COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 14/12 (NFCA/USA Softball polls) and Big Ten-leading Ohio State softball team returns to the friendly confines of New Buckeye Field for a doubleheader against Purdue beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The Buckeyes follow with a doubleheader at 2 p.m. Sunday vs. Oakland to round out the week’s action. The Scarlet and Gray rides an 11-game winning streak into its meeting with the Boilermakers after sweeping Wisconsin in Madison over the weekend to improve to 35-6 on the season and 11-1 in the conference. The Boilermakers are 23-16 this year, with a 6-6 Big Ten record coming off a split with Northwestern last weekend.
The Buckeyes hold the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten for the second time this season. Their 11-1 mark puts them just ahead of Northwestern and its 12-2 conference record, following their split with Purdue over the weekend. Ohio State is also ranked in the nation’s Top 25 for a school-record 10-consecutive week.
With a doubleheader sweep of Indiana April 8, the Buckeyes secured their 30th win of the season and marked the sixth season in a row that they have won at least 30 games, the longest such streak in program history. The record for wins in a season is 55, set in 2002 (55-14).
Since the Buckeyes’ current win streak began April 1 vs. Ball State, they have been led by Dee Dee Hillman with a .353 batting average on 12 hits and two RBI. All-American and USA Softball player of the year finalist Sam Marder clocks in at .346 in the stretch, .382 on the season, after hitting three homeruns in the last 11 games including one grand slam vs. Illinois, while Tory Haddad and Whitney Cooper have each hit safely in the last five games. In the circle, reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week Kim Reeder has picked up seven of the team’s last 11 wins, holding a team-best 1.80 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 42.2 innings of work during that period.
FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
Webcast: The majority of Ohio State home games, including the doubleheader vs. Purdue, will be streamed live on Buckeye Vision, from OhioStateBuckeyes.com. Subscription fees apply.
Radio: Scarlet and Gray Radio, the student station of Ohio State, will provide commentary for the Buckeye Vision broadcast. The audio can also be followed on OhioStateSports.net.
Live stats: Live stats for all Buckeye home games are available and will be linked from the homepage, as well as the softball schedule page of OhioStateBuckeyes.com
The Buckeyes are ranked the highest they have been this season in both the NFCA/USA Today and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls, holding on to a Top 25 spot for a school-record 10-consecutive week and coming in at Nos. 14 and 12, respectively. At No. 14, Ohio State is just one spot away from its highest-ever all-time position No. 13 in the final poll of the 2002 season.
The previous record for consecutive weeks in the nation’s Top 25 was eight, set in 2003 and matched again last season. By earning the No. 23 nod by USA Softball Feb. 17, the Buckeyes returned to the national rankings after an 11-week absence. Ohio State spent the first six weeks of the 2008 season in the Top 25 before dropping out in the March 10 edition. The Scarlet and Gray is 93-45 all-time, 24-5 this season, when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.
OHIO STATE AT A GLANCE
From the batter’s box: As a team this season, the Buckeyes are hitting .288 with 47 homers seven short of the team record 54 belted during the 2002 season. They are led by Sam Marder, the recently-named USA Softball player of the year finalist, with a .382 average. The junior captain has notched a Big Ten-leading 15 homeruns this season and has 36 RBI (0.88 per game). Marder and Courtney Pruner are both making their way up the Buckeye career homerun charts, holding second and fourth place, respectively. Marder has 39 for her career just two shy of the all-time Ohio State record 41 set by Kristine Himes (2000-03). Pruner increased her total to eight against Wisconsin for the season and 22 in her career for the fourth-place position.
Junior Whitney Cooper and Tory Haddad have helped drive the Buckeyes’ winning streak of late, hitting safely in each of the last five games, while freshman Alicia Herron has also been making her bat known lately. The Cypress, Calif., native had a grand slam and a three-run homer in the Buckeyes’ 14-4 win over Indiana April 8, contributing to her six on the season good for fourth all-time among freshman hitters in their rookie season.
In the circle: The veteran pitching staff of senior Kim Reeder, junior Megan Miller and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker has been stellar this season, holding a cumulative 1.63 ERA and .213 opponent batting average. Reeder, who picked up three wins in the last week without giving up a run, has a team-best and fourth-lowest in the Big Ten ERA of 1.22, while holding a 19-3 individual record. She is second all-time at Ohio State in career innings pitched (696.2) and wins (70).
Bodeker (12-3), who is in her first full season with the Buckeyes, has a conference-leading four saves this season and holds a 1.94 ERA and 132 strikeouts, averaging 6.3 per appearance (21 apps), while Miller remains undefeated (4-0) in the circle. Earlier this season, Bodeker threw the first Ohio State no-hitter since April 17, 2007, when she shut out Eastern Michigan March 14 in Louisville in five innings.
In the field: Ohio State is second in the conference in fielding percentage (.970) and has the second-fewest errors of any team (36). Catcher Sam Marder and first baseman Tory Haddad are both in the Top 10 in the Big Ten in put-outs, taking spots six and seven with 271 and 269 POs, respectively. Whitney Cooper at second base and Alicia Herron at shortstop have 73 and 72 assists, respectively, to lead the Buckeyes.
