Softball

Ohio State To Begin 2014 Season At FAU Kick-Off Classic

Cammi Prantl
Cammi Prantl

Feb. 6, 2014

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio State softball team officially kicks off the 2014 campaign this weekend at the FAU Kick-Off Classic on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla. The Buckeyes will get tested early by facing two teams - Tulsa and Louisville - that appeared in last year's NCAA Tournament. Ohio State opens the tournament against Tulsa on Friday, Feb. 7, at 11 a.m., followed by a match-up with St. John's at 1 p.m. On Saturday, the Buckeyes take on Northern Illinois at 9 a.m. and Louisville at 1 p.m. Ohio State concludes action when it faces Florida Atlantic on Sunday, Feb. 9, at 11 a.m.

ABOUT THE BUCKEYES
Ohio State, which finished 34-22 overall and 10-13 in the Big Ten in 2013, returns all but two of its starters and all five of its pitchers from last season. The Buckeyes figure to be improved on offense, as their four top hitters all return - sophomore Cammi Prantl (.346, 31 RBI), junior Taylor Watkins (.337, 38 RBI), senior Evelyn Carrillo (.326, 32 RBI) and senior Leesa Gresham (.298, 35 RBI). On the mound, junior Alex DiDomenico led Ohio State in every major pitching category in 2013 and she will be complemented by redshirt senior Melanie Nichols, who was 6-2 last year and had 39 career wins to her credit.

A GLANCE AT THE OPPONENTS
Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane finished 42-16-1 last season and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament out of Conference USA. In head coach John Bargfeldt's eight seasons, he has the most wins (299) and highest winning percentage (.651) in school history. Under his lead, the team has won C-USA titles in four of his eight seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament five times, including each of the last three years. During the fall, Tulsa won six of its seven games against Northern (Okla.) College, Central Arkansas, Missouri State, Oklahoma State and  Labette CC. Returning for the 2013-2014 season is senior pitcher and two-time All-American Aimee Creger, who was selected to the USA Softball Women's National Team last year. In 2013, Creger set single-season school records for wins, strikeouts, complete games, and strikeouts per seven innings. The Buckeyes and Hurricanes have met just one previous time, a 8-0 Tulsa victory in 2011.

St. John's
St. John's, a member of the Big East Conference, was 17-35-1 overall last year and 7-15 in the Big East. The Red Storm finished on a strong note in April, claiming victories in five of their last seven contests, including series victories over Villanova and Rutgers. In her eighth season, head coach Amy Kvilhaug has an overall record of 123-194. Returning senior Jackie Reed hit .341 with 19 RBI and six home runs last year while also being named to CoSIDA Academic All-District First team. The Buckeyes faced St. John's during the 2013 season and came out with a 4-2 win.

Northern Illinois
The Huskies posted a record of 27-31 last season. Northern Illinois is led by second-year head coach Christina Sutcliffe, who spent time as an assistant coach at Miami University under current Buckeye coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. In her first season at Northern Illinois, Sutcliffe lead the Huskies to a MAC Championship game where they fell to Central Michigan 4-2. All members of the team will be returning for the 2014 season with the exception of Amanda Sheppard and Jennifer Barnett. Nicole Gremillion was named a first team All-MAC selection while Jessica Sturm earned second-team honors. The Buckeyes own a 4-1 record all-time  against Northern Illinois.

Louisville
Head coach Sandy Pearsall is in her 15th season at Louisville with an overall record of 553-274 (.669), and concluded the 2013 season ranked No. 19 in the final USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll. Pearsall and the Cardinals boast five conference championships and 10 consecutive NCAA regional appearances. Louisville returns eight letterwinners for the 2014 season including 2013 All-American Katie Keller, All-Big East selections Whitney Arion, Caralisa Connell, Hannah Kiyohara, Rachel LeCog, and Maggie Ruckenbrod as well as 2012 All-American selection Taner Fowler. Ohio State is 1-3 all-time against Louisville.

Florida Atlantic
The Owls finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 28-29 and 10-12 mark in the Sun Belt Conference. This season, FAU, which is now competing in Conference USA, will return eight starters, including junior outfielder Lindsey Shell, who hit .321 and was named to the All-Sun Belt second team. On the mound, the Owls must replace their top two pitchers, both of whom were lost of graduation. Florida Atlantic is led by head coach Joan Joyce, who was recently inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame. Ohio State leads the all-tme series 3-2 against the Owls.

PLAYING THE BEST
The Buckeyes' non-conference schedule will once again test Ohio State against some of the nation's elite. In all, OSU will play at least 16 games against teams that qualified for last year's NCAA Tournament, including eight against squads that advanced to the Women's College World Series. Additionally, Ohio State plays 15 games against teams either ranked or receiving votes in the NFCA/USA Today Preseason Top 25 poll. Nine of those games are against Top 10 teams. Below is Ohio State's all-time record against team's currently in the nation's power conferences, including the Pac-12, Big XII, Big East, SEC and ACC.

