April 20, 2005

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Going up against two of the Big Ten’s top teams, which are also two of the best teams in the nation in 2005, the Ohio State softball team takes its nationally ranked offense on the road this weekend for games at No. 15 Northwestern and No. 1 Michigan. The Buckeyes (22-14, 4-6 Big Ten) face the Wildcats (32-9, 12-0 Big Ten) in Evanston Fri. (3 p.m., CST) and Sat. (noon, CST) before facing the Wolverines (46-3, 11-1 Big Ten) in a double-header Sunday beginning at noon (EDT).

The double-header Sunday in Ann Arbor will be televised live by ESPNU, marking Ohio State’s first national television appearance. The Buckeyes will be aiming for their first-ever win over a No. 1 ranked team and snap an 18-game skid at Michigan’s Alumni Field.

Including the Buckeyes’ two wins at Wright State Tuesday, OSU will be on the road for six games this week. That will change next week, however, when Ohio State plays host to seven games at Buckeye Field in Columbus. In fact, after this weekend the Buckeyes will have just two more road games (May 4 at Pittsburgh) before traveling for the Big Ten tournament May 12-14.

ESPN’s new college sports-only affiliate, ESPNU, has announced it will televise both games of the Ohio State at Michigan double-header this Sunday. ESPNU is available with DirecTV’s sports package on channel 609. The television coverage will mark the Ohio State softball team’s first appearance on national TV.

Sunday Ohio State will be aiming for its first-ever win over the No. 1 ranked team in the country. The Buckeyes are 0-3 against the nation’s top team, those games coming against No. 1 UCLA in 1996 and No. 1 Arizona in 1997. The two games against the Bruins came at the 1996 UCLA Easton/Reebok Invitational in Los Angeles, with UCLA winning 8-0 and 13-0. In the one game against Arizona at the 1997 PONY Invitational in Fullerton, Calif., Ohio State tied the game at 3-3 in the third inning and trailed 9-6 in the fifth, but the Wildcats went on to take a 15-6 win. Since 1996, however, the Buckeyes have nine wins over Top 10 ranked opponents, including a 4-0 win over No. 2 Arizona in 1996.

Northwestern leads the all-time series against Ohio State, 51-23-3, but since Linda Kalafatis arrived in Columbus in 1997, the series is nearly even, with Northwestern leading, 10-9. The Wildcats have swept the last two season series against the Buckeyes, with the last OSU sweep coming in 2002 in Evanston.

Michigan leads the all-time series against Ohio State, 66-16. The Wolverines are 25-3 against the Buckeyes over the last 10 seasons and have won the last 18 consecutive games against Ohio State at UM’s Alumni Field. The Buckeyes’ last wins in Ann Arbor came Apr. 1, 1994, when OSU swept a double-header.

In national statistical rankings through Apr. 17, Ohio State ranked No. 11 in the country in scoring offense (5.97 runs per game) and No. 8 in batting average (.324). OSU was ranked tied for 18th in doubles per game (1.50), sixth in triples per game (.41), 10th in slugging percentage (.489) and 22nd in stolen bases per game (1.71).

In individual rankings, Ohio State’s Nycole Koyano ranks No. 1 in triples per game (.18), No. 2 in walks per game (.79) and No. 30 in runs per game (.88). Megan Schwab is No. 28 in runs per game (.97) and Karisa Evans is No. 13 in sacrifice hits per game (.35).

Ohio State is 4-6 in the Big Ten and in the No. 7 spot in the league standings. The Buckeyes were swept at Wisconsin (UW is now 3-7 in the Big Ten, is No. 9 in standings), swept Minnesota (3-7, No. 8), split with Michigan State (6-6, No. 4), were swept by 20th-ranked Iowa (8-4, No. 3) and split with Illinois (1-11, No. 11). The top eight teams qualify for the Big Ten tournament May 12-14, which will be hosted by the regular season champion.

Three Ohio State seniors have been nominated for the CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-America team. Meghan Rowlands and Jennifer Johnson, both English majors, and Ashley Cutcliff, a sports and leisure studies major, all have built career grade point averages over 3.2 and will be on the all-region ballot that goes to SIDs across District IV (Ohio, Mich., Ky., Tenn., Ala.). The first-team Academic All-District IV honorees will then be on the All-America ballot.

Ohio State’s .331 overall batting average is best in the Big Ten and is among the national leaders (No. 8). OSU is batting .327 in league games, which is No. 3 in the conference. OSU opponents are hitting .266 overall and .306 in league play. In all games, the Buckeyes have nearly twice as many doubles (53-30) and over three times as many triples (16-5).

