COLUMBUS, Ohio – Under the direction of fourth-year head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly and aided by the return several members of an offense that rewrote the school records books last spring, all the pieces appear to be in place for Ohio State to make a strong push towards returning to the postseason.
BUCKEYES IN A NUTSHELL
• Ohio State returns two All-Big Ten selections – Erika Leonard and Maddy McIntyre – along with starters Anna Kirk, Cammi Prantl, Alex Bayne and pitchers Lena Springer and Shelby Hursh from a 2014 squad that was 30-22 overall and 11-10 in the Big Ten.
• The Buckeyes are receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball Preseason Top 25 polls. Ohio State tallied six votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll and three in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings.
• Leonard and McIntyre spearheaded an offense that was among the nation’s best in 2014, setting schools marks for batting average (.348), runs scored (380), home runs (75) and extra base hits (164). Leonard also set a Big Ten record, recording 37 RBI and 23 games. Over the final 24 games of the season, she batted .512 with 53 RBI, 15 home runs, 43 hits and a 1.083 slugging percentage.
• Another senior, Cammi Prantl, has started all 163 games that she’s played in and is on pace to set the school record for doubles. She has a career batting average of .338 with 100 RBI and 119 runs scored.
• The Buckeyes led the conference in hitting, finishing nine points ahead of the second team, Minnesota. Their .348 average was also 15 points higher than the previous record (.333 in 2002).
• McIntyre, a second team All-Big Ten selection at shortstop, set career highs in every offensive category, hitting .378 with 14 home runs (second highest on the team), 50 RBI, 11 doubles, a team-high 55 runs scored and a .540 on base percentage.
• For the first time in school history, four different players his 10+ home runs last year. Three of them return this season – McIntyre (14), Leonard (15) and Anna Kirk (10).
• In the circle, Lena Springer and Shelby Hursh are the Buckeyes returning pitchers and are joined by three newcomers – freshmen Morgan Ray and Katya Duvall and sophomore transfer Shelby McCombs.
• This season, Ohio State welcomes back 70.8 percent of its RBI production from last year, 73.3 percent of its home run production and 63.1 percent of its total runs scored.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cammi Prantl | Sr. | C/OF | Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley
Has started all 163 games that she’s played in over the last three years … 44 career doubles ranks third all-time … career batting average of .338 with 100 RBI, 177 hits, 14 home runs and 119 runs scored … two-time All-Big Ten selection (second team 2013, first team 2014) … after playing left field predominantly as a freshman and sophomore, spent most of her time behind the plate in 2015.
Maddy McIntyre | Rs.-Sr. | SS | San Diego, Calif./Rancho Bernardo
Second team All-Big Ten … returned from an injury that cost her the balance of the 2014 season and was a steady force in the Buckeyes’ offense, leading the squad with a .540 on-base percentage, 55 runs scored and 1.335 OPS … first player in program history to join the 50/50 club (50+ RBI, 50+ runs scored) … overall, hit .378, over 100 points higher than her last healthy season in 2013 … her 14 home runs were tied for second on the team.
Erika Leonard | Rs.-Sr. | 1B/C | Cincinnati, Ohio/Mother of Mercy
First team All-Big Ten and second team All-Region … set a conference record with 37 RBI in 23 Big Ten games … over the final 24 games of the season, hit .512 with 53 RBI, 15 home runs, 43 hits and a 1.083 slugging percentage … in a win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, set a single-game school record with 10 RBI, going 4-for-4 while hitting two grand slams.
Kelly Kovach Schoenly on competition: “The energy and enthusiasm in practice has been outstanding. This team understands our culture, which is to compete every single day in everything that we do. When it’s a healthy competition like that, I believe it ultimately brings out the best in everyone. From there, we’ll let the position battles play out on the field.”
On the newcomers: “Our six newcomers have been infused into our team and they all bought in to being a Buckeye immediately. On the field, they’ve shown they’re ready to help us win by combining two things every coach dreams of – being extremely talented and coachable. Off the field, they’ve let the upperclassmen lead them and show them how to do things the right way.”
On the senior class: “Maddy, Cammi, Erika and Jayla have all made a lasting impact on this team and program. They’ll leave Ohio State stronger than they found it. Watching them grow and have success is very rewarding, and now is the time to go out and help them have a memorable senior season.”
