COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 17/15 (NFCA/USA Softball polls) Ohio State softball team begins a four-game road swing with a conference series at Minnesota this weekend, taking on the Golden Gophers at 2 p.m. (1 p.m. CT) Saturday and Sunday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium in Minneapolis. The Buckeyes hold a 3-3 record in true road games this season and are 26-6 overall after taking two from Ball State Wednesday. Minnesota, who opens its home schedule with the Buckeyes, is 20-19 on the season and tied with Ohio State at 3-1 in the Big Ten after splitting its series with Purdue last weekend.
Following the weekend series in the Twin Cities, the Buckeyes head to Bloomington, Ind., for a Wednesday doubleheader with Indiana before returning home to New Buckeye Field. The April 11 contest vs. Illinois will mark the dedication of the new stadium.
FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
Live stats: Live stats for the Minnesota series are available and will be linked from the softball schedule page on OhioStateBuckeyes.com
New Buckeye Field will officially be dedicated at 2 p.m. April 11 with the game vs. Illinois. Join the Buckeye softball team for a variety of activities to commemorate the special day and recognize the donors who made the new stadium possible. The first 350 fans will receive free Ohio State Softball pennants, while those in attendance can also enjoy Matt the Balloon Guy, the Chillicothe Paints mascot and the athletic band, cheerleaders and Brutus. All kids are invited to run the bases following the game and to participate in a postgame autograph session.
OHIO STATE AT A GLANCE
From the batter’s box: Junior Sam Marder belted a pair of homeruns in the doubleheader against Ball State Wednesday one in each game and finished the day with a career total of 38 homeruns to move within four of breaking the all-time Buckeye record. Vanessa Spears also hit a round-tripper vs. the Cardinals, the first of her career, while fellow freshman Alicia Herron had three hits, including a pair of RBI singles.
As a team this season, the Buckeyes are hitting .289 with 40 homers led by Marder, the newly-named USA Softball player of the year finalist with a .407 average. The junior captain has belted a Big Ten-leading 14 homeruns this season and has 32 RBI (1.0 per game). Marder and Courtney Pruner are both making their way up the Buckeye career homerun charts, holding second and fourth place, respectively. Marder has 38 for her career just three shy of the all-time Ohio State record 41 set by Kristine Himes (2000-03). Pruner increased her total to seven against NC State for the season and 21 in her career for the fourth-place position.
In the circle: The veteran pitching staff of senior Kim Reeder, junior Megan Miller and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker has been stellar this season, holding a cumulative 1.32 ERA and .210 opponent batting average. Miller is undefeated (4-0) in the circle, while Reeder is second in the Big Ten in ERA (0.96) and has been steadily moving up in the all-time record books for wins, strikeouts and innings pitched (see page 6). Bodeker (9-3) has a conference-leading four saves this season and holds Top 10 spots in strikeouts, opposing batting average and ERA. Earlier this season, Bodeker threw the first Ohio State no-hitter since April 17, 2007, when she shut out Eastern Michigan March 14 in Louisville in five innings.
On the field: Second baseman Whitney Cooper leads the team with 59 assists and sits in sixth place in the conference in the same category. She also holds a .953 fielding percentage with five errors after playing and starting in all 32 games the only player to do so this season. Four other players Sam Marder, Tory Haddad, Alicia Herron and Dee Dee Hillman have seen action in all but one game this year.
The Buckeyes are ranked in the Top 25 in both the NFCA/USA Today and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls for the sixth-consecutive week and have moved to Nos. 17 and 15, respectively. By earning the No. 23 nod by USA Softball Feb. 17, the Buckeyes returned to the national rankings after an 11-week absence. Ohio State spent the first six weeks of the 2008 season in the Top 25 before dropping out in the March 10 edition. The Scarlet and Gray is 86-45 all-time, 17-5 this season, when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.
NEXT UP: ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Following the weekend series with Minnesota, the Buckeyes bus to Indiana for a Wednesday doubleheader at 2 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind. The Hoosiers are currently 5-24 overall and 1-3 in conference action.