Ohio State is 16-for-41 (.390) when the bases are loaded with three grand slams. OSU increases its batting average to .383 with runners in scoring position and to .507 (35-for-69) with a runner on third base and less than two outs. Buckeye pitchers have racked up 195 strikeouts, while OSU hitters have struck out only 134 times and have nearly twice as many walks (114 to 73). The Buckeyes are 21-5 when scoring at least three runs and 13-2 when holding their opponents to two or fewer runs. OSU is 10-2 when scoring in the first inning and 19-6 when scoring first in the game. Ohio State is 21-3 when outhitting or having the same number of hits as its opponent.

Northwestern is ranked No. 15 in the nation and has an overall record of 32-9 and is undefeated in the Big Ten with a 12-0 record. The Wildcats have wins over then-No.2 California, No. 3 Stanford twice, No. 14 Washington and No.24 Iowa. Despite knocking off the No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams Northwestern came up short against No. 1 Arizona Feb. 5. The Wildcats are on a 14-game winning streak and are 17-1 over their last 18 games, including doubleheader sweeps against Purdue Apr. 17 and Bradley Apr. 19.

The Wildcats’ offense has two of the top three hitters in the Big Ten. Garland Cooper is tops in the conference with a .438 batting average and Stephanie Churchwell is third with a .397 avg. Pitchers Eileen Canney and Courtnay Foster combine to have 31 of the Wildcats’ 32 wins on the season.

No. 1 ranked Michigan is 46-3 overall and 11-3 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines are on a 13 game winning streak and are 16-1 over their last 15 games. Michigan swept a doubleheader from Indiana Apr. 17, which included a no-hitter by Jennie Ritter. UM is coming off a sweep of Eastern Michigan Apr. 19. Two games against Penn State this weekend are scheduled before the match-up against the Buckeyes. The Wolverines have a record of 9-2 against ranked opponents this season, including a win over the previous No. 1 team in the country, Arizona, March 30.

Michigan’s offense leads the Big Ten in nearly every category, including home runs (73), runs (286), doubles (63) and hits (412). UM is led by a trio of power hitters, which make up three of the top four home run hitters in the Big Ten, including Samantha Findlay (17), Jessica Merchant (16) and Nicole Motycka (11). Findlay and Merchant are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big Ten in RBI with 53 and 49, respectively. The UM pitching staff is No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big Ten in ERA (0.83) and has the top three pitchers among the Big Ten’s ERA leaders, including three-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Jennie Ritter (0.88). She is tied for No. 1 in wins (22) and is No. 1 in strikeouts (225). Lorilyn Wilson ranks No. 1 in ERA (0.77), No. 3 in wins (19) and No. 6 in strikeouts (165).

Sophomore Jamee Juarez, twice named the Big Ten Player of the Week this season, continues to move up the Ohio State single-season and career records list as she builds on what has already been one of the best single-season pitching performances in school history. Her 17 win in 2005 are No. 5 and her 135 strikeouts are No. 10. Those numbers are moving up on former Buckeye pitchers Belinda (Cernava) Quisenberry and Kristi DeVries, who are both members of the Ohio State coaching staff.

Juarez has started in the circle in 11 of Ohio State’s last 13 games and in 29 of OSU’s 36 games overall. She has earned the decision in 16 of the Buckeyes’ last 19 games. She has already compiled 148.2 innings pitched and 135 strikeouts this season. Juarez was 2-4 in her first six decisions before winning nine consecutive games from Feb. 27 to March 24. Her 253 career strikeouts are No. 6 all-time at Ohio State, and she is closing in on No. 5 Shelly Eger’s 254 strikeouts.

Entering the week, Ohio State’s .324 overall batting average and 14 triples were tied for best in the Big Ten. OSU’s .327 average in Big Ten games only is third behind Michigan (.342) and Northwestern (.336). Ohio State has struck out the fewest times in all games and in Big Ten games only. The Buckeyes rank No. 2 in stolen bases (58 in all games, 13 in Big Ten). In all games, the Buckeyes rank No. 9 in team pitching and No. 8 in team fielding, but up both those rankings to No. 6, respectively, in Big Ten games.

Individually as of Monday, Megan Schwab owns the Big Ten’s No. 7 batting average (.392) and No. 5 slugging percentage (.696). She is tied for eighth in home runs (7) and her .490 on base percentage ranks ninth behind teammates Jamee Juarez (No. 4, .490) and Nycole Koyano (No. 5, .479). Koyano is tied for the league-lead in triples (6) and is tied for No. 2 in walks (26). Juarez also ranks No. 10 in batting average (.390) and Karisa Evans is No. 3 in sacrifice hits (11). Among Big Ten pitchers, Juarez ranks No. 7 in innings pitched (144.2) and her 28 appearances are eighth. Her 16 wins are tied for fourth and her 131 strikeouts are eighth.

