Feb. 18, 2003

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After opening the season at the Florida International Invitational in Miami, Fla., the No. 21 Ohio State softball team (2-3) will travel to the eighth annual NFCA Leadoff Classic Feb 21-23 in Columbus, Ga. The event will feature 24 of the top collegiate softball teams in the country, including the defending Women’s College World Series champion California.

The Tournament
The tournament will consist of six, four team pools. After each team has faced one another from each pool, the top team from each pool, along with two at-large teams, will advance to the gold championship bracket. The remaining four second-place teams, along with four at-large teams, will be placed in the silver championship bracket and the remaining eight teams will be assigned to the bronze championship bracket. All brackets will be single elimination/consolation. Each team will play a minimum of five games (three pool, two bracket) regardless of pool or bracket assignments.

The Tournament Field
The Buckeyes will compete in Pool 3 with No. 8 DePaul, No. 14 Arizona State and Liberty. Ohio State will face DePaul and Liberty in Day one at 2:30 and 5 p.m. Feb. 21 and Arizona State at 10 a.m. Feb. 22.

Five of the six pools feature at least three Top 25 ranked teams. All four teams in Pool 4 are ranked.

Team Record Pool 1 No. 17 Alabama 10-5 No. 4 California 10-2 Illinois State 7-9 No. 23 Notre Dame 2-2

Pool 2 No. 7 Cal-State Fullerton 10-4 No. 9 Louisiana State 7-3 No. 10 Oklahoma 5-2 Villanova 0-0

Pool 3 No. 14 Arizona State 11-3 No. 8 DePaul 5-0 Liberty 1-1 No. 21 Ohio State 2-3

Pool 4 No. 11 Florida State 9-3 No. 25 Massachusetts 2-3 No. 18 Oregon State 11-4 No. 20 Pacific 4-3

Pool 5 No. 3 Nebraska 9-1 North Carolina 3-3 Southern Mississippi No. 12 Stanford 10-2

Pool 6 No. 15 Michigan 2-3 No. 16 South Carolina 7-3 Temple 4-3 No. 5 Washington 9-0-1

Top Competition
Four teams at this year’s Leadoff Classic, Arizona State, Florida State, Michigan and Oklahoma, competed at the 2002 WCWS. Of the 24 teams participating, 19 competed in NCAA postseason play and 17 finished in last year’s final USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll.

See You Next Year
The Buckeyes will make a return trip to the Leadoff Classic in 2004, having already accepted an invitation to next year’s competition.

Quote From The Coach
“We’re excited to be attending the NFCA Leadoff Classic, one of the top collegiate tournaments of the year,” Kalafatis said. “We’ll be facing some excellent competition and we’re looking forward to the chance to become a better team. We know that the better the competition we face, the better prepared we will be to battle with our Big Ten Conference foes and the more we can achieve as a team. This is our most challenging preseason schedule since I’ve been at Ohio State and this will be the most challenging season in the conference.”

Hot Bats
Senior Jenn Link is off to a red hot start in 2003. The 2002 third team All-America selection went 10-for-18 (.556) over five games at the FIU Invitational in Miami, Fla. Link smacked a triple, scored four times and knocked in three runs from her leadoff spot. She also recorded 12 total bases for a .667 slugging percentage. Sophomore Karisa Evans and freshman Stacy Hibma both batted .400 at the FIU tourney. Evans recorded a triple and three RBI’s on the weekend.

DeVries Has Strong Showing
Junior Kristi DeVries went 2-1 at the FIU Invitational. She recorded 17 strikeouts and allowed just two earned runs in 17.1 innings of work while posting a low 0.81 ERA.

No Cupcakes
The Buckeyes are scheduled to face nine teams in the new USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll including No. 4 and defending NCAA champion California Golden Bears March 1 at the Cal-State Fullerton/Worth Invitational in Fullerton, Calif.

