COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio State softball teams travels to Las Cruces, N.M., this weekend for its 2009 season opener at the Hotel Encanto Invitational, hosted by New Mexico State. The Buckeyes have seven starters and three veteran pitchers back from their 2008 team that earned the program’s fifth-consecutive 30-plus win season and ended with All-America bids for Brittany Vanderink and Sam Marder.
 Ohio State opens play with in-state foe Cleveland State and UMKC Friday before taking on Ohio University Saturday and Colorado State and host New Mexico State Sunday morning. The Buckeyes will return to Columbus Sunday night.

Las Cruces, located 45 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas, is the second-largest city in the state and the home of New Mexico State University. The Aggies host two tournaments at home this season, both played at their home field, NMSU Softball Complex, which was renovated in 2000 and seats 1,500 fans. NMSU is 692-973 on its home field since it was constructed in 1981.
     Ohio State, Cleveland State, Colorado State, Ohio, UMKC and host New Mexico State will each see five games of round-robin tournament play Friday-Sunday. The complete schedule is:

Cleveland State (CLST); Colorado State(CSU); Missouri-KC (UMKC); Ohio Univ. (OU); Ohio State (OSU)
UMKC vs. CSU 9 a.m.
CLST vs. OSU 11:30 a.m.
OSU vs. UMKC 2 p.m. 
CSU vs. OU 4:30 p.m.  
OU vs. NMSU 7 p.m.  

CSU vs. CLST 9 a.m.  
UMKC vs. OU 11:30 a.m.  
NMSU vs. CSU  2 p.m.  
NMSU vs. CLST  4:30 p.m.  
OU vs. OSU 7 p.m.  

CSU vs. OSU  9 a.m.  
CLST vs. OU*  9 a.m.
NMSU vs. OSU  11:30 a.m.  
CLST vs. UMKC*  11:30 a.m.
NMSU vs. UMKC  2 p.m.
*played at Field of Dreams

Ohio State has won its last four season-openers and seven of its last nine. In their last nine season-opening tournaments, the Buckeyes are 30-15. Last year at the Stetson Lead-Off Classic in DeLand, Fla., the Buckeyes went 5-0, winning twice over host Stetson, the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion and NCAA tournament team. They also defeated Marist twice and Detroit.
     The Buckeyes last opened the season in New Mexico in 2006, going 4-1 through tournament play. Two teams from the field this year host NMSU and Colorado State were also present in 2006, both falling to Ohio State.

Three current Buckeyes took the field in Las Cruces in 2006. Junior Courtney Pruner, then a freshman, played in all five games, with three hits and five RBI. Also in their freshman campaigns, Kim Reeder started two games on the mound, earning a 5.40 ERA and striking out 12 against Portland State and Utah, while Cortney Cannon made an appearance as a pinch runner vs. Colorado State.

The Buckeyes will spend the first five weekends of the 2009 season on the road making treks to Las Cruces, N.M., Baton Rouge, La., Palm Springs, Calif., Columbus, Ga. and Louisville, Ky. The team will travel 11,168 miles during this tournament season, with at least one stop in each of the four continental time zones.

The Ohio State softball team has selected a quartet of captains for the 2009 season announced head coach Linda Kalafatis. Senior Kim Reeder, along with juniors Whitney Cooper, Sam Marder and Courtney Pruner will guide the Buckeyes in the upcoming year.
     “These four young women will do an excellent job of leading our team with their work ethic, attitude and performance on the field,” Kalafatis said. “They are great people with strong values.”

Junior All-America catcher Sam Marder was selected by the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States, to its initial 50-player “Watch List” for the Eighth Annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award. This award, considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women’s collegiate softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. A list of 25 finalists will be announced April 1.
     A finalist for the same award last year, Marder is one of six Big Ten players and five catchers to be named to the Watch List this year.

Home plate remains where it has rested at Buckeye Field since 1988, but little else remains the same for the Ohio State softball complex after $5.9 million of stadium renovations. The 2009 season marks the first in the new 1,500-seat Buckeye Field a facility that is undoubtedly among the finest in the country. In addition to nearly doubling Buckeye Field’s previous capacity of 800, the new stadium includes indoor and outdoor batting cages, a three-plate bullpen, a 650-square foot press box, player clubhouse and lounge, new dugouts, coaches and umpires dressing room and concession areas.

Nine current players saw action during the 2007 season and the Buckeyes’ run for the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles. A couple years older and wiser, this veteran core is expected to lead Ohio State in its quest to return to the top of the conference and region.
     Junior All-American Sam Marder headlines the list of returnees, along with senior pitcher Kim Reeder and junior infielder Whitney Cooper. The Buckeyes also welcome back 2007 first-team All-Big Ten first baseman Courtney Pruner and pitcher Lindsay Bodeker, who both redshirted last season while recovering from injury. Junior Megan Miller rounds out the veteran pitching staff.

Hotel Encanto Invitational Tournament Field: Cleveland State, Colorado State, UMKC, Ohio and New Mexico State

Scouting Cleveland State: Cleveland State was picked to win the 2009 Horizon League title after returning eight starters and 15 letterwinners from the 2008 team that went 31-18 through the conference tourney final game. Senior shortstop Christa Coppus led the Vikings a year ago with a .361 average and a team-leading 53 hits and 26 RBI. 
     Series History: The Buckeyes lead the series history 14-1 with the last meeting coming during the 2001 season in the form of a 12-1 win for Ohio State in Columbus.

