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Buckeyes make first appearance of 2010 on the conference network

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After Mother Nature cancelled a Big Ten doubleheader vs. Purdue Wednesday, the No. 20/22 Ohio State softball team continues on the road for a two-game series vs. No. 18/19 Illinois at 4 p.m. ET Saturday and 3 p.m. ET Sunday in Champaign, Ill. Both games will be televised live by the Big Ten Network.

The Buckeyes (21-10, 2-0 Big Ten) are on a five-game win streak while the Illini are 26-4 overall and 2-1 in conference action after sweeping Northwestern April 3-4 and falling to No. 2 Michigan March 27.

Illinois will be Ohio State’s first ranked opponent since Feb. 28 when the Buckeyes downed then-No. 5 UCLA, 7-0, in Cathedral City, Calif.

FOLLOWING FROM HOME
Fans can watch Ohio State softball home games live online this season on Buckeye Vision at OhioStateBuckeyes.com or BigTenNetwork.com. Standard rates apply.

In addition, a link for live stats can be found on the softball schedule page at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

THE BUCKEYES ARE ON THE RADIO
Softball fans can tune into Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio at www.ohiostatesports.net as senior Ohio State students Evan Winkofsky and Joey D’Amico call the action at Buckeye Field this spring. Audio from the Scarlet and Gray Sports Radio show also can be heard on the Buckeye Vision live streaming production at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

ALL-TIME SERIES
Ohio State leads Illinois, 16-9, in the all-time series and is 13-5 vs. the Illini under head coach Linda Kalafatis. Last season, the Buckeyes swept a two-game series vs. Illinois in Columbus. Ohio State posted a 5-0 victory April 11 before dueling with the Illini the following day in a three hour and 27 minute contest that resulted in a 17-15 Buckeye win. Junior Whitney Cooper hit a two run home run to help the Scarlet and Gray edge the Illini.

Since 2006, Ohio State owns a 7-1 ledger against Illinois.  

LOOKING AT OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes are 8-1 in their last nine games after the squad swept Wisconsin, 6-4 and 12-4 (5), March 27 and Ohio, 9-4 and 9-3, March 31 in doubleheaders at Buckeye Field. Ohio State also took a game from Butler, 7-5, last Friday.

Ohio State’s lone loss in the stretch came at Central Florida, a 3-0 defeat March 24. Prior to falling to the Knights, the Scarlet and Gray blew past Cornell, 18-0, in five innings in a neutral site meeting.

IN THE BIG TEN
Ohio State (21-10, 2-0 Big Ten), Michigan (26-5; 3-0 Big Ten) and Iowa (19-13, 5-0 Big Ten) are tied for first in the conference with perfect league records.

Sophomore Alicia Herron leads the league with a .443 batting average while senior Sam Marder leads the Big Ten with a .840 slugging average and .553 on base percentage. Marder also ties for the conference lead in home runs with 11 this season.

HERRON’S HITTING
Sophomore Alicia Herron has to be happy she is leading the team with a .443 batting average after batting .833 at home vs. Wisconsin March 27. The Cypress, Calif., native went 5-for-6 against the Badgers scoring three runs and adding four RBI.

The shortstop has continued to be a clutch hitter for the Buckeyes, batting in the gamewinning run vs. Butler last Friday after she hit the scoreboard at Buckeye Field March 31 for a two-out, two-run home run to right center to give Ohio State a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth against Ohio in game two.

“Alicia has come up with some big shots for us when we needed her in the last couple of games,” Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State head coach, said of Herron who ended the game vs. the Bobcats 2-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBI.

During Ohio State’s seven-game spring break trip in Florida March 19-24, Herron hit .478, scoring a team-high six runs and adding three RBI. In addition, she successfully stole a team-best three bases and is now a perfect 7-for-7 on the year.

IN THE CLUTCH
Beyond leading the Buckeyes with an overall batting average of .443, sophomore Alicia Herron is batting .429 (12-for-28) with runners on and .750 (3-for-4) with bases loaded.

JUMPING AHEAD
The Buckeyes are 13-1 when scoring in the first inning in 2010. Ohio State took a 1-0 lead in the first vs. Butler last Friday en route to a 7-5 victory, the Buckeyes’ fifth victory in a row.

AND IT’S GONE
Freshman Megan Coletta hit her first career home run vs. Butler last Friday and sophomore shortstop Alicia Herron hit the scoreboard at Buckeye Field vs. Ohio March 31 to up Ohio State’s grand total of homers in 2010 to 31.

The Buckeyes have seen seven players combine for 31 home runs this season with senior catcher Sam Marder recording a team-high 11 in 31 games while boosting her Ohio State all-time career record to 54. Senior Courtney Pruner, who has 32 career homers and sits at No. 3 all-time in the history books, has knocked six over the fence this season. Herron and senior Whitney Cooper are tied for third on the team with five each.

The Scarlet and Gray pitching corps has allowed its opponents to hit just 14 home runs so far this season.

11-1
Freshman pitcher Melanie Nichols came in prepared for Division I NCAA fast pitch softball. The rookie leads Ohio State with 11 wins, 70 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.21 in 91.2 innings pitched. Nichols’ lone loss of the season came to Central Florida March 24 as the Knights scored one earned and two unearned runs in a 3-0 defeat of the Buckeyes.

TAKE A BASE
Two-time All-American Sam Marder has been walked 29 times this season, including seven intentional. She has been walked 200 times in her career, the most in Buckeye history. Since she joined Ohio State in 2007, Marder has been put on base intentionally 45 times – by far the most in school history dating back to the 1998 season. The second-most times a Buckeye had been intentionally-walked in a career in the last decade is six.

LEADING OFF
Of Ohio State’s 31 home runs, six have been leadoff homers and three have come in the sixth inning. The Buckeyes are 4-1 when they have an individual hit a leadoff home run.

NOTING THE RANKINGS
Last season, the Buckeyes spent 14-consecutive weeks in the national rankings, spanning from Feb. 20 when they debuted at No. 23 through the NCAA Super Regional May 22 as they concluded the season with the highest ranking in program history at 12th.

The 14 weeks spent in the Top 25 set an Ohio State record for consecutive weeks in the polls. Previously, the 2003 and 2008 squads had maintained a Top 25 ranking for eight-consecutive weeks.

Ohio State, currently ranked 20th in the NFCA and 22nd in the USA Softball Collegiate polls, is 119-58 all-time when ranked, including 48-13 at home when owning a Top 25 mark. 

UP NEXT
Ohio State returns to Columbus for a doubleheader vs. Bowling Green at 5 p.m. Wednesday before heading off to East Lansing, Mich., where the squad will play a Big Ten series vs. Michigan State at 1 p.m. April 17-18.