In Big Ten games only, three Buckeyes are among the league’s batting average leaders, including Ashley Cutcliff (No. 7, .455), Liz Caputo (No. 8, 450) and Juarez (No. 10, .409). Cutcliff and Caputo rank sixth and eighth, respectively, in slugging percentage (.682, .650), while Christina Douglas and Billie Jo Carder rank No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, in RBI (12, 11). Carder’s four doubles are tied for second-most in the Big Ten, as are Evans’ seven walks. Four of Evans’ sacrifices have come in league games, which are tied for the Big Ten lead.

Ohio State began this week with a double-header sweep of Wright State in Fairborn, Ohio, Tues. OSU won game one, 14-2, and took the nightcap, 7-3. In the opener, the Buckeyes pounded 16 hits, including three home runs, on their way to a five-inning victory. Ashley Cutcliff went 3-for-3 with a homer and three RBI, while Brittany Vanderink was 3-for-4 and scored three runs. Jamee Juarez notched win No. 17 with four innings of work. In game two, OSU scored all seven of its runs in the first three innings, then rode a strong six-inning performance from Chelsea Baker for the sweep. Cutcliff homered again, while Karisa Evans went 3-for-4.

Several Buckeyes have already bettered their statistical totals from a year ago. Sophomore Megan Schwab has improved almost all of her numbers from 2004, including home runs (7 in `05, 3 in `04) and RBI (31 in `05, 25 in `04) and is batting .377 compared to .295 last year. Sophomore Nycole Koyano has seven triples after having none in 2004. Junior Billie Jo Carder has eight doubles and 22 RBI this season, which are more than her combined freshman and sophomore totals (five doubles, 10 RBI).

Sophomore Christina Douglas has 33 hits, four home runs and 29 RBI this season after having 11 hits, one homer and seven RBI in 2004. Junior Stacy Hibma has four home runs, more than the three homers of her first two seasons. Sophomore Jamee Juarez is 17-10 in the circle with 135 strikeouts after compiling a 13-10 record with 118 Ks in 2004. Others with batting averages significantly up from last year include Carder (.255 in 2004, up to .326), senior Ashley Cutcliff (.329 up to .490), Douglas (.216 up to .314), Hibma (.237 up to .297), Juarez (.279 up to .382) and junior Nicole Lancaster (.000 up to .235).

Among Ohio State’s team numbers up from last year, the Buckeyes’ 16 triples are more than double the seven they had in 2004 and OSU has hit 29 home runs compared to 25 a year ago. OSU has already turned more double plays (11 in `05, 9 in `04) and is on pace to better its 2004 totals of 70 stolen bases (61 in 2005) and 230 runs (224 in 2005).

Chelsea Baker’s two-run home run in the seventh inning against 19th-ranked Georgia Tech March 6 was her second of the season and fifth of her career. She has pitched at least two innings in five of Ohio State’s last six games and is coming of a six-inning outing and victory at Wright State Tuesday.

Liz Caputo is batting .550 (10-for-21) in her last eight games to raise her overall average to .356, which ranks fifth on the team. She is batting .450 (9-for-20) in Big Ten games, which ranks seventh in the league. Caputo is coming off a 2-for-3 day at Wright State Tuesday with a homer, her fourth of the season, which ties her for second in OSU history for home runs by a freshman. She was a perfect 6-for-6 in the double-header at Minnesota Apr. 3 with a home run. Caputo hit two home runs Feb. 27 vs. Long Island, one of which was a grand slam, to set an OSU freshman record with seven RBI.

Billie Jo Carder went 4-for-7 in the double-header against Illinois Sunday and had four RBI in game two. She hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning of that game. Her four doubles in Big Ten play are tied for the Big Ten lead in conference games only. Her eight doubles and 22 RBI are already more than her first two seasons combined. Carder had a career-high four hits in Ohio State’s 12-7 win over Marshall in the championship of the Buckeye Invitational March 20. Her grand slam against Mississippi State March 6 helped vault OSU to an 11-0 win.

Ashley Cutcliff was nominated for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors Tuesday. She is hitting a team-best .490 and has been on fire as of late, hitting .700 (7-for-10) in her last four games with two homers. She is hitting .455 in Big Ten games (sixth in league). Eight times in her career has she collected three hits in a game, including twice in 2005. Cutcliff’s 13 career home runs are tied for fourth-most in OSU history.

Christina Douglas owns the team-lead in doubles with nine and ranks No. 2 in RBI with 29. A team-leading 12 of her RBI have come in Big Ten games, which is tied for fourth in the league. Douglas was named to the all-tournament team of the Buckeye Invitational March 18-20 after hitting .500 (4-for-8) in the event with two doubles, a grand slam and eight RBI.

Karisa Evans is batting .526 (10-for-19) in her last seven games to raise her season batting average to .338. She ups that to .375 with runners on base. She leads Ohio State in sacrifices with 11, which is tied for second in the Big Ten and ranks No. 13 in the country. Her career batting average of .333 is eighth-best in school history.