After opening up the season spliting a pair from No. 17 Alabama at the Florida International Tournament in Miami, OSU now travels to the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. this weekend to face ranked foes such as No. 8 DePaul and No. 14 Arizona State. The following 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, No. 7 Cal-State Fullerton 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.

Kalafatis Names Captains
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.

Buckeyes Receive Highest Preseason Ranking
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.

Strikeout, Home Run Queens
Seniors Katie Chain and Kristine Himes, OSU’s career strikeout and home run leaders, respectively, set the school mark for the most strikeouts and home runs in a season in 2002. Chain recorded 222 strikeouts and Himes blasted 16 dingers in 2002, giving her 32 for her career.

FIU Tournament Recap
The Buckeyes went 2-3 at the FIU Invitational Feb. 7-9. Ohio State started off with a 3-2 loss to Florida Atlantic before rebounding later that night with a 4-1 win over host Florida International. Day two was not very friendly to the Buckeyes as they dropped decisions to then-No. 22 Alabama, 6-4, and Florida Atlantic in nine innings, 2-1. The Buckeyes then finished off the weekend on a positive note, defeating then-No. 22 Alabama in the consolation game, 7-2.

Season Outlook
After a record-shattering 2002 campaign, the Buckeyes will try to ride that momentum into 2003 and strive toward a Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

The 2002 season will go down in the record books as one the most productive and historic in the 32-year existence of the program. The Buckeyes went 55-14 on the year – their most wins ever – and attaining the program’s highest national ranking ever at No. 13. OSU closed out its season with a trip to the NCAA Regional tournament, its first since 1990. The 2002 Buckeyes shattered the record books, breaking 21 team records and 15 individual marks throughout the season.

Head coach Linda Kalafatis expects the trend to continue in 2003 with three All-Big Ten selections returning for the Buckeyes. Overall, seven starters or part-time starters return from last year’s squad to guide the Buckeyes back to the NCAA tournament.

“In sports you have to get used to change and turnover quickly,” Kalafatis said. “But what I like about our program now is that with each level of success that we achieve, this team gets more hungry because they know that they are not that far away from getting to Oklahoma City. I trust this senior class. I trust their commitment and determination to put us in position to compete for a Big Ten title, return to the NCAA’s and play for a spot in the Women’s College World Series.”

One of the strengths of this year’s team will be in the infield where two all-Big Ten selections return to lead a talented group of infielders. Jennifer Link, a third team All-America selection at second base, batted .349 with a team-high 215 plate appearances in 2002. Kristine Himes, OSU’s career home run queen, is the cornerstone at third base and at the clean-up spot in the batting order. Himes smacked a team-high 16 home runs and was third on the team in slugging percentage (.610). Link and Himes are the only two returning players to start all 69 games last season-also a school record.

Backing them up are a number of candidates. Elizabeth Kacsanek, who had shoulder surgery over the summer, will be moved over to second base.

Kristi DeVries, who will see most of her time in the circle, is solid candidate at first base. DeVries saw action in 41 games last season and showed significant improvement with the bat in fall competition.

Also is the mix at first base is junior Beth McAbier, who saw action in 18 games last year, and Ashley Cutcliff, a sophomore transfer from the University of Florida.

Shortstop may be the most talented position according to Kalafatis. Three players, junior Breana Pozzi, sophomore Jennifer Johnson and freshman Billie Jo Carder, who will also be used as a utility player, are three players that can play the position and play it well. Pozzi started 30 of 38 games in which she participated, batting .329 in 82 at-bats. Johnson showed signs of good things to come during her freshman season, starting 36 of 42 games at the shortstop position.

This season Kalafatis will have more depth than ever in the outfield. Only one starter returns in Rogeanna Hottinger, yet the Buckeyes have a numbers of players with valuable experience in the outfield.

Sophomore Meghan Rowlands is a solid candidate to start in left field. Rowlands saw action in 55 games last season and was third on the team with nine stolen bases in 13 attempts. She also demonstrated good speed in the outfield and showed excellent power potential with the bat in the fall.