ACC: 25-30
Pac-12: 22-62
SEC: 22-37
Big East: 15-2
Big XII: 11-19

CAREER RECORD WATCH
Melanie Nichols, a fifth-year senior, is looking to work her way up the career record books for wins and strikeouts. In 2010, she made an instant impact as a freshman, going 21-3 with a 1.92 earned-run average of a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Nichols redshirted in 2011 while recovering from an injury and returned in 2012 to start 25 games (12-9, 3.45 ERA, 82 K). In 2013, Nichols went 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA and 51 Ks. Currently, she ranks tied for seventh all-time in wins (39) and sixth in strikeouts (269).

Career wins
1. Kim Reeder (2006-09) - 77
7. Melanie Nichols (2010-pres.) - 39

Career Strikeouts
1. Jamee Juarez (2004-07) - 747
6. Melanie Nichols (2010-pres.) - 269

AN IMPRESSIVE DEBUT
Cammi Prantl, a second team All-Big Ten selection in 2013, made an instant impact for the Buckeyes last year. She led OSU in several offensive categories, including batting average (.346), at bats (188) and hits (65). Her name is littered throughout the single-season freshman records:

At bats - 3rd, 188
Batting average - 5th, .346
Hits - 2nd, 65
Doubles - 4th, 12
RBI - 7th, 31
Runs - 1st, 40
Stolen bases - 5th, 10

FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
Fans can follow Ohio State softball on the web and through social media via the following outlets:

Website: OhioStateBuckeyes.com
Twitter: @OhioState_SB
Facebook: Facebook.com/OhioStateSoftball
Instagram: Instagram.com/ohiostate_sb

Additionally, links to livestats will be available on the calendar tab from the homepage of OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

WATKINS NAMED ALL-REGION
Junior Taylor Watkins was named a Second Team NFCA All-Midwest selection by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association last spring.

Watkins, who has started all 107 games of her Buckeye career, was a key member in the Ohio State lineup, leading the squad in 2013 in runs scored (45), RBI (38), total bases (95) and stolen bases (17). She was second on the team in batting (.337), home runs (7), slugging (.534), walks (32) and on base percentage (.440). In each of her first two years as a Buckeye, Watkins has posted at least 60 hits, 30 runs scored and 20 RBI and has compiled a career average of .344 with 82 runs scored, 18 doubles, eight home runs and 61 RBI.

RETURNING STATISTICAL LEADERS
Entering the 2014 season, Ohio State returns eight of its top 10 hitters and all five of its pitchers. In total, 79.1 percent of its RBI total returns, 77.6 percent of its runs returns, 87.5 percent of its stolen bases and 82.2 percent of its total bases return.

FALL REWIND
Ohio State went 5-2 this past fall, highlighted by a 2-1 mark at the 2013 Ohio Collegiate Charity Classic, held Oct. 5-6 in Columbus. The event has raised more than $172,000 for the Stefanie Spielman Fund at Ohio State's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Ohio State 7, Kentucky 6:
Freshman pitcher Shelby Hursh struck out 10 batters after relieving Olivia O'Reilly in the circle in the third inning. In the bottom of the 12th, Leesa Gresham posted a walk-off single to left, scoring redshirt junior Kirstie Fehrenbach from third base. Fehrenbach reached third base after she ran out an infield single. She then advanced to third on a fielder's choice.

Kentucky 6, Ohio State 0
In 5.2 innings of work, Melanie Nichols had five strikeouts with four walks.

Ohio State 4, Kent State 1
The Buckeyes erupted in the bottom of the fifth inning when Taylor Watkins hit a single to center field, advancing to the second base after teammate Cammi Prantl singled to left field. With one out and two runners on base, Maddy McIntyre tripled to right field, scoring Watkins and Prantl and giving Ohio State a 2-1 lead.

Ohio State 2, Kent State 1
Redshirt sophomore Erika Leonard hit a two-run home run over the left field wall to give the Buckeyes the 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. Pitcher Shelby Hursh closed out the game, securing the win for Ohio State after allowing a pop-up, one walk and notching two strikeouts in the seventh inning. Overall, Hursh allowed one run on two hits and had five strikeouts.

Akron 6, Ohio State 4
The Buckeyes tied the game, 4-4, in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, but the Zips were able to plate two runs in the top of the ninth to earn the win. Offensively, first baseman Evelyn Carrillo went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBI and a walk, while sophomore Cammi Prantl collected two hits and an RBI.

Ohio State 14, Northern Kentucky 1
Ohio State notched 11 hits vs. the Norse, highlighted by freshman Anna Kirk, who was 2-for-2 with a walk, two RBI and one run scored.  Leesa Gresham notched two hits and two runs scored. In the circle, junior pitcher Olivia O'Reilly earned the win, throwing five innings, allowing just two hits, one run with two strikeouts.

FOUR BUCKEYES NAMED NFCA ALL-AMERICA SCHOLAR ATHLETES
Four members of the Ohio State softball team, three current and one former, were named 2013 National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America Scholar Athletes. Brittany Mills, who graduated last May with a bachelor's degree in economics, was honored along with current Buckeyes Melissa Rennie (insurance major), Audrey Plant (communication major) and Olivia O'Reilly (biology major). The award is bestowed upon any player submitted by a member coach who achieved a 3.50 grade point average or higher during the 2012-13 academic year. Additionally, Rennie was also named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, which recognizes student-athletes with at least a 3.7 grade-point average.


 

 

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