HOW THEY STACK UP
When compared against the returning players on last year’s initial ASA/USA Softball Top 50 Players to Watch List, McIntyre and Leonard hold their own. McIntyre ranks:
• Third in on-base percentage (.540)
• Fifth in slugging percentage (.795)
• Ninth in RBI (50)
• 10th in home runs (14)
• 10 in runs scored (55)
• 11th in batting average (.378)
• Is one of only six players on the list in the 50/50 club
• Seventh in batting average (.414)
• Seventh in RBI (60)
• Seventh in slugging percentage (.782)
• Seventh in home runs (15)
IN THE CIRCLE
This year’s roster features a five-person pitching staff. The top two returning innings-leaders are Shelby Hursh and Lena Springer, who combined to toss 164 innings last season with 14 wins and 128 strikeouts. Shelby McCombs, a transfer from Louisville and Ohio native, was a prominent member of the Cardinals staff last year, winning 10 games with a 2.87 ERA in 105.0 innings. Those three are joined by freshmen Morgan Ray, a high school All-American and three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Montana, and Katya Duvall, who played club ball for the nationally-renowned SoCal Athletics.
THE 2016 SCHEDULE
Five non-conference tournaments and 14 contests in the friendly confines of Buckeye Field highlight Ohio State’s 2016 schedule.
Amongst the early season tournament matchups is a date on Feb. 12 against No. 5 LSU, a Women’s College World Series participant last year. In all, the Buckeyes will test themselves with 16 games against teams that finished in the Top 70 of last year’s RPI. Additionally, between Feb. 27 and March 19, seven of Ohio State's 10 games are against teams that were in last year's NCAA Tournament.
This year’s Big Ten schedule will bring Maryland, Penn State, Purdue and Michigan State to Columbus. Over the last three years, Ohio State is 35-17 (.673) at home, the fourth most wins of any program in the conference. In each of Kovach Schoenly’s first three seasons, her team has won at least 11 games at home.
DID YOU KNOW
Kovach Schoenly-coached teams have won at least 30 games in each of the last seven seasons, including the last three at Ohio State and four at Miami (Ohio). Entering her 10th season as a head coach, she will surpass the 300-career win mark this year, in addition to picking up her 100th victory at Ohio State.
In her time as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Kovach Schoenly had made 14 NCAA regional appearances been a part of eight conference championship teams. Her 94 victories in three seasons at Ohio State are the most of any coach over a three-year period in program history to begin her tenure.
Amongst the records that Ohio State’s offense set in 2014 was extra base hits (80 2B, 75 HR and nine 3B; 164 total) and two-out RBI (154). The 75 home runs broke the previous mark of 69 set by the 2007 Super Regional team and the 154 extra base hits was 21 better than the 2002 squad, a NCAA Tournament participant.
GOING THE DISTANCE
The 75 home runs hit last year (min. 4,749 yards) traveled farther than the total team rushing yardage of this year’s Buckeye football team (3,188).
LOCAL (AND NATIONAL) FLAVOR
Of the 22 players on this year’s roster, seven are from the greater Columbus area – Emily Clark (Prospect, Ohio/North Union), Cammi Prantl (Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley), Bailee Sturgeon (Ashville, Ohio/Teays Valley), Shelby McCombs (Newark, Ohio/Licking Valley), Anna Kirk (Groveport, Ohio/Bishop Hartley), Becca Gavin (Gahanna, Ohio/Gahanna Lincoln) and Maddie Marotti (Dublin, Ohio/Bishop Watterson).
The Buckeyes have three other native Ohioans, but also boast seven players from California, two from Indiana and one each from Texas, Montana and Connecticut.
OFF THE FIELD
Maddy McIntyre, a member of the 2014 Bucks Go Pro class, continues to intern the Department of Athletics, working with both the administration and development teams. Alex Bayne spent last summer as a Bucks Go Pro intern in the Student Athlete Support Services Office. Becca Gavin spent a week in June on a mission trip with her church to Honduras working at an orphanage with children affected by HIV and AIDS.
Nine Buckeyes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, including returnees Anna Kirk, Shelby Hursh, Erika Leonard, Maddy McIntyre and Jayla Saibene. Leonard was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar for maintaining a 3.7 GPA or better in 2014-15.