May 4, 2017

PREVIEW: Regular Season Finale Up Next at Illinois

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May 4, 2017

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State officially drops the curtain on its regular season this weekend when it ventures went to take on No. 22 Illinois in a three-game series at Eichelberger Field in Champaign, Ill. The series kicks off on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and then continues with 2 p.m. games on both Saturday and Sunday.

THE BASICS
Ohio State at No. 22 Illinois | Friday, May 6 | 6 p.m. ET | Eichelberger Field
Watch Live (FightinIllini.com) | Live Stats | Twitter Updates

Ohio State at No. 22 Illinois | Saturday, May 7 | 2 p.m. ET | Eichelberger Field
Watch Live (FightingIllini.com) | Live Stats | Twitter Updates

Ohio State at No. 22 Illinois | Sunday, May 8 | 2 p.m. ET | Eichelberger Field
Watch Live (BTN) | Live Stats | Twitter Updates

BUCKEYES IN A NUTSHELL
• Ohio State closed out its home schedule on Wednesday with a 3-0 shutout of Kent State and improved its overall record to 31-14. The Buckeyes are 13-7 in the Big Ten after taking two of three from Iowa last weekend.
• Seven everyday starters are batting .280 or better, led by sophomore Lilli Piper, who is tied for fourth in the conference with a .407 average. She’s added a team-high 14 home runs, 46 RBI, 41 runs scored and 12 stolen bases.
• Classmate Emily Clark is second on the team with a .346 average to go along with 41 RBI, eight home runs, eight doubles and 24 runs scored. She’s raised her game against conference foes, batting .396 (sixth best in the league) with 17 RBI and a .698 slugging percentage.
• Senior Alex Bayne is tied with Piper for the team lead in home runs (14) and has 37 in her career to rank fourth in school history. She’s batting .326, has scored 41 runs and driven in 32.
Maddie Marotti had two hits on Wednesday to push her average over .300 for the year (.305). She’s started 19 of the 24 games that she’s played in.
• The three other players at .280 or better are Becca Gavin (.291, 16 RBI), Bri Betschel (.289, 17 runs scored) and Taylor White (.286, 35 RBI, eight home runs, six doubles, three triples). White had a key two-run double in the first inning on Wednesday.
• Ohio State’s five-person pitching staff has the conferences’ third lowest ERA at 2.28. Thanks to her second complete game shutout in the last five days, Morgan Ray now leads the group with a 1.77 ERA over 55.1 innings. Shelby Hursh is second at 2.24 (team-high 112.2 innings) to go along with 102 strikeouts.
Shelby McCombs, Lena Springer and Katya Duvall each have ERAs under 3.00 and have all appeared in at least seven games

SCOUTING ILLINOIS
2017 Record: 35-15, 13-6 B1G
2016 Record: 36-23, 12-11 B1G
Top Hitter: Nicole Evans – .364, 16 home runs, 14 doubles, .825 slugging percentage; Annie Fleming – .342, 30 RBI, 14 doubles, .414 on-base percentage
Top Pitcher: Breanna Wonderly – 18-12, 184.1 IP, 2.54 ERA, 81 Ks, .247 batting average against
Series History: The Buckeyes and Illini have not met since the 2013 season when Illinois took two of three from Ohio State in Champaign. The Illini lead the series, 18-14.

OHIO STATE/ILLINOIS CONNECTIONS
Buckeye assistant coach Jenna Hall is a 2007 graduate of Illinois and was the first-ever All-American in program history. She finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in on-base percentage (.486) and slugging percentage (.582) while leading the nation in walks as a senior. A first-team All-American, she was a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year in 2006.

NOTING THE KENT STATE GAME
• Ohio State finished its home schedule with a 10-4 record, the fifth consecutive season that the Buckeyes have reached double digits for victories at Buckeye Field. In her five season, head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly is 55-25 at home (.687).
• In 14 home dates, Ohio State averaged 1,015 fans/game, which nearly doubles the pervious single season record set in 2016. Seven of the 14 crowds saw over 1,000 fans, which is also a school record.
• Wednesday was the 25th time this season Ohio State pitchers have held an opponent to two runs or less. Ohio State is 24-1 in those games.
• Piper’s multi-hit game was her 20th of the season.
• Two of the three runs driven in on Wednesday came with two outs. For the season, Buckeyes batters have driven in 125 of their 236 runs with two outs (52.9 percent).
• The Buckeyes’ 2.28 team ERA and 12 shutouts are both third best in the Big Ten Conference.
• With another stolen base on the night, Ohio State has successfully swiped 52 in 55 attempts, good for 94.5 percent.

RAY’S RECENT STRETCH
With Wednesday’s one-hit gem, Ray lowered her season ERA to 1.77 over 55.1 innings with 47 strikeouts. She’s thrown 15.1 consecutive shutout innings with 13 strikeouts and just three hits allowed. Overall, her last six appearances are as follows:
• 4/21 at Michigan State: 1.2 IP, 0 hits allowed, 0 runs, 1 BB, 1 K
• 4/22 at Michigan State: 1.1 IP, 2 hits allowed, 1 run, 1 BB, 2 Ks
• 4/23 at Michigan State: 3.1 IP, 3 hits allowed, 2 runs, 2 BB, 2 Ks
• 4/28 vs. Iowa: 1.1 IP, SV, 0 hits allowed, 0 runs, 0 BB, 2 Ks
• 4/29 vs. Iowa: 7.0 IP, 2 hits allowed, 0 runs, 3 BB, 6 Ks
• 5/3 vs. Kent State: 7.0 IP, 1 hit allowed, 0 runs, 4 BB, 5 Ks

DYNAMIC DUO
Piper and Bayne are the top home-run hitting duo in the Big Ten, combining to hit 28 out of the park, which is more than seven other conference teams have hit in total. The Buckeyes are 8-3 when Bayne homers and 11-2 when Piper hits at least one. Three times, they have hit one in the same game. Additionally, this weekend’s series features three of the top five home run hitters in the conference: Bayne, Piper and Illinois’ Nicole Evans (16).

ON THE ROAD
Over the last three years, Ohio State has 64 wins on the road or a neutral sites, including a 21-10 mark this year. A look at how the Buckeyes have fared in true road games this year, where they are 10-5:
• .325 team batting average, which is 26 points higher than all games.
• 19 of the Buckeyes’ 55 home runs have come on the road.
• Ohio State is averaging 6.5 runs/per game and on four occasions have scored 10+ runs.
• All five pitchers have seen at least 3.0 innings of action with a team ERA of 2.95.
Lena Springer is 3-0 on the road with a 2.30 ERA, 16 strikeouts and .277 batting average against in 24.1 innings.
• Piper is hitting a team-best .519 on the road with six home runs and 22 RBI. In her last road game at Michigan State, she homered twice and drove in four runs.

NUGGETS TO KNOW
• Ohio State played its first 25 games away from home, winning 18 of those contests.
• The Buckeyes own 11 wins against RPI Top-100 teams, 10 of which came either on the road or at neutral sites.
• Ohio State is 18-7 against a non-conference schedule that featured 11 games vs. teams from Power 5 conferences.
• The 10 true road wins that Ohio State has compiled are the fourth most of any team in the Big Ten.
• The Buckeyes’ non-conference RPI is No. 23, third highest in the Big Ten, and includes 11 games against programs that were in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

WHAT’S NEXT
Following this weekend’s series, the Buckeyes turn their attention to postseason play, which starts next week at the Big Ten Tournament at Michigan’s Alumni Field in Ann Arbor.