April 25, 2005

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After having four Big Ten road games cancelled last weekend, the Ohio State softball team (22-14, 4-6 Big Ten) returns home to host seven games this week at Buckeye Field. First up is a pair of non-league opponents from the Mid-American Conference as Western Michigan (14-20, 9-6 MAC) visits Columbus for a single game at 6 p.m. Tues. and Bowling Green (23-24, 8-8 MAC) comes calling for a double-header beginning at 5 p.m. Wed.

Ohio State departed Thursday afternoon last week for what should have been four games at Big Ten leaders 15th-ranked Northwestern and No. 1 Michigan, but instead, thanks to the weather, OSU returned Sunday afternoon without having played an inning. The Buckeyes swept Wright State last Tues. to improve to 14-2 against their last 13 non-conference opponents.

Including the seven home games this week, Ohio State will host all but two of its remaining 13 regular season games during the next two weeks. Following this week’s slate of games, the Buckeyes host Akron for a twin-bill May 3, then travel to Pittsburgh for two games May 4 before concluding the regular season May 7-8 at Buckeye Field against Penn State. The Big Ten tournament May 12-14 figures to be hosted by either Northwestern (14-0 Big Ten) or Michigan (11-2 Big Ten).

Taking the form of just about every kind of weather possible, mother nature caused the cancellation of nine Big Ten games around the conference last weekend, including all four of Ohio State’s and Michigan State’s games and both of Illinois’ and Iowa’s two contests. Eleven conference games were able to be played, including all four games for Minnesota and Wisconsin, which were at Purdue and Indiana.

The Ohio State at Michigan double-header last Sunday in Ann Arbor was to have been televised by ESPN’s new college sports-only affiliate, ESPNU. The television coverage would have marked the Ohio State softball team’s first appearance on national TV, while at the same time the Buckeyes were aiming for their first win over the nation’s No.1-ranked team. Ohio State had met the top team in the land on three previous occasions, but not since 1997.

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 ranked No. 1 in triples per game (.18), No. 2 in walks per game (.79) and No. 30 in runs per game (.88). Megan Schwab was No. 28 in runs per game (.97) and Karisa Evans was No. 13 in sacrifice hits per game (.35).

Ohio State is 1-2 all-time against Western Michigan, but the two teams have not met since 1981. Ohio State is 17-10-1 all-time against Bowling Green, with the games here Wed. marking the first meeting between the Buckeyes and Falcons since 2001 when the two teams split a double-header at Buckeye Field. OSU is 6-1 against the Falcons at Buckeye Field since the facility opened in 1988 and the Buckeyes are 9-1 against BGSU in the last 10 meetings overall.

Ohio State is 4-6 in the Big Ten and in the No. 9 spot in the league standings. The Buckeyes were swept at Wisconsin (UW is now 6-8 in the Big Ten, is No. 7 in standings), swept Minnesota (6-8, No. 8), split with Michigan State (6-6, No. 5), were swept by 20th-ranked Iowa (9-4, 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. 2 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 .331 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.

Western Michigan (14-20, 9-6 Mid-American Conference) was scheduled to play a three-game conference series at Central Michigan last weekend but saw the weather push those contests to Monday. The Broncos are 9-7 in their last 16 games and are scheduled to travel to Oakland (Mich.) Wed. Other than a 16-3 win over Texas Southern March 6 in Houston, the Broncos have scored more than four runs in a game just four times this season.

Junior Katie Niemi leads the WMU offense with a .317 average and nine RBI, while junior Tricia VanDerSlik is tops on the pitching staff with an 8-12 record, 2.26 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 133.0 innings pitched. Head coach Kathy Leitke is in her fifth year at the Kalamazoo, Mich., school and led the Broncos to the 2003 MAC West title and a runner-up finish last year when WMU finished 32-26.

Bowling Green (23-24, 8-8 MAC) started out this season 0-9, but then knocked off then-No. 23 Northwestern (now No. 15, 14-0 Big Ten) March 6 in Fullerton, Calif., and is 22-15 since. Along the way, the Falcons have knocked off Minnesota and Pacific and forged an 8-8 league record as BGSU gears up to defend its 2004 MAC tournament title. The Falcons were 34-30 overall a year ago and have eight starters back in 2005.

Gina Rango leads the Falcons with a .400 batting average with five doubles, five triples, two home runs and 30 RBI. Emily Gouge (5-5, 1.87 ERA) and Liz Vrabel (13-10, 2.08 ERA) are tops on the pitching staff. Head coach Leigh Ross-Shaw is in her seventh season at BGSU.

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.

In statistics as of Apr. 25, Ohio State’s .331 batting average and 16 triples are the most in the Big Ten, while the Buckeyes’ 134 strikeouts are fewest. In conference games, OSU is batting .327, which is second only to Michigan’s .333. The Buckeyes rank No. 3 in stolen bases (61 in all games, 14 in Big Ten). In all games, the Buckeyes rank No. 10 in team pitching and No. 9 in team fielding, but improve both those rankings to No. 7 and No. 6, respectively, in Big Ten games.

Individually in all games, Megan Schwab owns the Big Ten’s No. 6 slugging percentage (.670). The Buckeyes have the league’s No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 on base percentage leaders (Nycole Koyano .480, Jamee Juarez .477, Karisa Evans .465). Koyano leads the Big Ten in triples (7), while Brittany Vanderink is tied for No. 3 in triples (4) and is tied for No. 8 in stolen bases (12). Evans is tied for No. 2 in sacrifice bunts (11). Juarez is No. 9 for innings pitched (148.2), No. 7 for batters struck out looking (42), tied for No. 5 in wins (17) and No. 6 in games started (24)

In Big Ten games only, three Buckeyes are among the league’s batting average leaders, including Liz Caputo (No. 5, .450), Ashley Cutcliff (No. 6, .435) and Juarez (No. 9, .409). Cutcliff and Caputo rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in slugging percentage (.652, .650), while Christina Douglas and Billie Jo Carder rank No. 5 and No. 8, respectively, in RBI (12, 11). Carder’s four doubles are tied for second-most in the Big Ten, while Evans is tied for No. 6 in walks (7). Four of Evans’ sacrifice bunts have come in league games, which are tied for No. 2 in the Big Ten.

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 out 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 fifth in the league. Caputo is coming off a 2-for-3 day at Wright State Apr. 19 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 Apr. 17 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 No. 2 in the Big Ten lead in conference games. 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 Apr. 19. She is hitting a team-best .481 and has been on fire as of late, hitting .700 (7-for-10) in her last four games with two homers. She is hitting .435 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 are 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 Apr. 17. Stacy Hibma went 2-for-3 with a homer at Wright State Apr. 19, 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 Apr. 19.

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 Apr. 19. 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 Apr. 19 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.

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! ###