Feb. 26, 2003

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Buckeyes’ preseason schedule doesn’t get any easier this weekend as they travel west to the Cal State Fullerton/Worth Invitational to compete against four teams ranked in the Top 25. The Buckeyes will square off against No. 18 Oregon State and No. 5 Washington Friday and Portland State and No. 4 California Saturday. The Buckeyes will then finish with host and No. 7 Cal State Fullerton at 8 a.m. Sunday.

The Buckeyes are ranked 19th in the inaugural Softball Collegiate Softball Top 25 poll. The Amateur Softball Association, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States, announced Tuesday it has joined forces with ESPN to launch the 2003 Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll. Voters in the poll are comprised of 15 NCAA Division I softball coaches from the 15 ASA Regions and members of the softball media.

“The first weekend of competition we had good hitting,” Linda Kalafatis, OSU head coach, said. “Last week end we struggled a bit on offense, but our pitchers were very good. I’m hoping that we’ll put our whole package together soon. I told the team we would be in a lot of close games this season and we’d have to be tough enough to win them. Sure enough, almost every game so far has been a 1 or 2-run difference. This will be the toughest tournament yet, but we always enjoy heading to southern California, the backyard of some of our current and former players. We’ll keep trying to get better.”

Beth McAbier and Kristine Himes blasted Ohio State’s first and second home runs of the season. McAbier hit the first, a three-run shot over the left field fence off All-American Lindsay Chouinard, in a 4-3 upset win over No. 8 DePaul. Himes hit the second the very next game in a 3-1 win over Liberty, a two-run blast. Sophomore Karisa Evans went 5-for-11 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic last weekend. She had two doubles and two runs scored against some competitive pitching.

Senior quad-captain Katie Chain, Ohio State’s career strikeout leader (563), pitched 12 innings, tallying 22 strikeouts, while allowing just two hits and one earned run in two games against Liberty and No. 14 Arizona State. Chain recorded a career-high 16 strikeouts in six innings in the 3-1 win over Liberty Saturday. She retired 18 of the 22 batters she faced including the final 13 in a row. At one point, Chain struck out eight-consecutive batters between the second and fifth innings. She allowed no walks and just one hit. Against the Sun Devils, she threw another one-hitter, striking out six with no walks. She now has 32 total strikeouts over 27.0 innings on the season.

Junior Kristi DeVries is 4-1 in this year in five appearances for the Buckeyes. She has posted a low 1.43 ERA in 29.1 innings of work to go with 27 strikeouts and just six earned runs. At theLeadoff Classic she went 2-0 in wins over No. 8 DePaul and Villanova.

Freshman Chelsea Baker has been a pleasant surprise thus far, recording three saves in five appearances in six innings of relief. Freshman Andrea Tribuzi also has one save to her credit.

The Buckeyes already have and will face a total of eight teams in the new USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll.

After opening up the season spliting a pair from No. 17 Alabama at the Florida International Tournament in Miami, Ohio State then grabbed a win over No. 8 DePaul before falling to No. 14 Arizona State at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. This weekend the team will head west to the Cal-State Fullerton/Worth Invitational to compete against some of the top programs out west including No. 4 California, No. 5 Washington and No. 18 Oregon State. From there, Ohio State will return home to play host to the Buckeye Invitational March 15-16 then finish off the preseason tournament schedule at the University of Hawaii/Chevron Invitational March 20-23 where the Buckeyes will take on Tokyo, Nattaidai (Japan) and No. 20 Pacific. Ohio State is scheduled to play No. 15 Michigan April 18-19 at Buckeye Field in Columbus.

Seniors Katie Chain, Jenn Link, Amy Ellis and Kristine Himes have been elected team captains for the 2003 season. All four are serving their first season as captains.

The Buckeyes went 3-1 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. The Buckeyes downed No. 8 DePaul (4-3), Liberty (3-1) and Villanova (4-3). The only loss came at the hands of No. 14 Arizona State, 1-0. Against the Blue Demons, Beth McAbier hit a three-run homer and Karisa Evans went 2-for-3 to lead the Buckeyes offensively while Kristi DeVries picked up the win. Katie Chain recorded a career-high 16 strikeouts and Kristine Himes hit a two-run homer in the 3-1 win over Liberty. The Buckeyes then struggled to take advantage of limited scoring opportunities, falling to the Sun Devils Sunday in a pitchers dual. Chain threw her second one-hitter of the weekend in the loss. The Buckeyes then finished on a positive note, defeating Villanova, 4-3, as Amy Ellis went 2-for-3 with a double and a RBI. DeVries picked up the win in the circle, her fourth of the year.

The fifth ranked Huskies are undefeated (12-0-1) entering the weekend at the Fullerton Invite. Washington’s only tie came at the hands of Minnesota at the Arizona Pepsi Classic Feb. 17 in Tucson, Ariz., 5-5. The Huskies have defeated two ranked opponents, No. 16 South Carolina (2-1) and No. 15 Michigan (5-3), both at the Leadoff Classic last weekend.

Kristen Rivera leads the team in nearly every offensive category: batting average (.476), hits (20), home runs (6), RBI’s (15) and slugging percentage (.929). Two more Huskies are batting over .400 on the year. Sophomore Kathy Fiske is batting .429 with 10 RBI’s and two home runs. Freshman Sarah Hyatt is batting .424 with a homer and 5 RBI’s.