THE RED, WHITE & BLUE
Sam Marder, a junior All-America and national player of the year finalist, has accepted an invitation to the 2009 USA Softball Women’s National Team Selection Camp in Chula Vista, Calif., June 8-12, announced April 10 by the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA). Marder is one of 27 athletes included in the initial round of invitations with additional attendees being announced at a later date.
Senior pitcher Kim Reeder earned her third Big Ten Pitcher of the Week laurel Monday season after earning all three of the Buckeyes’ wins last week one against Evansville and two vs. Wisconsin without allowing a single run. She improved her individual record to 19-3 on the season, moving to within six games of tying the all-time career wins record at Ohio State and dropping her ERA to 1.22.
THE CAMERA LOVES THE BUCKEYES
The Buckeyes swept Wisconsin in front of a national television audience on the Big Ten Network over the weekend, improving to 3-0 on the season when cameras are rolling. Ohio State faced then-No. 21 LSU and defeated the Tigers 2-0 Feb. 13 in front of a Cox Sports audience. This past weekend was Ohio State’s first of two scheduled series on the conference network this season, as its doubleheader with Michigan May 6 is also slated for broadcast.
New Buckeye Field was officially dedicated April 11 with the game vs. Illinois. The Buckeye softball team commemorated the day with several special activities and recognized the donors and construction managers that made the building possible. The 2009 season marks the first in the new 1,500-seat stadium a facility that is undoubtedly among the finest in the country. In addition to more than 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 locker room, new dugouts, coaches and umpires dressing rooms and concession areas.
The Boilermakers (23-16, 6-6 Big Ten) have won three of their last five games, splitting each of their last two doubleheaders with Valparaiso and No. 10 Northwestern. In both instances, they picked up wins in the first game only to drop the second. Purdue is 3-3 against ranked teams this season, earning wins over then-No. 4 UCLA to open the season and then-No. 18 Texas A&M, in addition to the victory over the Wildcats last Saturday.
Third baseman Liane Horiuchi powers the Boilermaker offense with a .355 average, one of two Purdue players hitting above .300. The team has a combined 22 homeruns, paced by Candace Curtis’ nine, with six batters sending at least one over the fences. Suzie Rzegocki, a sophomore pitcher, has earned all but five of team’s wins in the circle (18-10) with a 1.51 ERA and .193 opponent batting average.
SERIES HISTORY WITH THE BOILERMAKERS
Ohio State holds an 18-10 advantage in the all-time series, dating back to 1995, and has captured three of the last four meetings. The teams split last season in a doubleheader April 13 in West Lafayette, Ind. The Buckeyes captured a win in the first contest, 7-4, before Purdue came back with a 3-1 win in the second game. Rachael Shepherd tallied two hits and scored a pair of runs to lead Ohio State in the win, while Megan Miller picked up the “W” from the circle. Purdue’s Candace Curtis, now a senior, hit a two-run homer in the second game to drive the Boilermakers.
LAST TIME OUT: WISCONSIN
The No. 15-ranked Ohio State softball team swept Wisconsin in a Big Ten doubleheader Saturday, earning a 10-0 win in the first game before taking a 6-5 victory in 11 innings in the second.
In game one, the bottom of the order came up big for the Buckeyes, as five of the team’s 10 hits came from batters in the bottom three spots. Leah Ledford went 2-for-4 with four RBI from the No. 9 spot. The West Chester, Ohio, native’s two hits included a three-run shot to left field in the top of the seventh that led a five-run rally for Ohio State. Joining Ledford with two hits were Rachael Shepherd, batting in the eighth slot, and Whitney Cooper.
In the back end of the doubleheader, Rebecca Schultz drove home the winning run in the top of the 11th inning, securing the No. 15-ranked Ohio State softball team’s comeback win over Wisconsin, 6-5. The Badgers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second to mark just the eighth time this season a Buckeye opponent has put itself on the board first. Ohio State came back with one in the top of the third, but Wisconsin countered with a single run in the bottom half of the inning before stretching its lead to four with a RBI single in the sixth.
Trailing 5-1 heading into the final regulation inning, the Buckeyes exploded for four runs in the top of the seventh to tie the ballgame and force extra innings. Courtney Pruner hit a two-run blast to left center, scoring Alicia Herron, cutting the margin in half and clearing the bases for Schultz to board on a single to right field. Leah Ledford legged out a triple, plating Schultz, and then returned home herself on a wild pitch to tie the ballgame.
Kim Reeder, who relieved starter Lindsay Bodeker with two outs in the sixth, struck out eight in 5.1 innings of relief, including five fans in extra innings.
NEXT UP: OAKLAND, WESTERN MICHIGAN
Following the mid-week games vs. Purdue, the Buckeyes take a four-game break from conference play to take on regional foes Oakland and Western Michigan. Ohio State and Oakland take the field at 2 p.m. Sunday for a doubleheader before Western Michigan comes to town a week from Wednesday for a pair of games beginning at 5 p.m.