April 20, 2006

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Three teams with Big Ten title aspirations meet at Buckeye Field this weekend as the Ohio State softball team hosts No. 12 Michigan and Michigan State. The Buckeyes (30-15, 8-2 Big Ten) host the defending Big Ten and national champion Wolverines (28-11, 6-2 Big Ten) at 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. OSU then hosts MSU (32-14, 8-2 Big Ten) at noon Sunday in a doubleheader.

GameTracker will have the games live at Ohio State’s student radio station will call Sunday’s doubleheader live on its website,

Ohio State is 21-5 in its last 26 games and has won all 15 of its home games this spring. The Buckeyes are coming off a 6-5 extra-inning loss at Miami Wednesday, which snapped their 12 game winning streak and marked their only road game in a current 19-game span.

Michigan went 65-7 last year and became the first northern school to win the national championship, outlasting 11-time champion UCLA in the title game.

Following the game Saturday, Ohio State’s four seniors will be honored in a postgame ceremony. The second game Sunday will serve as the program’s Scarlet & Gray game, which will be attended by student-athletes from Ohio State’s other 35 sports, the OSU pep band and members of the OSU Athletics Department.

Ohio State had its 12 game winning streak snapped Wednesday at Miami but is still batting .329 in its last 13 games, which is near what the Buckeyes hit last year as a team (.321, eighth in nation). During the same 13 game span, OSU pitchers have an ERA of just 1.44.

Ohio State has won all 15 of its home games this season, including six Big Ten wins. In those 15 games, OSU is hitting .333 as a team and owns a 1.32 ERA.

Megan Schwab, the Big Ten Player of the Week last week, leads Ohio State with a .328 average overall, while in Big Ten games the Buckeyes are led by Jamee Juarez (.417) and Billie Carder (.414). In all games, Courtney Pruner owns the team-lead in home runs (7) and RBI (29). Nycole Koyano (.266) leads the Big Ten in stolen bases (23).

The pitching staff includes Juarez (13-8, 2.68 ERA), Kim Reeder (13-6, 1.62 ERA) and Pruner (4-1, 2.94 ERA). Reeder has won nine of her last 10 decisions and pitched a six-hit, seven strikeout victory at No. 6 Alabama March 3. Juarez has won nine of her last 12 decisions. Pruner had both wins against No. 15 Northwestern April 9.

OSU returns 11 letterwinners and welcomes four newcomers in 2006 for head coach Linda Kalafatis, who is in her 10th season. The Buckeyes were 32-17 overall in 2005 and finished fourth in the Big Ten with a 9-7 league mark. OSU ranked among the NCAA’s Top 13 in six categories, including scoring (8th, 5.8 runs/game).

No. 16 Northwestern, which lost twice at Ohio State April 9, enters the weekend atop the Big Ten with a 9-2 league record. Trailing by a half game are the Buckeyes and Michigan State, who are both 8-2. No. 12 Michigan is 6-2 after having two games at Wisconsin rained out Sunday. This weekend, Wisconsin and Iowa travel to Indiana and Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State are at Ohio State and Penn State, while Illinois and Northwestern are at Minnesota.

Ohio State’s current six game winning streak in the Big Ten is comprised of three-consecutive league sweeps, the Buckeyes’ first since OSU won six consecutive league series in 2002. Ohio State’s sweep of No. 15 Northwestern April 9 was its first of a ranked opponent since 2002 (twice that season, vs. No. 25 Minnesota, at No. 20 Iowa).

Ohio State’s recent 12-game winning streak overall (halted Wednesday at Miami) was its best since 2002 and is tied for the fourth-best in program history.

Michigan senior Stephanie Bercaw is from Wooster, Ohio (Hillsdale H.S.), in northeast Ohio, near the hometowns of Ohio State senior Nicole Lancaster (Magnolia), sophomore Brittany Vanderink (Hiram) and freshman Courtney Pruner (Akron).

From the Los Angeles area are Ohio State senior Stacy Hibma (Buena Park), juniors Jamee Juarez (La Puente) and Nycole Koyano (Walnut) and sophomore Liz Caputo (Riverside) along with Michigan senior Tiffany Haas (North Tustin), junior Tiffany Worthy (Yorba Linda) and sophomore Alessandra Giampaolo (Pasadena). Haas and Hibma played on the same club team (Alliance). Haas and Caputo were club teammates in 2001 and 2002 (Gordon’s Panthers). Caputo and Michigan State junior Nicole Mercado were teammates from 2001-03 for Gordon’s Panthers.