Tia Bollinger and Ashley Boek lead the Washington pitching staff. Bollinger is 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA with 41 strikeouts. She has allowed 10 earned runs in 49.1 innings of work. Boek is 5-0 in five starts with a 2.37 ERA in eight overall appearances. She has totaled 37 K’s in 38.1 innings. Both Bollinger and Boek have one save to their credit.

Head coach Teresa Wilson is in her 11th season at Washington. During her tenure, the Huskies have twice appeared in the WCWS championship game in 1996 and 1999 and advanced to the semifinals in 1997 and 1998. Furthermore, the Huskies have earned berths into the NCAA tournament every year since their second season and claimed the Pac-10 Championship and a No. 1 ranking in both 1996 and 2000.

Defending WCWS champions California enters the Worth Invitational with a 12-3 record and a No. 4 national ranking. The Bears opened the season winning their first nine games. The Golden Bears most recently finished with a 2-1 record at the NFCA Leadoff Classic, falling to No. 17 Alabama (4-2) and defeating No. 23 Notre Dame (6-0) and Illinois State (11-0).

Senior Veronica Nelson leads the charge offensively for Cal with a .455 batting average. She is first on the team with three home runs and second with 10 RBI’s. Freshman Haley Woods is right behind Nelson, batting .390 on the year with two dingers and a team-leading 14 RBI’s and three doubles.

The top two hurlers for the Bears are senior Jen Deering and sophomore Kelly Anderson. Anderson has pitched the most innings for the Bears (45) and leads the team strikeouts (48) and complete games (5). Deering is 5-1 in six appearances with a 0.45 ERA in 31 innings pitched. She has allowed just two earned runs on 13 hits while striking out 35. Kristina Thompson has been another solid contributer in the circle, going 2-0 in six appearances with two complete games under her belt. She has struck out 23 batters in 19.2 innings of action.

The Bears are led by head coach Diane Ninemire, who has won more softball games at Cal than any other head coach in school history in 15 years at the helm. She has led Cal to the NCAA playoffs during each of her previous 15 seasons, including College World Series trips in 1992, ’96, ’99, ’00, ’01 and the WCWS title in 2002.

Host Cal State Fullerton is 12-5, No. 7 in the country and are winners in six of its last seven. Of the 17 games the Titans have played, 11 have been against ranked opponents. Fullerton is 7-4 in those contests.

Jenny Topping and Amanda Hockett are leading the way for the Titans offensively. Topping leads the team in overall batting average (.432). Hockett leads the team in home runs (4), RBI’s (14) and slugging percentage (.667). Jodie Cox has been solid for the Titans as well, batting .351 with two home runs and 11 RBI’s.

Gina Oaks leads the way in the circle with a 9-1 record in 10 starts. She has posted nine complete games and three shutouts to go along with 61 K’s and a 1.39 ERA. Cox also has seen plenty of time in the circle, going 3-4 with 61 K’s in seven starts.

Coming off a 2-1 performance at the Leadoff Classic, the Beavers enter the Fullerton Invitational with a 13-5 overall record. Oregon State started the year 8-0, but have since lost five of its last ten games including three to ranked opponents.

Senior Shelly Prochaska leads the Beavers in batting average (.404), RBI’s (35) and is tied with teammate Cara Maxey with four homers. Monica Hoffman has been the most dominate pitcher. She has an 11-4 record in 14 starts and 16 overall appearances and has recorded 76 strikeouts and 24 earned runs in 91.2 innings of work.

Kirk Walker is in his ninth year as the head coach at Oregon State. Last season Walker guided the Beavers to a 40-25 overall record and 7-14 mark in Pacific-10 Conference action. Oregon State made its fourth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional Tournament and won 40-plus games for the fourth straight year. Walker reigns as OSU’s all-time winningest softball coach with a 268-238-3 career record.

Portland State is 1-4 overall with their only action of the season coming two weeks ago at the UNLV Softball Classic (Feb. 14-16). The Vikings fell to Cal Poly (7-5), Utah (8-3), No. 3 California (5-0) and UC Riverside (3-0) before defeating UNLV, 5-3 for their first win of 2003.

Megumi Hackett and Annie Peccia are batting .400 and .353, respectively, in five games for the Vikes. Pitchers Sarah Morgan is 0-2 in three starts with 16 K’s and a 4.50 ERA. Michelle Hext is 1-1 on the year in three appearances with a 1.64 ERA.

The 2003 senior class has the opportunity this season to record more wins than any other class in the history of Ohio State softball. The Buckeyes need just 16 wins to help this senior class become the all-time winningest class to come through Ohio State. The 2002 senior’s shattered the mark last season, recording 149 wins over the last four years, breaking the old mark of 127 (class of 2001, 1995). The class of 2003 currently has 134 wins.

The Buckeyes are ranked No. 16 in the preseason USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Top 25 poll released Jan. 29. The ranking is the highest preseason ranking in program history. Ohio State garnered its highest overall ranking in program history last season, finishing the season ranked No. 13 after a trip to the NCAA Regional tournament, its first since 1990.

The Buckeyes will travel to Lexington, Ky. for a doubleheader against the Kentucky Wildcats March 5. Game one is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Ohio State is scheduled to face Dayton in a doubleheader March 11 at Buckeye Field, the first home appearance of the 2003 season. Game one is slated to begin at 2 p.m.