Feb. 10, 2016

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 44th season of softball at Ohio State begins Friday as the Buckeyes venture south to the LSU Tiger Classic for four games in less than 36 hours.

Ohio State vs. Pacific
Friday, Feb. 12; 9:30 a.m. CST (10:30 a.m. EST)

Ohio State vs. No. 3 LSU
Friday, Feb. 12; 5:00 p.m. CST (6:00 p.m. EST)

Ohio State vs. Connecticut
Saturday, Feb. 13; 9:30 a.m. CST (10:30 a.m. EST)

Ohio State vs. North Florida
Saturday, Feb. 13; Noon CST (1:00 p.m. EST)

Ohio State’s game on Friday evening vs. LSU can be seen live on SEC Network + and the WatchESPN app. Updates to all other games can be found via Gametracker and Twitter (@OhioState_SB).

Coming off a 30-22 campaign in 2015 – the third straight 30-win season under head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly – Ohio State returns many of the key pieces of a record-breaking offense while bolstering a five-person pitching staff with the addition of two freshmen and one sophomore transfer.
Leading the offense will be the tandem of seniors Maddy McIntyre and Erika Leonard, who combined for 110 RBI, 29 home runs, 82 runs scored and a .789 slugging percentage. They were key cogs in an offense that rewrote the school record books, setting single-season highs for team batting average, runs scored, extra base hits, home runs and stolen bases.
• Not to be outdone, fellow senior Cammi Prantl is a veteran of 163 games as both a catcher and outfielder and is on pace to set the career record for doubles. She has been remarkably consistent in her career, never batting lower than .329 while driving in at least 30 runs in all three seasons.
 Other starters who are returning include Anna Kirk, Taylor White, Alex Bayne and pitchers Lena Springer and Shelby Hursh.
 The Buckeyes are receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and Softball Preseason Top 25 polls. Ohio State tallied six votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll and three in the Softball rankings.

2015 Record: 19-36, 7-8 WCC
Top Returning Hitter: Nicole Zapotoczny; .310, 34 RBI, 13 2B, 10 HR
Top Returning Pitcher: Marissa Young, 8-5, 4.10 ERA, 41 Ks, six CG
Head Coach: Brian Kolze, 24th season

2015 Record: 52-14, 15-9 SEC
Top Returning Hitter: Bianka Bell, .415, 73 RBI, 18 HR, 70 runs scored
Top Pitcher: Carley Hoover, 18-7, 169.9 IP, 1.78 ERA, 174 Ks
Head Coach: Beth Torina, fifth season

2015 Record: 18-35, 4-13 AAC
Top Returning Hitter: Taylor Townsand, .289, 12 RBI, 5 2B, 21 runs scored
Top Returning Pitcher: Chelsea Eckert, 6-15, 127.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 70 Ks, 10 CGs
Head Coach: Jen McIntyre, second season

North Florida
2015 Record: 31-28, 13-11 Atlantic Sun
Top Returning Hitter: Stacy McClelland, .399, 13 HR, 47 RBI, .706 slugging percentage
Top Returning Pitcher: Janet Snipe, 3-1, 27.2 IP, 3.80 ERA, 13 Ks
Head Coach: Marcie Hickey, seventh season

For the first time in program history, four players had double-digit home runs — Leonard (15), Caitlin Conrad (14), McIntyre (14) and Kirk (10). Three of them return in 2016.
 Ohio State shattered its single-season batting average record, finishing at a .348 clip, 15 points higher than the previous record in 2002 (.333).
 The Buckeyes also set single-season records for home runs (75), extra base hits (164) and runs scored (380).
 Shelby Hursh led the Big Ten in saves for the second consecutive year (four).
 Erika Leonard set a Big Ten record with 37 RBI in 23 conference games.
 The Buckeyes led the conference in hitting, finishing a full nine points ahead of the second team, Minnesota.
 McIntyre and Leonard were third and fourth, respectively, in the league in slugging percentage and the second-highest duo.
 Kelly Kovach Schoenly reached the 30-win mark for the seventh-straight season in her nine-year head coaching career.
 Nine Buckeyes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, including returnees Anna Kirk, Shelby Hursh, Erika Leonard, Maddy McIntyre and Jayla Saibene.

Cammi Prantl ranks 10th in batting average (.338), ninth in RBI (100), 14th in home runs (14), 13th in runs scored (119) and fourth in doubles (44).
 Maddy McIntyre is sixth in walks (95), 10th in home runs (18) and 12th in RBI (93).
 Erika Leonard ranks 12th in home runs (16).

Ohio State will be looking to replicate its start from last year when it won nine of its first 10 games, including four in a row at the season-opening Charleston Southern Tournament. In Kovach Schoenly’s first three years, twice her teams have gotten off to impressive 10-game starts – 7-3 in 2013; 9-1 in 2015.

In addition to boasting one of the best offenses in school history last year, the Buckeyes also have plenty of viable options off the bench to pinch hit. Both Alex Bayne and Jayla Saibene had 13 pinch-hit opportunities this year, with Bayne hitting .308 and Saibene .462. In a 20-17 win over Northwestern, Cassidy Clough pinch hit in the sixth inning for McIntyre and drilled a three-run home run that gave the Buckeyes a 16-14 lead. As a team, Ohio State is 29-for-78 (.372) in pinch hit opportunities last year.

While senior Saibene, Prantl, McIntyre and Leonard have combined to play in 562 career games, underclassmen Kirk, Taylor White, Bailee Sturgeon, Ashley Goodwin, Brianna Betschel and Emily Clark all figure to play prominent roles this year. In the circle, freshman Morgan Ray comes in with a long resume of scholastic accomplishments, including three times winning Gatorade Player of the Year honors in Montana. Sophomore Shelby McCombs comes in with 10 wins, a 2.87 ERA and 69 Ks in 105 innings last year for NCAA Tournament participant Louisville.

In November, Ohio Stare welcomed its newest teammate – 10-year-old Dacionna Ball. Ball, who was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia, Beta Thalassemia and Vitiligo when she was just three years old, was recruited by Team Impact and paired with the Buckeyes who were looking for a special athlete to complete the final piece of the roster. Team Impact’s mission is to match local children with collegiate teams in an effort to gain strength, support and camaraderie for the child as well as provide courage, resiliency and life perspective that student-athletes can’t learn in a classroom.