Michigan leads the all-time series over Ohio State 66-19 and is 16-7 at Buckeye Field, though the Buckeyes won the last game there between these two teams 4-0 on April 19, 2003. Michigan took both games from OSU in Ann Arbor in 2004 and the doubleheader at UM’s Alumni Field last spring was snowed out. OSU has never swept the Wolverines but took three of four games in Columbus in 1990 when the Buckeyes went on to win the Big Ten title.

Ohio State leads the all-time series against Michigan State, 47-38, and is 22-11 against the Spartans at Buckeye Field. OSU won six consecutive games from MSU from 2000-2003, including two sweeps, though the Spartans have won three of the last five games. Michigan State last swept the Buckeyes in 1997.

Coming off its first national title, Michigan was ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll but saw its record stand at 11-8 after 19 games. Since the, however, the Wolverines are 17-3. Big Ten losses at home to Purdue (UM committed season-high five errors in that game) and at Iowa now has Michigan in fourth place behind Northwestern, Ohio State and Michigan State. Sophomore Alessandra Giampaolo leads UM with a .333 average, while senior Becky Marx (.325) owns 10 homers and 36 RBI. Sophomore Samantha Findlay (.315) hit a three-run home run in the 10th inning to beat UCLA in the 2005 national championship game and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Women’s College World Series, the first time a freshman position player has ever won the honor. Pitcher Jennie Ritter (16-5, 0.78 ERA) was the sixth overall draft pick in the National Pro Fastpitch League Senior Draft in February and is a finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

Heading into this week, Michigan State led the Big Ten in hitting (.286) and upped that to .294 in league games. The Spartans, who play at Penn State Friday and Saturday, return 15 letterwinners and seven starters from their 2005 team that went 25-28-1 and 7-9 in the Big Ten. Junior Nicole Mercado, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last year, is batting .313 overall and .364 in Big Ten games. In conference games, sophomore Caitlin Mahoney boasts a team-best .500 average with two homers and 12 RBI.

The Buckeyes are 25-0 when leading after four innings and 24-4 when scoring three or more runs. OSU has scored at least five runs in six of its last seven games.

Billie Carder leads Ohio State with 11 multiple-hit games, including five in her last six games. Wednesday Courtney Pruner became the third OSU freshman since 1997 to hit two home runs in a game. The other two were eventual OSU all-time home run leader Kristine Himes vs. UNC-Greensboro in 2000 and Liz Caputo vs. Long Island last year. Pruner’s seven multiple-RBI games are best on the team.

Among the Buckeyes hot at the plate as of late are Carder (.420 in last 16 games), Jamee Juarez (.419 in last 11 games) and Pruner (.364 in last 12 games).

Tuesday against IUPUI, for the first time since junior Jamee Juarez arrived at Ohio State, the Buckeyes swept a doubleheader without Juarez throwing a pitch. In fact it was just the third time OSU won twice on the same day without Juarez getting the win in either game. The other two occasions were March 12, 2004, in wins over Winthrop and North Carolina A&T and two weeks ago when Pruner had both wins, including one in relief of Juarez, in the sweep of then-No. 15 Northwestern April 9.

Chelsea Baker’s walk-off home run against Northwestern April 9 was the first for a Buckeye since April 21, 2002, when Chrissy Fowler’s solo blast beat Illinois 6-5 at Buckeye Field in a game that Ohio State trailed 5-0.

See page 4 of this complete release for player bios.

In Big Ten statistics as of April 17, Ohio State ranked fifth in the Big Ten in batting (.270 avg.), fifth in pitching (2.35 ERA) and ninth in fielding (.955 pct.). The Buckeyes led in triples (11), ranked second in stolen bases (59) and fifth in home runs (27). In league games only, OSU’s numbers all are better, including a .298 average (second), 2.19 ERA (fourth) and .961 fielding percentage (ninth). Again OSU led in triples, with four in conference games.

Individually, Megan Schwab ranked sixth in batting average (.353), seventh in on-base percentage (.450), and seventh in doubles (9). Nycole Koyano ranked first in stolen bases (22). Billie Carder and Courtney Pruner tied for the league lead in triples (3). Among Big Ten pitchers, Kim Reeder ranked ninth in ERA (1.71) and ninth in innings pitched (126.2), while Jamee Juarez ranked eighth in innings pitched (133.1) and seventh in strikeouts (144).

Ohio State head coach Linda Kalafatis is in her 10th season at the helm of the Buckeyes’ softball program in 2006. She is already OSU’s all-time wins leader with 325 victories in Columbus (325-224-0, .585), and her overall record stands at 598-339-2 (.641) in 18 years as a collegiate head coach. She is assisted by former Buckeyes Belinda Quisenberry and Kristi DeVries and former Nebraska All-American Ali Viola.

### GO BUCKS! ###