Nicole Gragson has not allowed a run in her last four appearances (5.2 IP) and is coming off a three strikeout inning of relief at Wright State Tuesday. She pitched six solid innings against Iowa (now ranked No. 20) March 6 in the championship game of the Buzz Classic. Her six innings, as well as her four strikeouts, marked her career bests.

Natalie Hales hit her fourth career home run March 23 in OSU’s 6-1 win at Cal State Fullerton. She went 2-for-3 in game two of the double-header against Illinois Sunday. Stacy Hibma went 2-for-3 with a homer at Wright State Tuesday, her fourth of the season. She also went 2-for-3 at California-Riverside March 26. She hit two home runs against Boston March 5, her career-best, then hit a three-run homer against Eastern Michigan March 18.

Stephanie Hill has entered the game as a pinch runner 21 times this season, most on the team. She has scored 13 runs and has five stolen bases. Jennifer Johnson owns a team-best 70 fielding assists in 2005. She has committed just one error in 35 fielding chances in Big Ten play. She was nominated for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors Tuesday.

Jamee Juarez owns a 17-10 record with 135 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA. She won nine consecutive games from Feb. 27-March 24 and has started in the circle in 14 of OSU’s last 17 games. Her 253 career strikeouts are sixth all-time at OSU. At the plate, she had an 11 game hitting streak from March 6-April 3. Juarez was named to the all-tournament team of the Buckeye Invitational when she pitched OSU to each of its three wins in the event and batted .556 (5-for-9). She has been named the Big Ten Player of the Week twice in 2005.

Nycole Koyano leads the nation in triples with .22 per game (7 3b, 32 g). She ranks No. 2 in the country in runs per game with .97 (31 r, 32 g) and ranks No. 30 in walks per game with .81 (26 bb, 32 g). Her triples total is third-most in a season at OSU and her walks total is tied for seventh-most. She owns a .897 career stolen base percentage (26-for-29) and set the OSU freshman stolen bases record last year with 16. Koyano was named to the all-tournament team of the Buckeye Invitational March 18-20 after batting .556 (5-for-9). Koyano set an OSU single-game record in the Buckeyes’ season-opening 8-0 win vs. Rutgers with two triples.

Nicole Lancaster had a career-best day March 5 against SDSU when she went 2-for-2 with two runs scored, an RBI and a double. She is batting .267 (4-for-15) this season. Meghan Rowlands went 2-for-3 against Michigan State Apr. 9 and doubled against Wright State Tuesday. She had five hits in her first 12 at bats this season, including the game-winning RBI vs. Pittsburgh, Feb. 19. Rowlands was nominated for CoSIDA Academic All-America honors Tuesday.

Megan Schwab is one of the Big Ten’s best hitters in 2005. Her .377 batting average, seven home runs (10th), 31 RBI (11th) and .670 slugging percentage (5th) all rank among the league’s leaders. She went on a 10 game hitting streak from March 6-26, during which time she hit .612 (19-for-31). Schwab leads the team in multiple-hit games (12) and multiple-RBI games (11). Twice this season she has hit two home runs in a game and she has already driven in more runs (31) and hit more homers (7) than she did in the 59 games she played in last season. She was named to the all-tournament team of the Buzz Classic March 4-6 and the Buckeye Invitational March 18-20.

Andrea Tribuzi made two pitching appearances in the Buzz Classic and has eight on the season. Brittany Vanderink is batting a team-best .500 (8-for-16) in Big Ten games. She is 12-for-13 in the stolen base department, which is tied for the second-most stolen bases in a season by a Buckeye freshman (Koyano set the record last season with 16). Vanderink’s four triples this season are tied for the most-ever by a freshman at OSU. She went 4-for-7 in the double-header at Wright State Tuesday with four runs scored, two RBI, a double and a triple.

For just the second time in program history, the Buckeyes faced their first three Big Ten opponents (six games total) all away from Columbus. The 1987 OSU squad also opened its Big Ten schedule with three road opponents, including games at Michigan, Northwestern and Indiana. Dating back to the middle of the 2004 season, the Buckeyes played 17 consecutive Big Ten games on the road, including the 2004 Big Ten tournament.

The Buckeyes were 11-3 in March this season, building on a string of five consecutive seasons with stellar March records. Ohio State was 12-4 in March in 2004 and 2003, 20-7 in 2002 and a 17-7 in 2001. Winning streaks during those years included seven games in 2005 and 2004, nine in 2003, 14 in 2002 and 12 in 2001.

Ohio State head coach Linda Kalafatis is in her ninth season at the helm of the Buckeyes’ softball program in 2005. She is already OSU’s all-time wins leader with 285 victories in Columbus (285-206-0, .580), and her overall record stands at 558-321-2 (.637) in 17 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. She is assisted by former Buckeyes Belinda Quisenberry and Chrissy Fowler.

### Go Bucks! ###