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COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State softball team continues its early season tournament play at the LSU Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La. The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on host LSU, ranked No. 21 in the latest NFCA poll, at 6 p.m. (CT) Friday before a pair of morning contests Saturday against Sam Houston at 9 a.m. and fifth-ranked Texas A&M at 11 a.m.
     After pool play is completed Saturday, there will be three games Sunday for bracket play. Ohio State will play against the highest available seed in the 11 a.m. game. The two remaining teams will play in the 9 a.m. game. Due to travel considerations, the team that plays Ohio State automatically advances to the championship game at 1:30 p.m. and plays the winner of the 9 a.m. game.
     The Buckeyes opened the 2009 season going 4-1 at the Hotel Encanto Invitational at New Mexico State. The Buckeyes posted wins over Cleveland State, 10-2, and UMKC, 12-1, Feb. 6. Ohio State won its third game of the season with a 12-3 victory over Ohio in five innings Feb. 7. The team wrapped up action Feb. 8, beating Colorado State, 11-2, before falling to New Mexico State, 3-2, in five innings. The Buckeyes had eight homeruns in the tournament and outscored their opponents, 47-11.

ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT
LSU hosts the annual Tiger Classic, the first of two home tournaments, this weekend in the brand new Tiger Park, which opened Thursday night with a 6-0 win over McNeese State for the Tigers. Tickets for games can be purchased from the LSU ticket office on game day for $7 and $5. The complete schedule of action is:

FRIDAY (home team listed second for all games):
3:00 p.m. Texas A&M v. Sam Houston
6:00 p.m.  Ohio St. v. LSU

SATURDAY
9:00 a.m.   Sam Houston v. Ohio St.
11:00a.m.  Ohio St. v. Texas A&M
2:00 p.m.   Texas A&M v. LSU
4:15 p.m.   Sam Houston v. LSU

SUNDAY
9:00 a.m. TBD vs. TBD
11:15 a.m.  Ohio State vs. Highest-Seeded Opponent
1:30 p.m. Ohio State’s Opponent vs. 9 a.m. winner

FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
All games of the LSU Tiger Classic will be available via Live Stats, linked from OhioStateBuckeyes.com and LSUsports.com. The Friday night game vs. the Tigers will also be broadcasted on the radio by the LSU student station (klsuradio.com; 91.1 FM) and on television locally in Baton Rouge, La., on Cox Sports Network (cable channel 37).
     Live audio is also available for the Saturday morning game against Texas A&M through AggieAthletics.com. The online broadcast begins approximately 10 minutes prior to first pitch.

CALLIN’ BATON ROUGE
This is the first trip to Baton Rouge, La., for the Buckeyes since the 2000 season when they last played in the Tiger Classic. Ohio State went 3-2 through tourney play, dropping contests against LSU in pool play and the championship game, while defeating McNeese State and Nicholls State twice.

HIT THE ROAD
The Buckeyes will spend the first five weekends of the 2009 season on the road making treks to Las Cruces, N.M., Baton Rouge, La., Palm Springs, Calif., Columbus, Ga. and Louisville, Ky. With 1,587 miles behind them, the Buckeyes have 9,581 more to go before the end of tourney play. The team will travel a total of 11,168 miles during this tournament season, with at least one stop in each of the four continental time zones.

OHIO STATE IN SEASON OPENERS
Ohio State has won its last five season-openers and eight of its last 10. In their last 10 season-opening tournaments, the Buckeyes are 34-16. Last week in New Mexico, they picked up four-consecutive wins, including the opener against Cleveland State, before dropping their last game of the tournament to host New Mexico State.

OHIO STATE AT A GLANCE
Five games into the season, Ohio State has outscored its opponents 47-11 and hit nine home runs for a .375 team batting average. Five players are hitting over .400. Of the players who tallied at least 10 at-bats last weekend, Tory Haddad leads the charge with a. 500 average and seven hits and 3 RBI. Rachael Shepherd hit three home runs, including a walk-off blast vs. Colorado State, while Sam Marder and Whitney Cooper each have two on the young season. The Ohio State pitching staff has an ERA of 1.50, while its opponents are hitting .228. The Buckeyes were 33-23 last season. 
     Nine current players saw action during the 2007 season and the Buckeyes’ run for the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. A couple years older and wiser, this veteran core is expected to lead Ohio State in its quest to return to the top of the conference and region.
     Marder, a junior All-American, headlines the list of returnees, along with senior pitcher Kim Reeder and junior infielder Whitney Cooper. The Buckeyes also welcome back 2007 first-team All-Big Ten first baseman Courtney Pruner and pitcher Lindsay Bodeker, who both redshirted last season while recovering from injury. Junior Megan Miller rounds out the veteran pitching staff.

CAPTAIN, OBVIOUSLY
The Ohio State softball team has selected a quartet of captains for the 2009 season announced head coach Linda Kalafatis. Senior Kim Reeder, along with juniors Whitney Cooper, Sam Marder and Courtney Pruner will guide the Buckeyes in the upcoming year.
     “These four young women will do an excellent job of leading our team with their work ethic, attitude and performance on the field,” Kalafatis said. “They are great people with strong values.”

