Feb. 23, 2005

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State softball team (4-1) and 23 other top programs from around the country travel to the Palm Springs Classic this weekend. The invitation-only tournament, hosted by Oregon State, will be held at the prestigious Big League Dreams Sports Park in Cathedral City, Calif., near Palm Springs.

Ohio State will face No. 20 Pacific at 10 a.m. Friday before taking on UNLV at 12:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday will find the Buckeyes playing No. 12 Washington at 10 a.m. and No. 18 Oregon State at 6 p.m., while OSU’s lone Sunday game is a 9 a.m. contest against Long Island.

The Buckeyes are coming off a third-place finish at the season-opening Florida Atlantic University Doubletree Classic in Boca Raton, Fla., which saw the Buckeyes post a .353 team batting average and slug nine extra-base hits, including five triples.

The 24-team tournament field in Palm Springs includes two-time defending NCAA National Champion UCLA and runner-up California, as well as six teams that finished the 2004 season ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. The field also includes 11 2004 NCAA All-Americans and 15 programs that reached the 2004 NCAA Regional Tournament.

Last week: OSU 4-1 in Boca Raton
Ohio State opened the 2005 season at the Florida Atlantic University Doubletree Classic in Boca Raton, Fla., with a 4-1 record and a third place finish in the tournament. The Buckeyes boasted a tournament-best .353 team batting average, while OSU pitchers collected a 1.65 ERA and held the opposition to a .271 clip at the plate.

Three of Ohio State’s five triples came in the opening game, an 8-0 shutout of Rutgers. Two of the three came from sophomore Nycole Koyano, marking her first career triples on her way to a career-best 4-for-4 day at the plate with three RBI. Junior Chelsea Baker tossed six shutout innings and allowed only three hits.

Despite a two-run single from sophomore Christina Douglas, host FAU topped the Buckeyes, 12-3, in game two. OSU freshman Brittany Vanderink hit her second triple in as many games, while sophomore Jamee Juarez went 2-for-3 at the plate.

Ohio State would go on to win its final three games of the tournament. Juarez rebounded from the FAU loss to pitch a two-hit shutout over N.C. State in the first game Feb. 19, while sophomore Megan Schwab sparked the OSU offense with a 2-for-2 performance at the plate with an RBI.

The Buckeyes then came from behind to defeat Pittsburgh, 8-7, as OSU scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Senior Meghan Rowlands had the game-winning RBI as Ohio State put together four hits in the final frame to hand Baker, who came on in relief in the fifth inning, her second win.

In the seeded portion of the tournament Sunday, the Buckeyes topped Pittsburgh, 6-3, as Juarez pitched five shutout innings and went 2-for-2 at the plate with an RBI. Douglas added two hits, as well, to the OSU attack.

Juarez Earns Big Ten Weekly Honors
Sophomore Jamee Juarez was named the Big Ten softball co-player of the week Tuesday. At the plate, Juarez went 7-for-10 (.700) during the FAU Doubletree Classic in Boca Raton last weekend and fashioned a 2-1 record in the circle with a 0.78 ERA in 18 innings pitched with 18 strikeouts. In the field, she posted a 1.000 fielding percentage on nine opportunities in the circle and at third base. Juarez had at least one hit in each of Ohio State’s five games, going 3-for-5 in the first two games and 4-for-5 in the final three games when she also notched both her two pitching wins.

Ohio State Quick HitsOhio State had five triples in its first four games. The Buckeyes had seven triples all of last year. OSU has yet to allow a run in the first or second inning, while scoring seven in the first two frames itself. Last season, the Buckeyes outscored opponents 90-41 in the first two innings.

Ohio State is 3-0 when scoring four or more runs. In 2004, the Buckeyes were 23-0 when scoring at least four runs and 32-8 when scoring at least two. In 33 attempts, OSU inning leadoff hitters have reached base 19 times (.576). With runners on third base and less than two outs, the Buckeyes are batting .615 (8-for-13).

Noting the Buckeyes
Chelsea Baker had quite a start to the 2005 season. In the 8-0 win over Rutgers Feb. 18, Baker pitched six shutout innings and went 2-for-4 at the plate and scored a career-high three runs. She returned to the circle a day later to pitch 2.2 more scoreless innings to get the win in OSU’s 8-7 come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh.

Freshman Liz Caputo has three hits in her last six at bats, as does sophomore Christina Douglas, who already has two multi-RBI games, matching her total from all of last season. Senior Karisa Evans had five hits in her first 11 at bats of the season. Senior catcher Natalie Hales has thrown out two of three potential base stealers this season and has one pick-off.

Junior Stacy Hibma’s 2-for-3 day at the plate against Pittsburgh Feb. 19 matched her career-high for hits in a game. Senior short stop Jennifer Johnson has five putouts and 10 assists with just one error in her last 16 fielding opportunities. Sophomore Jamee Juarez has hit safely in all five games this season and leads the team with a .700 batting average (7-for-10). Juarez also leads the pitching staff in innings pitched (18.0) and strikeouts (18).

Sophomore Nycole Koyano’s season-opening 4-for-4 performance at the plate against Rutgers included career-highs for hits (4), RBI (3) and triples (2). She is batting .429 (6-for-14). Senior Meghan Rowlands had two multi-hit games among the three games in which she played in Boca Raton. Her one-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning vs. Pittsburgh Feb. 19 was the game-winning RBI.

Sophomore Megan Schwab is 5-for-6 in her last two games with three RBI, a double and a triple. Freshman Brittany Vanderink knocked a two-RBI triple in her first collegiate at bat and is 4-for-13 (.308) on the season. She added another triple in her second game as a Buckeye.

