COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State softball team earned its highest-ever ranking Tuesday with a No. 11 nod by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, besting the previous mark of No. 13 set at the end of the 2002 season and moving up three spots since last week when the Buckeyes came in at No. 14. The Scarlet and Gray, winners of 14 of its last 15 games, is holding steady at the top of the Big Ten with a 12-2 conference record and an overall 38-7 ledger coming off a sweep of Oakland last weekend.
“The rankings are a reflection of how motivated this team is, and has been all year,” head coach Linda Kalafatis said. “It is certainly gratifying to be voted No. 11 and to earn the highest ranking in our program’s history, but this team knows that there is a lot more to play for beyond the ranking. We need to stay focused on the most important game the next one and continue to work hard and remain grounded to accomplish what we need to do each day.”
The Buckeyes hold a Top 25 spot for a school-record 11th-consecutive week and are also currently holding a No. 12 ranking by USA Softball. The previous record for consecutive weeks in the nation’s Top 25 was eight, set in 2003 and matched again last season. By earning the No. 23 nod by USA Softball Feb. 17, the Buckeyes returned to the national rankings after an 11-week absence. Ohio State spent the first six weeks of the 2008 season in the Top 25 before dropping out in the March 10 edition. The Scarlet and Gray is 95-45 all-time, 26-5 this season, when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.
The Buckeyes test their new ranking for the first time Wednesday with a doubleheader against Western Michigan beginning at 5 p.m. at New Buckeye Field. They then to Northwestern for a pivotal Big Ten match-up Saturday and Sunday in Evanston, Ill., that pits the current No. 1 and No. 3 conference teams against each other. In its first year without a conference tournament, the Big Ten will send its regular-season champion to the NCAA Tournament with its automatic bid.
Ohio State is coming off a doubleheader sweep of non-conference foe Oakland Sunday, winning 11-3 and 13-0, for its 14th and 15th wins by at least eight runs this season. Alicia Herron finished the day with two homeruns, both in the first game, as the freshman shortstop moved into third-place all-time in the rookie record book for round-trippers. She has eight this season, trailing junior Sam Marder (10, 2007) and ’03 graduate Kristine Himes (10, 2000). Marder also hit one out of the park in the second game of the doubleheader, tying the school record for single-season homers with 16 and moving to within one of tying the career record 41 set by Himes in 2000-03.
Western Michigan is 19-17 this season, and is currently on a four-game winning streak after sweeping Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan last week. The Broncos are led at the plate by Lexi Jager with a .388 batting average and a team-leading 45 hits and seven homeruns to go with 14 successful steals out of 15 attempts. Meredith Whitney is second with a .307 average, while also earning 13 of the team’s 19 wins in the circle. She has made 20 appearances as pitcher this season, holding a 13-7 individual record and a 2.32 ERA with a .206 opponent batting average and 146 strikeouts.
FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
Webcast: The majority of Ohio State home games, including the doubleheader vs. Western Michigan, will be streamed live on Buckeye Vision, from OhioStateBuckeyes.com. Subscription fees apply.
Radio: Scarlet and Gray Radio, the student station of Ohio State, will provide commentary for the Buckeye Vision broadcast. The audio can also be followed on OhioStateSports.net.
Live stats: Live stats for all Buckeye home games are available and will be linked from the homepage, as well as the softball schedule page of OhioStateBuckeyes.com