Series pits Top 2 winningest conference teams against each other in New Buckeye Field

COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 15/13 (NFCA/USA Softball polls) and Big Ten-leading Ohio State softball team returns to New Buckeye Field for a two-game conference series against Iowa at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ohio State is 23-5 on the season and 2-0 in the Big Ten, while riding a NFCA Top 25 ranking for the fifth-consecutive week. The Hawkeyes are 26-6 overall and opening their conference schedule with the Buckeyes this weekend. They are receiving votes in the coaches’ poll for the first time this season after winning nine of their last 10 games.
      The Buckeyes are coming off a 1-2 trip to North Carolina last week, dropping back-to-back contests for the first time this season to No. 17 UNC and N.C. State before rallying in the second game of the doubleheader vs. the Wolf pack for a 4-0 victory. Sam Marder, a candidate for the USA Softball national player of the year award, hit two homeruns during the trip down south to lead the Buckeyes’ offensive effort. She is batting .395 on the season with a conference-leading 12 homeruns and 29 RBI. 
            The veteran pitching staff of senior Kim Reeder, junior Megan Miller and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker have been stellar this season. Miller is undefeated (4-0) in the circle, while Bodeker leads the Big Ten in ERA (0.97) after throwing the first Ohio State no-hitter since April 17, 2007, when she shut out Eastern Michigan March 14 in Louisville. Reeder is 11-3 and third in the conference in ERA (1.02).
      The Iowa series is the second at New Buckeye Field after the Buckeyes opened the park with two wins against Michigan State last weekend. The stadium underwent a $5.9-million renovation prior to the 2009 season. The new 1,500-seat park features indoor batting cages, a three-plate bullpen, 650-square foot press box, player clubhouse and locker room, new dugouts, coaches and umpires dressing rooms and concession areas.

     On Sunday, FREE rally towels will be given away to the first 250 fans courtesy of Nationwide. There will also be a Meet the Buckeyes postgame autograph session and kids will be invited to run the bases after the game. Admission to all games at New Buckeye Field is free.

Live stats: Live stats for all Buckeye home games are available will be linked from the softball schedule page on
Blog: Follow the team’s travels with different players this season via their “On the Road with the Buckeyes” blog. The next installment will follow the Buckeyes’ trip to Minneapolis, Minn., April 3-5.

The Buckeyes are ranked in the Top 25 in both the NFCA/USA Today and Softball polls for the fifth-consecutive week and have moved to Nos. 15 and 13, respectively. 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 83-444 all-time, 14-4 this season, when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.

Following the weekend series against Iowa, the Buckeyes remain at New Buckeye Field for a mid-week, non-conference doubleheader against Ball State. They then head to Minneapolis, Minn., to take on the Golden Gophers over the weekend with 1 p.m. games on Saturday and Sunday.

The Buckeyes spent five of the first six weekends of the season on the road as the snow melted and temperatures warmed up in Ohio. They made treks to Las Cruces, N.M., Baton Rouge, La., Palm Springs, Calif., Columbus, Ga., and Louisville, Ky., totaling approximately 11,168 miles with at least one stop in each of the four continental time zones.

Ohio State leads the Big Ten in fewest runs allowed (37) and earned runs (27), while ranking sixth in the NCAA at the start of the week in team earned-run average (1.08). The Scarlet and Gray has given up no more than four runs in a single game (vs. Hawai’i) and has shutout 10 opponents.

In addition to holding opponents’ scoring at bay, the Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten in runs scored (160, Iowa has 161) and were 14th in the nation in scoring at the beginning of the week. They have out-scored opponents by a combined 160-37 a 123-run difference and defeated 10 teams by eight runs or more.

With an 11-3 victory over Eastern Michigan last Sunday, head coach Linda Kalafatis earned her 700th career win. In 21 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Coach Kalafatis has earned a 703-393-2 record for a .641 winning percentage. She is among the Top 30 winningest active coaches and is third among current Big Ten coaches in number of victories with five fewer years coaching experience than her nearest colleague.

Under Linda Kalafatis, Ohio State is 6-7 in Big Ten openers, including wins in each of the last three. During this stretch, the Buckeyes have faced Michigan State twice in the first conference game of the year, defeating the Spartans to open the 2002 and 2009 Big Ten schedule.

The Buckeyes have outscored opponents 35-7 in the third inning this season and 160-37 total. The third-inning margin is the largest differential between Ohio State and its opponents, though the Buckeyes hold the advantage in all innings.  

Ohio State has six wins over teams ranked in either the NFCA or USA Softball polls this season, with three coming while the Buckeyes were unranked themselves. They knocked off then-No. 5 Texas A&M twice at the Easton Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, while also defeating then-No. 21 LSU at its home tourney. The Buckeyes then extended the streak to four games with a win over No. 17 Nevada at the Cathedral City Classic before falling to currently third-ranked Washington, 1-0, in eight innings. They added wins over then-No. 25 Mississippi State at the NFCA Leadoff Classic and No. 17 Louisville on its home field March 14.

