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Buckeyes-Wildcats meet Saturday & Sunday in pivotal series in Big Ten Championship race 

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 11 Ohio State softball team takes its new ranking, the highest in program history, on the road to No. 12 Northwestern for a pair of games at 1 p.m. CT (2 p.m. ET) Saturday and Sunday at Sharon J. Drysdale Field in Evanston, Ill. The game pits Ohio State, the current Big Ten leader, and the third-ranked Wildcats against each other with the regular-season crown on the line. 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 Western Michigan Wednesday, winning 2-0 and 1-0, for its 19th and 20th shutout wins this season. The Buckeyes relied on their pitching in both contests, as Lindsay Bodeker struck out eight and gave up just one hit in her 11th complete game and seventh shutout of the season in game one. In game two, Kim Reeder picked up the win, improving to 20-4 on the season and moving to within four of tying the all-time career win record of 76 set by Jamee Juarez during the 2004-07 seasons. She fanned eight batters on route to earning her ninth shutout of the season.

Northwestern is 29-11 on the season, 12-4 in the Big Ten and holding onto third place in the conference between the Buckeyes and Michigan, who are knotted up at No. 1. The Wildcats have dropped two of their last three games, but are coming off a 12-4 win over No. 19 DePaul Tuesday. In the win, junior Kelly Dyer went 4-for-4 with a pair of home runs including a grand slam and tied the school single-game record with eight RBI.

POLL POSITION
At No. 11, the Buckeyes hold their highest-ever ranking and 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 97-45 all-time, 28-5 this season, when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.

FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
Webcast:
Northwestern will stream the Sunday game live through its site, NUsports.com. Subscription fees to CBS College All-Access will apply.
Radio: Northwestern’s student radio station, WNUR, will broadcast both game this weekend, available http://sports.wnur.org
Live stats: Live stats for all Buckeye games are available and will be linked from the homepage, as well as the softball schedule page of OhioStateBuckeyes.com.