Buckeyes  take field of nationally-ranked teams with 12-3 record.

COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 24/20 (NFCA/USA Softball polls) Ohio State softball team returns to action this weekend with five scheduled games at the 14th annual NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., hosted by the Columbus Sports Council and the South Commons Stadium & Complex Feb. 27-March 1. The Buckeyes are 12-3 on the season, continuing to lead the Big Ten conference, and are ranked in both major softball polls for the first time this season. On the docket for the upcoming weekend are games against No. 25/RV Mississippi State, Hofstra, No. RV/25 Florida State, Houston and No. 14/15 Georgia. The Scarlet and Gray is 4-1 against nationally-ranked teams this season and 72-42 all-time when ranked itself.
     Last weekend, Ohio State went 3-2 at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., picking up wins over then-No. 17/19 Nevada, Loyola Marymount and UC Santa Barbara, but falling to Hawai’i and then-No. 7/3 Washington, who moved into the top spot this week in the Softball rankings with a perfect 14-0 record.
     The Buckeyes are led at the plate by All-American and USA Softball player of the year candidate Sam Marder, who has a conference-leading seven homeruns on the season with a .400 batting average and 17 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 fewer than five hits per game.  
     Senior Kim Reeder and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker have split the bulk of the time in the circle for the Buckeyes this season. Bodeker is fourth in the Big Ten with a 0.99 ERA in nine appearances, while Reeder is fifth in wins (6) and sixth in opponent batting percentage (.173).

The South Commons Stadium & Complex and the Columbus Sports Council will once again play host to the NFCA Division I Leadoff Classic. The tournament is scheduled to take place Feb. 27-March 1, 2009. This will be the 14th-consecutive season in which the South Commons Complex has hosted the tournament. The Leadoff Classic has established itself as one of college softball’s premier tournaments, sending seven of its 13 previous champions to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. 
     The complete game schedule can be found on the official tournament Web site:

Date Opponent Time (ET) Field
Feb. 27    Mississippi State vs. Ohio State  11 a.m.        Field 1
Feb. 27    Ohio State vs. Hofstra                 1:30 p.m.     Field 1
Feb. 28     Florida State vs. Ohio State        4 p.m.          Field 1
Feb. 28     Houston vs. Ohio State               6:30 p.m.     Field 1
March 1   Ohio State vs. Georgia               10 a.m.         Field 2
Home team is listed second.

Live stats: Live stats for all five of the Buckeyes’ games at the NFCA Leadoff Classic 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. Leah Ledford takes over the reins for the trip to Columbus, Gal., and the NFCA Leadoff Classic, following up Tory Haddad’s blog through the Cathedral City Classic last weekend.

For the first time since Feb. 19, 2008, the Buckeyes are ranked in the Top 25 by both the NFCA/USA Today and Softball polls. Ohio State is No. 24 and ranked for the first time by the NFCA this week, while coming in at No. 20 according to USA Softball, moving up from 23rd spot last week. By earning the No. 23 nod a week ago, the Buckeyes return 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 72-42 all-time when ranked in either the USA Softball or NFCA polls.

The Buckeyes return to the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga., for the first time since the 2004 season when they went 2-4 through tournament play. They defeated Florida Atlantic and Cal State Fullerton, but dropped meetings with LSU, California, Virginia Tech and UMass. Ohio State is 5-5 all-time at the tournament with appearances in 2003 and 2004.

The Buckeyes will spend the five of the first six 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. With roughly 9,414 miles behind them, the Buckeyes have just 2,555 more to go before the end of tourney play and the beginning of the new Buckeye Field era. The team will travel a total of 11,168 miles during this tournament season, with at least one stop in each of the four continental time zones.

The Buckeyes have outscored opponents 23-3 in the third inning this season and 86-26 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 four wins over ranked teams this season, with three coming while the Buckeyes were unranked themselves. They knocked 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 top-ranked Washington, 1-0, in eight innings. They will face three ranked teams this weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

Nine teams on the Buckeyes’ 2009 schedule are currently ranked in the Top 25 by the NFCA and/or USA Softball, while two others have spent time in the polls already this season. 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 tied the best 10-game start in the program’s history by going 9-1 through the first two weeks of action. They are now atop the Big Ten conference with a 12-3 record and have outscored opponents 86-26 on the year. Ohio State holds a .278 team batting average with 20 total homeruns and 42 total extra-base hits. Four 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 seven, giving her 31 for her career to take over second place on the career charts. Marder is now 10 homeruns away from matching the record 41 set by Kristine Himes in 2000-03.
     The Ohio State pitching staff has an ERA of 1.29, while its opponents are hitting just .198. Senior Kim Reeder and redshirt sophomore Lindsay Bodeker have split the bulk of the time in the circle for the Buckeyes this season. Bodeker is fourth in the Big Ten with a 0.99 ERA in nine appearances, while Reeder is fifth in wins (6) and sixth in opponent batting percentage (.173).
     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.