COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State softball team will be without some of its top returning talent for the remainder of the 2011 season, head coach Linda Kalafatis announced Friday. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Melanie Nichols, senior catcher Rachael Shepherd and junior outfielder Katie Simonton will miss the balance of the spring because of season-ending injuries.

“The plan for this season was to have two hard-throwing pitchers in the circle, including Melanie Nichols and Lindsay Bodeker, but both have undergone surgeries this past year and will not be able to compete for the Buckeyes,” Kalafatis said. “We lost six terrific seniors and our biggest hit this season has been the lack of depth and experience.”

Ohio State (7-18, 0-0 Big Ten) now has 15 players on the 2011 active roster including, six freshmen, five sophomores, one junior and three seniors.

Nichols, who finished her rookie season with 21 wins with a team-high 130 strikeouts, will apply for a redshirt for the 2011 season. Nichols underwent right shoulder surgery last July and tried to return for Ohio State during the early-tournament season.

“It was obvious from her stats that she wasn’t able to make a full return for us this season,” Kalafatis said. “She came back this year, but just wasn’t at the same spot where she was last season. After continued discomfort, the doctors decided the best thing would be to shut her down for the remainder of the season.”

Bodeker, who would have been a redshirt senior for the Buckeyes in 2011, was shut down in the middle of the 2010 season after suffering a re-injury to her right knee and did not return to Ohio State after graduating last year. In her last win as a Buckeye, Bodeker shutout UCLA Feb. 28, 2010, at the Cathedral City Classic in California.

Shepherd, who was the Buckeyes’ Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman, also is out for the season because of persistent shoulder injuries. In five games in 2011, the Buckeye utility player claimed three hits, including a home run in the 2-1 victory at FIU Feb. 11 in Miami, Fla. She would have started behind the plate and in the infield for the Buckeyes in 2011.

Simonton, the Buckeyes’ fastest player, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in fall 2010 in one of team’s first workouts. The Buckeye junior has appeared in 37 games for the Buckeyes, scoring 16 runs and was 9-for-10 in stolen base attempts. Simonton would have challenged for starting time in the outfield this season.

Ohio State begins Big Ten Play this weekend as the team hosts Iowa at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Buckeye Field.