COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hours before they are due to help Ohio State begin its run in the postseason, six Buckeyes were honored as the Big Ten Conference announced its postseason awards and all-conference teams.
Fifth-year senior and first baseman Niki Carver landed a spot on the first team while pitcher Lexie Handley and designated player Sam Hackenbracht were second-team choices. Ohio State also had two All-Freshman Team selections – outfielder Melina Wilkison and shortstop Kami Kortokrax. Senior Avery Clark was the Buckeyes’ Sportsmanship Honoree.
Carver, from Gainesville, Ga., will play in her 200th career game when Ohio State opens play in the Big Ten Tournament today against Purdue at 1:30 p.m. She decided last summer to come back for her fifth season of eligibility, and it turned out to be a career year. In Big Ten play, she’s batting .415 with a staggering .581 on-base percentage, 16 RBI, four home runs and a .736 slugging percentage. Her on-base percentage in Big Ten games leads the conference while her batting average is third-highest.
Overall, Carver has played in and started all 47 games this spring. Her .357 batting average is nearly 80 points higher than last season and she’s added 10 home runs and 32 RBIs with a .493 on-base percentage that’s aided by 20 hit-by-pitches and 11 walks.
In her lone season with the scarlet and gray, Handley quickly established herself as one of the conference’s best pitchers. On Sunday, she not only won her 20th game (she’s 20-8 on the season) but also broke Ohio State’s single-season strikeout record of 240 that had stood for 15 years. She enters Big Ten Tournament play with a 2.58 earned run average and 243 strikeouts in 192.2 innings pitched.
In Big Ten play, Handley has three 13-strikeout games – vs. Michigan, Penn State and Maryland – and her 11 wins are the third-most of any pitcher in the league. She’s the first Buckeye to win 20 games in a season since Kim Reeder in 2009.
Hackenbracht continued establishing herself as one of the Big Ten’s best overall hitters in 2022. In 47 games, she’s hit a team-leading 14 home runs, driven in 45 runs and is batting .380 – all team highs. Over the last two seasons, she has 26 home runs and 71 RBI in 87 games.
A junior from Massillon, Ohio, Hackenbracht ranks in the top 10 in four major categories: home runs (third, 14) slugging percentage (third, .761), RBI (fifth, 45) and batting average (10th, .380).
Wilkison and Kortokrax were recognized for their fine rookie seasons with All-Freshman Team honors. Kortokrax has started all 47 games this season at shortstop and checks in with a .305 batting average and 19 RBI. In 22 Big Ten games, she drove in 13 runs. Wilkison, meanwhile, was a 39-game starter in the outfield and is Ohio State’s leadoff hitter, producing 28 runs scored to go along with a .385 on-base percentage and .328 batting average. She also had eight doubles and 10 RBI.
Clark, a senior from Prospect, Ohio, is a three-time OSU Scholar-Athlete who played in 72 career games and will attend nursing school next year. In a doubleheader earlier this spring vs. Indiana, she had a pinch-hit home run.
The sixth-seeded Buckeyes, who finished the regular season 33-14 overall and 13-9 in conference play, open Big Ten Tournament play on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. vs. 11th-seeded Purdue. The game air live on BTN.