Seven teams on the Buckeyes’ 2009 schedule are currently ranked in the Top 25 by the NFCA and/or USA Softball, while four others have spent time in the polls already this season or are currently receiving votes for entry. Heading into the season, Ohio State had 16 scheduled games against teams in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, with the possibility of more during tournament play. The Buckeyes are 6-2 in their eight games against ranked opponents coming off a loss to No. 18 North Carolina last weekend. Both losses to ranked opponents this season have been by a 1-0 score.z
Ohio State is 2-0 at New Buckeye Field and has won seven-consecutive home games dating back to last season. The Buckeyes went 10-12 at Buckeye Field in 2008 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, 2008, 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.
     Because the position of home plate at New Buckeye Field remains the same as it has been since 1988, home records will continue to accumulate. Ohio State is now 327-135 (.705) all-time at Buckeye Field since the facility originally opened in 1988. That mark includes a 129-106 (.545) record in Big Ten games and a 188-29 (.865) record in non-league games.

Bodeker threw the first Ohio State no-hitter since April 17, 2007, when she shutout Eastern Michigan March 14 in Louisville. The West Chester, Ohio, native retired the side three times and struck out six in just 16 at bats. She also tallied her Big Ten-best fourth save of the year against Louisville earlier in the day March 14. She currently leads the Big Ten with a 0.81 ERA and has a .185 opponent batting average.

On Feb. 17, Kim Reeder became the first Buckeye to be named the USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Week. The senior captain helped lead the Buckeyes to a five-game sweep of the Easton Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 13-15.  Named the tournament MVP, she compiled a 3-0 record in the circle with wins against a then No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 20 LSU. Against LSU, the right-handed hurler tallied a 2-0 shutout victory with seven strikeouts allowing just two hits before defeating Sam Houston State in four innings with a 6-3 victory.  Against the Texas A&M Aggies Sunday, Reeder struck out 11 batters and allowed just two hits. In four games of action, Reeder gave up just one run on eight hits for a 0.38 ERA through the weekend. The Calabasas, Calif., native also has been named Big Ten pitcher of the week twice this season Feb. 16 after the tournament at LSU and March 2 following a 2-0 showing at the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

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.

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.”

After being walked seven times in the last five games, junior Sam Marder moved atop the all-time walks chart with 122 in the last three seasons. On the OSU career home run list, Marder is in sole possession of second place with 36 just five shy of the all-time Ohio State record 41 set by Kristine Himes (2000-03), while junior Courtney Pruner, who jacked the first homer at New Buckeye Field, moves into fourth with 21. Marder also ranks third with 132 RBI. In the circle, senior Kim Reeder is third in wins (62) and innings pitched (646.1) and fourth in strikeouts (590).
     Current undergraduate 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 has won at least 30 games each of the last five seasons, the longest 30-win streak in program history. With 25 games remaining on the schedule for the regular season, the Buckeyes are in a good position to extend that streak to six seasons. The record for wins in a season is 55, set in 2002 (55-14).

The Hawkeyes are 26-6 on the season and are coming off a 2-1 loss at Illinois State Wednesday after winning each of the previous nine games. Iowa is second behind Ohio State in overall win percentage in the Big Ten (.812) and is currently sixth in the conference without a league game to its credit. Senior Colleen McGlaughlin has battled Buckeye junior Sam Marder for the Big Ten lead in RBI and currently holds a one-run advantage with 30. Nearly half of those (12) have come in the last seven games when Iowa has out-scored opponents 36-6. Brittany Weil and Amanda Zust have split time evenly in the circle this season, both accumulating 13 wins. Weil has the slight advantage with a 1.04 ERA, despite absorbing five of the team’s six losses, while Zust comes in at 1.16.

Iowa holds a 58-33 advantage over Ohio State and has won 10 of the last 15 meetings. The teams have split the series each of the last two seasons with the Buckeyes taking the first game, 4-3, last season and the Hawkeyes winning the second 1-0, also March 28-29.

Home plate remains where it has rested at Buckeye Field since 1988, but little else will be 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 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.

Head coach Linda Kalafatis is in her 13th season at Ohio State in 2009 and her 21st 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 (422-276) and is one of three Big Ten coaches with more than 650 career wins (703-393-2).
     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).

Ohio State has won its last five season-openers and eight of its last 10. In their last 10 season-opening tournaments, the Buckeyes are 34-16. This season, the Buckeyes opened at the Hotel Encanto Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M., where they picked up four-consecutive wins, including the opener against Cleveland State, before dropping their last game of the tournament to host New Mexico 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 home runs and 37 RBI. With 14 career home runs, she maintains a tie for seventh place all-time in the OSU records books after just two seasons of action.