERA. She won nine consecutive games from Feb. 27-March 24 and has started in the circle in ten of OSU’s last 11 games. Her 243 career strikeouts are sixth all-time at OSU. At the plate, she had an 11 game hitting streak from March 6-April 3. Juarez was named to the all-tournament team of the Buckeye Invitational when she pitched OSU to each of its three wins in the event and batted .556 (5-for-9). Overall this season, she is batting .385, third-best on the team. She has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week twice in 2005.

Nycole Koyano has started in 28 of Ohio State’s 30 games this season and has at least one hit in 21 of those games. She leads Ohio State in runs scored (27) and walks (24). Her .491 on base percentage is second on the team. Koyano hit her team-leading sixth triple of the season Apr. 3 at Minnesota, which is already tied for the third-most triples in a season in OSU history. Koyano was named to the all-tournament team of the Buckeye Invitational March 18-20 after batting .556 (5-for-9). Koyano set an OSU single-game record in the Buckeyes’ season-opening 8-0 win vs. Rutgers with two triples. She went 4-for-4 with three RBI in that game, both career-bests.

Nicole Lancaster had a career-best day March 5 against SDSU when she went 2-for-2 with two runs scored, an RBI and a double. She is batting .267 (4-for-15) this season. Meghan Rowlands went 2-for-3 against Michigan State Apr. 9. She had five hits in her first 12 at bats this season, including the game-winning RBI vs. Pittsburgh, Feb. 19. She went 2-for-3 against Eastern Michigan March 18 with a triple and an RBI and had her fourth two-hit game of the season March 24 at Loyola Marymount.

Megan Schwab is one of the Big Ten’s best hitters in 2005. Her .420 batting average, seven home runs, 30 RBI, .773 slugging percentage and eight doubles all rank among the league’s leaders, and her slugging percentage is No. 2. She went on a 10 game hitting streak from March 6-26, during which time she hit .612 (19-for-31). Schwab leads the team in multiple-hit games (11) and multiple-RBI games (11). Twice this season she has hit two home runs in a game and she has already driven in more runs (30) and hit more homers (7) than she did in the 59 games she played in last season. She was named to the all-tournament team of the Buzz Classic March 4-6 and the Buckeye Invitational March 18-20.

Andrea Tribuzi made two pitching appearances in the Buzz Classic and has seven on the season. Brittany Vanderink is 4-for-5 as a pinch-hitter in Big Ten play. In all games, she is a perfect 9-for-9 in the stolen base department this season, which is best on the team and is tied for the fifth-most stolen bases ever at OSU for a freshman. She is batting .667 (4-for-6) in Big Ten games and .314 overall, which jumps to .471 (8-for-17) with runners in scoring position. Vanderink’s three triples this season are tied for the second-most ever by a freshman at OSU and are one shy of the freshman record.

A LOOK AT THE HAWKEYES
Iowa is ranked No. 20 in the nation and owns a record of 32-9 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes knocked off No. 1 Michigan in the first Big Ten game for both schools, but Iowa then dropped four of its next five league games (vs. Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue).

The Hawkeyes are coming off a double-header sweep of Indiana last Sunday and host William Penn Wed. In the Big Ten rankings for all games, Iowa is No. 6 in batting (.272), No. 2 in pitching (1.45 ERA) and No. 4 in fielding (.963).

Iowa is led by two of the premier players in the Big Ten, freshman C/INF Emily Nichols and senior P Lisa Birocci. The power-hitting Nichols ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten in home runs (14), No. 4 in RBI (36) and No. 2 in slugging percentage (.802). Birocci, last week’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, leads the Big Ten with 19 wins, four saves and ranks No. 2 in innings pitched (164.2) and No. 3 in strikeouts (181). Last weekend she became Iowa’s all-time strikeout leader with 839.

SCOUTING THE FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois advanced to the Big Ten championship game last season but is looking for its first league win of the season in 2005 after starting out the conference campaign playing the top three teams in the league standings (Northwestern, Michigan, Purdue). The Fighting Illini host DePaul Tues. and play Big Ten games at Penn State Fri. and Sat. Illinois is 17-19 overall and ranks No. 7 in the league in batting (.269), No. 11 in pitching (3.97 ERA) and No. 11 in fielding (.944) in all games.

The Illini are led offensively by Jenna Hall (.354, 6 HR, 30 RBI), Molly Lawhead (.309, 10 RBI), Rachelle Coriddi (.306, 5 3b, 10 RBI) and LeeAnn Butcher (.306). Mary Miller leads the pitching staff with an 11-9 record and 3.53 ERA.

KALAFATIS IN YEAR NINE AT OSU
Ohio State head coach Linda Kalafatis is in her ninth season at the helm of the Buckeyes’ softball program in 2005. She is already OSU’s all-time wins leader with 282 victories in Columbus (282-203-0, .579), and her overall record stands at 555-318-2 (.636) in 17 years as a collegiate head coach. Kalafatis has guided Ohio State to the NCAA tournament in two of the last three years and was named the 2002 Big Ten Coach of the Year. She is assisted by former Buckeyes Belinda Quisenberry and Chrissy Fowler.

### Go Bucks! ###