Senior Amy Ellis is another likely starter in right field. After spending most of her career in the infield, she saw an opportunity for playing time in the outfield and has since adjusted nicely. Sophomore Karisa Evans, who also is making the adjustment to the outfield, will also be in the mix for the Buckeyes in 2003.

Freshman Nicole Lancaster will add even more depth to the outfield position. Practicing primarily as an outfielder, she may also see time in the infield.

Replacing All-American Stacy Roth at catcher will be a challenging task, but Kalafatis knows senior Annie Dedic is ready and willing to handle the responsibility. A part-time starter in 2002, Dedic appeared in 36 games, driving in 16 runs while committing zero errors from behind the plate. Backing her up will be Natalie Hales, a transfer from Eastern Michigan, and Stacy Hibma, a freshman from Buena Park, Calif.

In the circle are two freshmen, but also two veterans pitchers to lead the Buckeye pitching staff. Senior and All-Big Ten selection Katie Chain enters the season as the apparent ace on the staff. Chain has already etched her name in the Ohio State record book and is looking to do even more damage in 2003. Chain won 21 games last season in 27 starts and is already OSU’s career leader in wins (56) and strikeouts (531).

Just behind Chain is junior Kristi DeVries who went 16-2 last season in 21 starts and led the team with seven shutouts. According to the coaching staff, DeVries, after being hampered by injuries most of her career, is throwing and swinging the bat better than ever.

Chelsea Baker, a freshman from Gahanna, Ohio, brings a new face to the circle and another likely starter to the pitching staff. Baker also will be used as a utility player for the Buckeyes.

Also adding depth to the pitching corps will be another freshman, Andrea Tribuzi. Tribuzi showed signs of good things to come during the fall, causing problems at the plate for opposing batters.

Scouting No. 8 DePaul
The Blue Demons are 5-0 on the year after claiming the championship of the LSU Tiger Classic. DePaul defeated Stephen F. Austin, No. 7 L.S.U. and Baylor three times en route to the tournament championship. Lindsay Chouinard, who went 32-6 last year with a low 0.47 ERA, was named Conference USA pitcher of the week for her performance. Chouinard pitched two one-hit ters, one against No. 7 L.S.U. and one against Baylor in the championship game. Overall, Chouinard pitched 23 innings recording 19 strikeouts and no earned runs. Paving the way offensively is returning All-American Sarah Martz who is batting .500 on 8-of-16. Gina Ramacci (.250) leads the team with five RBI’s and one home run.

Scouting No. 14 Arizona State
The Sun Devils enter the Leadoff Classic with an 11-3 overall record. The are led offensively by Keri Pulcifer who is batting .476 with two home runs and 10 RBI’s in 11 games. She also has tallied 19 total bases in 21 at bats for a .905 slugging percentage. Kara Brun (.442) and Phelan Wright (.400) are two players who are also batting over .400. Wright leads the team in home runs (7), RBI’s (22) and slugging percentage (.975). The Sun Devils are led in the circle by Desiree Serrano who is 7-2 with a 1.48 ERA and has recorded an impressive 76 strikeouts in 61.1 innings of work.

Scouting Liberty
The Lady Flames, 1-1 on the year, went 4-0 in last year’s Big South tournament to help them earn their first bid to the NCAA tournament. Liberty returns seven position players and one pitcher from last year’s squad. They are led by returnees Amanda Maska (.285, 8 HR, 24 RBI) and Lauren Hahn (.249, 8 HR, 26 RBI).

Going Out Winners
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 19 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 131 wins.

On Deck
Next weekend the Buckeyes will head west to the Cal-State Fullerton/Worth Invitational Feb. 28-2 in Fullerton, Calif. to compete against some of the top programs out west including No. 4 and defending WCWS champion California, No. 5 Washington, No. 7 Cal-State Fullerton and No. 18 Oregon State.

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