Buckeyes take on Spartans in first Big Ten game of the 2009 season.

COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 17/14 (NFCA/USA Softball polls) and Big Ten-leading Ohio State softball team opens conference action at 2 p.m. Saturday against Michigan State in the first of two weekend games against the Spartans. The teams also will play at 2 p.m. Sunday before the Buckeyes head to North Carolina and NC State on their Spring Break trip. Ohio State is 20-3 on the season and rides a nine-game winning streak and Top 25 ranking for the fourth-consecutive week into the start of Big Ten play. The Spartans are 10-13 this season and currently No. 9 in the Big Ten.
     The game Saturday vs. MSU is the first at New Buckeye Field after the park 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.
     The Buckeyes are coming off a 5-0 weekend at the Courtyard by Marriott Airport Cardinal Tournament in Louisville, Ky., last weekend. They knocked off then-No. 17 Louisville, as well as Loyola (Ill.) and UIC once and Eastern Michigan twice. Ohio State batted .294 as a team with three hitting over .400. All-American Sam Marder led the charge with a .455 average and .667 on-base percentage, while driving in three runs and slugging one homer, one triple and two doubles. She earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors Monday for her efforts.
 Marder, a candidate for the USA Softball national player of the year award, is batting .400 on the season with a conference-leading 10 homeruns and 27 RBI. On defense, the Ohio State infield has been stellar of late, recording over 85 percent of the team’s total put-outs and allowing an average of approximately five hits per game. Outside of Tory Haddad’s 129 put-outs at first base, shortstop Alicia Herron leads the team with 35 outs to her credit.
      Senior Kim Reeder and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker have split the bulk of the time in the circle for the Buckeyes this season. Bodeker threw the first Ohio State no-hitter since April 17, 2007, when she shut out 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. Reeder improved to 10-2 after picking up two wins over the weekend, while junior Megan Miller earned her third win of the year to move to 3-0.

Ohio State will commemorate the opening of the stadium with a pre-game balloon release Saturday. The first 300 fans will receive a balloon and be invited to participate in the special event. On Sunday, the first 200 fans get a 2009 team poster, while kids are can run the bases after the game and participate in a Buckeyes postgame autograph session.

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 Chapel Hill and Raleigh, N.C. next week.

The Buckeyes are ranked in the Top 25 in both the NFCA/USA Today and Softball polls for the fourth-consecutive week and have moved to Nos. 17 and 14, 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 80-42 all-time, 11-2 this season, when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.

Following the weekend series against Michigan State, the Buckeyes head to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on North Carolina at 5 p.m. March 24 and Raleigh, N.C. to face N.C. State in a doubleheader at 2 p.m. March 25. The team will bus to Carolina on Monday and return Thursday during its spring break between winter and spring quarters.

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.

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 700-391-2 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 5-7 in Big Ten openers, including wins in each of the last two seasons. During this stretch, the Buckeyes have faced Michigan State just once in the first conference game of the year, defeating the Spartans 2-1 March 30, 2002.

The Buckeyes have outscored opponents 31-5 in the third inning this season and 100-26 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 five 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 6-1 in their seven games against ranked opponents with the only loss coming to No. 3 Washington Feb. 22.

The Buckeyes are on pace for one of the best seasons in program history, after tying the best 10-game start (9-1), rallying to earn the best record through 15 games (12-3) and maintaining momentum for the new best 20-game mark (17-3, previous best 16-4, 2008). They are atop the Big Ten conference with a 20-3 record, including nine-consecutive wins, and have outscored opponents 138-33 on the year. Ohio State has shut out eight of its opponents and allows an average of just 1.4 runs per game.
     Ohio State holds a .291 team batting average with 30 total homeruns and 64 total extra-base hits. Five players are batting over .350, including Sam Marder, a preseason candidate for the USA Softball Player of the Year award, with a .400 average. She also leads the homerun charge with 10, giving her 34 for her career to take over second place on the career charts. Marder is now seven homeruns away from matching the record of 41 set by Kristine Himes in 2000-03.
     The Ohio State pitching staff has a combined ERA of 1.08, while its opponents are hitting just .208. Senior Kim Reeder and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker have split the bulk of the time in the circle for the Buckeyes this season. Bodeker leads the Big Ten with a 0.81 ERA and four saves through 13 appearances, while Reeder is seventh in ERA (1.20) and wins (10).
     Marder, a junior All-American, and Reeder headline the list of returnees, along with junior infielder Whitney Cooper. The Buckeyes also welcome back 2007 first-team All-Big Ten first baseman Courtney Pruner, who redshirted last season while recovering from injury. The Buckeyes were 33-23 last season.
     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.

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.

The Spartans are 10-13 on the season and currently ninth in the Big Ten after dropping three of their last four games. They defeated Coastal Carolina, 10-8, in their last outing March 14 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. MSU is led by Gina Mondo who is batting .423 with 18 runs and Lindsey Hanson who is tied for third in the Big Ten with six homeruns to her credit.

The Buckeyes hold a 49-40 advantage in the all-time series, though the teams are even over the last six years. Ohio State dropped both games last season, April 4-5, in Columbus. Michigan State defeated the then-No. 24 Buckeyes 4-3 in the first game and 5-3 in the second, sweeping the them for the first time since 1999.

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.”

On the OSU career home run list, junior Sam Marder is in sole possession of second place with 34 and junior Courtney Pruner, who missed all of last season with an injury, moves into sixth with 17. Marder also ranks third with 115 walks and 130 RBI. In the circle, senior Kim Reeder ranks third in wins (61) and innings pitched (634.1) and fourth in strikeouts (575).
     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).

The Big Ten-leading Buckeyes control a number of Top 3 positions in both team and individual statistics categories. As a squad, Ohio State leads the conference with 138 runs and 119 RBI, while holding on to the No. 2 spot in homeruns (30), triples (5) and slugging pct. (.502). Pitcher Lindsay Bodeker holds the best ERA in the Big Ten at 0.81 and has the most saves (4), while Sam Marder dominates the homerun (10), RBI (27) and total base (64) categories.

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 (696-389-2).
     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.

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.