Sizing Up the Competition
Ohio State will face four teams in Palm Springs that went to the 2004 NCAA Regional Tournament, and one, Washington, that advanced to the 2004 Women’s College World Series. Currently three teams are ranked in the nation and all but one have a winning record.

Pacific, which handed Ohio State 8-0 last season on the Tigers’ path to a 36-23 record, returns 10 starters in 2005. Pacific is 6-1 overall and ranked No. 20 in the nation heading into the tournament-opening game against the Buckeyes. Senior INF Michelle Anunciation (.458, 2 HR, 10 RBI) and senior P Natalie King (4-0, 2.33 ERA, 21 K, 30 IP) were among the Tigers’ seven All-Big West Conference selections a year ago.

UNLV was 25-35 last year and returns nine letterwinners, who have the Runnin’ Rebels off to an 8-5 start in 2005. Offensive leaders include Marissa Nichols (.479, 9 extra-base hits, 13 RBI), Caitlyn Paus (.333, 8 RBI) and Morgan Bostwick (.300, 4 RBI), while Jacque Kerrigan is 7-4 in the circle with a 1.52 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 64.2 innings pitched.

Washington, currently ranked No. 12, won its NCAA regional tournament last season, eliminating such teams as Michigan, Georgia and Georgia Tech from the tournament on the Huskies’ way to a 40-19 overall record. Six starters return in 2005 and have Washington off to a 7-3 record, which includes a 6-0 win over No. 13 Oregon in Hawaii Feb. 6 and a 17-7 win over No. 22 Illinois Feb. 12 in Las Vegas. Kristen Rivera is batting .500 with five home runs and 13 RBI for the Huskies, while Ashley Boek leads the pitching staff with a 5-1 record and 1.10 ERA.

The Buckeyes meet tournament host 18th-ranked Oregon State in the nightcap Saturday as two of the event’s three “OSU” schools hook up. The Beavers are 6-5 thus far in 2005 and have eight starters back from their 2004 squad that went 44-28. Oregon State has six players batting .294 or better, led by Vanessa Iapala’s .389. Brianne McGowan is 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 47.1 innings pitched to lead the pitching staff.

Long Island is 0-2 on the season after having four games cancelled last weekend due to weather. Six starters are back for the Blackbirds, who are being led in 2005 by Brittany Murphy, who is batting .400 after two games.

Award Winners Return
Four Buckeyes who earned postseason awards in 2004 are back for Ohio State this spring. Senior RF/3B Karisa Evans was a third-team All-Big Ten selection last year after batting .312 with five doubles, three home runs and 20 RBI. Sophomore P/3B Jamee Juarez was also a third-team all-league pick and earned second-team Great Lakes All-Region honors as she hit .279 with 12 doubles, four home runs and 36 RBI. Sophomore 2B Nycole Koyano was also a second-team all-region selection as she posted a .327 batting average with a .418 on-base percentage, while sophomore LF Megan Schwab was a Big Ten All-Tournament Team honoree, hitting .295 with 13 doubles and three home runs with 25 RBI.

A Glance Back at 2004
The Buckeyes posted a 35-25 overall record in 2004 and made trips to the Big Ten and NCAA Regional tournaments. OSU earned a No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament and knocked off No. 3 seed Iowa before falling to No. 2 seed Illinois. At regionals, the Buckeyes topped Bethune-Cookman but were eliminated from the bracket by South Florida and Cal State-Northridge.

Seniors Kristi DeVries, Beth McAbier and Breana Pozzi concluded their Ohio State careers with 160 wins, marking a new school record for wins by one class. DeVries, a pitcher, leaves OSU ranked No. 2 in the career record book for wins (59), strikeouts (624), ERA (1.52) and shutouts (19). She and McAbier return in 2005 as volunteer assistant coaches.

The Buckeyes played their final 10 Big Ten games all away from Buckeye Field, but OSU battled to a 5-5 record in those games to finish the league season with an 8-11 record.

Freshmen Record Setters Return
Last year’s freshman class of P/3B Jamee Juarez, LF Megan Schwab, 2B Nycole Koyano and OF/DP Christina Douglas not only made an immediate impact for the Buckeyes, they rewrote many OSU freshman records along with way.

Juarez cracked the Top 10 in every freshman pitching category, ranking fourth in innings pitched (158.1), third in wins (13), fourth in strikeouts (118), seventh in ERA (1.72), sixth in shutouts (3) and fifth in complete games (13). Offensively, Koyano, Schwab and Juarez rank fourth, sixth and eighth, respectively, in hits by a freshman with 55, 54 and 48 apiece, while Koyano ranks sixth in batting average (.327) and Schwab ranks 10th (.295).

Schwab’s 13 doubles rank second and Juarez ranks fourth in the same category with 12. Schwab’s four home runs, and the three by Juarez, rank second and third all-time by a freshman, while Juarez’s 36 RBI are the most ever by a rookie. Koyano’s 27 walks and 16 stolen bases are also OSU freshman records.

Ohio State head coach enters her ninth season at the helm of the Buckeyes’ softball program in 2005. She is already OSU’s all-time wins leader with 263 victories in Columbus (263-192-0, .578), and her overall record stands at 536-307-2 (.636) in 16 years as a collegiate head coach. Kalafatis has guided Ohio State to the NCAA tournament in two of the last three years and was named the 2002 Big Ten Coach of the Year.

### GO BUCKS! ###