Scouting Colorado State: The Rams return seven starters, including three all-conference selections from 2008 when they went 29-22. Sophomore Caitlan Stem is the top returner for Colorado State. She batted .361 a year ago with 64 hits and six homeruns. The lone returning pitcher, junior Rebecca Penland, made 30 appearances, earned an 8-5 record and tallied a 5.18 ERA.
     Series History: The Buckeyes are 3-1 against Colorado State after last defeating the Rams, 8-7, Feb. 11, 2006, also in Las Cruces, N.M. Courtney Pruner pitched two innings in relief in that game, giving up two hits and striking out one.

Scouting UMKC: Missouri-Kansas City was picked to finish eighth out of nine teams in the Summit League’s preseason poll after going 8-31 in 2008. The Kangaroos return 10 letterwinners and six starters from that squad.
     Series History: This is the first meeting between the programs.

Scouting Ohio University: Ohio finished the 2008 season with an overall record of 29-26 and returns five starters from that squad. The Bobcats are coached by first-year coach Jodi Hermanek and led by sophomore Melissa Bonner and junior Shalene Petrich.
     Series History: The Buckeyes lead the all-time series with the Bobcats, 35-20, and have won each of the last eight regular-season meetings. Last year, Ohio State swept the Bobcats in the final series of the season, winning 7-3 and 3-0. In the 3-0 shutout win, Tory Haddad, Rachael Shepherd and Whitney Cooper hit back-to-back-to-back homeruns in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ohio State and Ohio met in the fall for two scrimmages in Athens, where the Buckeyes came away with 9-1 and 5-2 wins.

Scouting New Mexico State: The Aggies lost just one starter from a year ago when the team went 26-36 and finished fifth in the WAC conference and tournament with a 7-11 record in league play. NMSU is led by senior outfielder Kristi Randall and senior designated player Stacy Lien, both of whom were recently selected to the preseason all-WAC team. 
     Series History: Ohio State holds a one-game advantage over the Aggies in the all-time series, 4-3. Six of the seven match-ups have been played at the NM State Softball Complex, where the Buckeyes are 3-3. The last meeting between the teams was March 8, 2008, at UNLV with Ohio State earning the 3-1 win off a one-hitter by Kim Reeder. Ohio State and New Mexico State opened the 2006 season in Las Cruces, where the Buckeyes won 11-1.

Head coach Linda Kalafatis finished her 12th season at Ohio State in 2008 and her 20th season as a collegiate head coach. Kalafatis, who twice has been named the Big Ten Coach of the Year (2002, 2007), is Ohio State’s all-time wins leader (407-273, .599) and is one of three Big Ten coaches with more than 650 career wins (678-386-2, .637).
     Eight times the Buckeyes have won at least 30 games under Kalafatis, who guided Ohio State to the NCAA tournament four times (2002, 2004, 2006, 2007). She is assisted by former collegiate All-Americans Ali Viola (Nebraska) and Erica Beach (Arizona State).

Redshirt junior Courtney Pruner returns to the Buckeyes after sitting out the entire 2008 season while recovering from hip surgery. As a sophomore in 2007, she was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after batting .336 with seven homeruns and 37 RBI. With 14 career homeruns, she maintains a tie for seventh place all-time in the OSU records books after just two seasons of action.

Ohio State has won at least 30 games each of the last five seasons, the longest 30-win streak in program history. In 2008, the Buckeyes went 33-23 overall.

In Big Ten games last season, Ohio State batted .205 (ranked ninth, .264 overall, seventh), owned a 3.54 ERA (ranked seventh, 2.77 overall, fifth) and had a .952 fielding percentage (ranked ninth, .945 overall, 11th). 
     The-sophomore Sam Marder led the league in walks (60), on base percentage (.633) and average (.475), ranked second in slugging percentage (.842), fourth in homeruns (14) and tied for third in RBI (54).
     Senior Brittany Vanderink ranked fourth in the Big Ten in hits (71) and tied for fourth in stolen bases (17), while tying for eighth in runs (39). Junior Kim Reeder ranked fourth in innings pitched (222.0), sixth in strikeouts (200), eighth in wins (18) and ninth in ERA (2.46).

On the OSU career homerun list, junior Sam Marder is third with 24 and junior Courtney Pruner, who missed all of last season with an injury, is tied for seventh with 14. Marder also ranks second with 104 walks and fifth with 103 RBI. In the circle, senior Kim Reeder ranks fourth in wins (51) and strikeouts (491) and sixth in innings pitched (564.1).
     Current student assistant coach Brittany Vanderink finished her career last season fourth all-time at Ohio State in stolen bases (63) and was tied for fifth in career batting average (.347), tied for fourth in triples (11), fifth in runs scored (127) and fifth in hits (219).

Ohio State won its last five home games last season but went 10-12 at Buckeye Field overall for just the second losing record there since the facility opened in 1988. Ohio State was 21-2 at home in both 2007 and 2006. 
     Against Marshall April 2, the Buckeyes saw their 32-game winning streak in regular-season home nonconference games come to an end with an 11-0 loss in game one of a doubleheader. When Marshall won game two, 6-1, it marked the first time since April 29, 1992, that Ohio State was swept in a home nonconference doubleheader. 
     Ohio State is now 325-135 (.705) all-time at Buckeye Field since the facility opened in 1988. That mark includes a 127-106 (.545) record in Big Ten games and a 188-29 (.865) record in non-league games.