MARDER-DOM
Junior All-America catcher Sam Marder was selected by the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States, to its initial 50-player “Watch List” for the Eighth Annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award. This award, considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s collegiate softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. A list of 25 finalists will be announced April 1.
     A finalist for the same award last year, Marder is one of six Big Ten players and five catchers to be named to the Watch List this year.

AROUND THE FIELD
Easton Tiger Classic field: LSU, Sam Houston State and Texas A&M
Fun Fact: The Buckeyes have previously faced both LSU and Texas A&M on the same date of their scheduled contest. Ohio State and the Tigers played each other on Feb. 13, 2000, in Baton Rouge, while the Buckeyes and Aggies took to the field Feb. 14, 1992, in Arizona.

SCOUTING LSU: The Tigers are ranked No. 21 in the latest NFCA poll and bring a 4-2 record into the weekend. Their losses came in Hawaii at the hands of then No. 10 Oklahoma (8-0) and UAB (5-3). Kristen Shortridge leads the team with a .429 average off nine hits, seven runs and a homerun. She also is a threat to steal going 5-for-6 in stolen bases. The pitching staff has a 3.90 ERA, while the team is batting .268. LSU advanced to the NCAA Regional last year and ended with a 44-18 record.
     Series History: The Buckeyes trail in the all-time series, 0-3, with the last meeting coming on Feb. 27, 2004, at the NFCA Lead-off Classic in Georgia. The teams met twice during the 2000 LSU Tiger Classic with the Buckeyes falling in the championship game, 5-0.

Previous Meetings:
Feb. 12, 2000     L, 11-0    LSU Tiger Classic
Feb. 13, 2000     L, 4-0      LSU Tiger Classic
Feb. 27, 2004     L, 5-0      NFCA Leadoff Classic

SCOUTING SAM HOUSTON STATE: The Bearkats (4-1) opened their season by winning four-consecutive games and their home tournament last weekend in Huntsville, Texas. They played two games against both Texas Southern and Houston Baptist, besting them by a combined 32-1 score. SHSU then played a mid-week game against Texas A&M, taking the Aggies to 14 innings before eventually falling 2-1. Lead-off hitter and shortstop Hailey Wiginton is hitting .500 with three doubles and two triples. The pitching staff holds a 0.19 ERA and the team has a .351 batting average.
     Series History: The Buckeyes and Bearkats are 2-2 all-time in the series, with the Buckeyes capturing each of the last two meetings. They have not played each other since the 2002 season when Ohio State won 7-2 on Feb. 16 at the Cougar Invitational in Houston, Texas.

Previous Meetings:
March 24, 1989     L, 5-1     Louisiana Tech Tournament
March 22, 1990     L, 4-2     at Sam Houston State
Feb. 25, 1994        W, 10-2  Arizona State Classic
Feb. 16, 2002        W, 7-2    Cougar Invitational
 
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M: The Aggies (4-1) are coming off a 14-inning win over Sam Houston State Wednesday. They went 3-1 through tournament action last weekend at the Aggie Classic, defeating Texas-San Antonio twice and splitting two contests with Tulsa. Rhiannon Kliesing is pacing the Aggies on both sides of the ball with six hits, including three homeruns, and a .400 batting average. She is also the team’s top pitcher, tallying a 3-0 record on a 0.29 ERA and 18 strikeouts. As a team, A&M is batting .265 with eight homers and holds a 0.93 ERA from the circle.
     Series History: The Buckeyes are 0-7 all-time against the Aggies. One of the seven meetings is presently unaccounted for.

Previous Meetings:
March 17, 1990     L, 4-3     Houston Games Tournament
Feb. 14, 1992        L, 2-1     Arizona Softball Classic
March 6, 1992       L, 4-3     Aggie Invitational
March 27, 1993     L, 4-1     PONY Softball Tournament
March 7, 1997       L, 2-0     Aggie Invitational
March 8, 1997       L, 4-0     Aggie Invitational

5.9-MILLION DOLLAR BUCKEYES
Home plate remains where it has rested at Buckeye Field since 1988, but little else remains the same for the Ohio State softball complex after $5.9 million of stadium renovations. The 2009 season marks the first in the new 1,500-seat Buckeye Field a facility that is undoubtedly among the finest in the country. In addition to more than doubling Buckeye Field’s previous capacity of 800, the new stadium includes indoor and outdoor batting cages, a three-plate bullpen, a 650-square foot press box, player clubhouse and lounge, new dugouts, coaches and umpires dressing room and concession areas.

LUCKY 13 FOR HEAD COACH LINDA KALAFATIS
Head coach Linda Kalafatis is in her 13th season at Ohio State in 2009 and her 21st season as a collegiate head coach. Kalafatis, who twice has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year (2002, 2007), is Ohio State’s all-time wins leader (411-274) and is one of three Big Ten coaches with more than 650 career wins (682-387-2).
     Eight times the Buckeyes have won at least 30 games under Kalafatis, who guided Ohio State to the NCAA tournament four times (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007). She was assisted by former collegiate All-Americans Ali Viola (Nebraska) and Erica Beach (Arizona State).