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LAS VEGAS With only four starters back for the defending Big Ten champion Ohio State softball team this season, there were more questions than answers when the season began. But the Buckeyes, with four freshmen and three sophomores in their everyday lineup, have now tied the program’s best 20-game start after knocking off UNLV, 5-1, Sunday at Eller Media Stadium in the final game of the UNLV Invitational.

With the win, 20th-ranked Ohio State improves to 16-4 to tie the school record for best record after 20 games. The 2002 Buckeyes set the standard initially at 16-4. The Rebels fall to 15-12-1 overall and 15-5-1 at home, with two of those losses coming to Ohio State this weekend.

In addition, the Buckeyes scored a run for the 56th consecutive game, which has now doubled the previous school record for consecutive games without being shut out that was initially set by the 2002 Buckeyes at 28-straight games.

Ohio State junior Kim Reeder, who came within one strike of a no-hitter Saturday against New Mexico State, went the distance for her third complete game of the weekend in three starts. She struck out two and scattered six hits to improve to 8-3 this season.

Sophomore Sam Marder led off the third inning with her second home run of the weekend, a long drive to left centerfield, to put Ohio State up, 2-0. It marked her Big Ten-leading seventh homer of the season.

The Buckeyes got on the board in the top of the first inning when senior Brittany Vanderink reached on an error by the UNLV shortstop and advanced to third on a groundout by freshman Brittany Goodchild and a fly out by Marder. Freshman Karisa Medrano then lined a base hit to right-centerfield to score Vanderink and the Buckeyes were on their way.

Leading 2-0 after Marder’s homer, the Buckeyes went to work again in the top of the fourth inning, producing a run with three-consecutive singles with two outs. Freshman Dee Dee Hillman started the sequence with a bunt single to the pitcher and Vanderink followed that with a bloop single over the third baseman’s head. Goodchild then singled to left-center to score Hillman to give Ohio State a three-run advantage.

The Buckeyes added two more in the top of the sixth when Caputo and Hillman singled and Goodchild laced a two-run double down the left-field line. Vanderink’s sacrifice bunt moved them both into scoring position.

Hillman tied her career-best day with a 3-for-3 effort at the plate, while Caputo went 2-for-3 and Goodchild went 2-for-4 with a career-high three RBI.

Ohio State returns to action next weekend with five games at the Capital Classic in Sacramento, Calif.

Postgame Notes No. 20 Ohio State 5, UNLV 1 … March 9, 2008
– Not in the Box Score: Ohio State made its second trip in program history to Las Vegas this weekend and went 5-0, marking a much better performance than in the Buckeyes’ first visit in 1991 when they went 0-5.
– The Buckeyes are now 14-2 when they score first this season.
– Buckeyes at the plate: Sophomore Sam Marder launched her seventh home run of the season in the third inning to up her career total to 17, which is one shy of fourth-place all-time at Ohio State (Megan Schwab, 2004-07). 
– After a slow start to the season in which senior Liz Caputo had one hit in 22 at bats, she collected four hits this weekend in Las Vegas. 
– For the second-consecutive tournament, a freshman led Ohio State in batting this weekend as Dee Dee Hillman posted a team-high .417 average this weekend in Las Vegas on a 5-for-12 performance at the plate. Freshman Brittany Goodchild led the Buckeyes in Palm Springs with a .529 average.
– Buckeyes vs. Rebels: When Ohio State beat UNLV Friday night, sophomore Sam Marder had the Buckeyes’ only hit, an RBI single off UNLV’s Stephanie Bregante. Marder faced her again Sunday and hit a home run.
– Buckeyes in the circle: Junior Kim Reeder threw complete games in all three starts this weekend in Las Vegas and has thrown eight complete games in 11 starts this season. 
– Reeder struck out two Rebels Sunday and has struck out at least one batter in all 64 collegiate starts. 
– Reeder went 3-0 in Las Vegas this weekend with a 0.59 ERA (2 ER, 23.2 IP) and 17 strikeouts.
– Buckeyes in the field: Ohio State infielders, including first-baseman Haddad, second-baseman Vanderink, shortstop Cooper, third-baseman Shepherd and pitcher Reeder, had a combined 12 assists in the game with no errors.  
– Ohio State is now 62-30 all-time when ranked.
– Weather: Sunny and 57 degrees at first pitch. Wind 16 MPH in from left-centerfield.
– After dropping the first two meetings against UNLV 6-0 (2005) and 2-0 (2006), the Buckeyes beat the Rebels twice this weekend, including 2-1 Friday night.

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Contact: Tim Stried, stried.3@osu.edu