March 20, 2014
COLUMBUS, Ohio - After playing its first 26 games away from the friendly confines of Buckeye Field, the Ohio State softball team makes its 2014 home and Big Ten debut this weekend against Michigan State. The Buckeyes and Spartans meet at 4 p.m. on Friday and play a doubleheader on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m.
BUCKEYES IN A NUTSHELL
Ohio State is 12-14 overall and wrapping up a 3-3 Spring Break trip in California. The Buckeyes won three of five games at the Fresno State Classic, and the three games they lost on the trip came by a combined four runs.
At the plate, junior Caitlin Conrad leads Ohio State in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.365), home runs (five), doubles (seven), RBIs (18), slugging percentage (.689) and total bases (51). Senior Evelyn Carrillo checks in with a .313 average, 12 RBIs and six doubles.
In the circle, four different pitchers have seen significant playing time - junior Olivia O'Reilly (3-2, 2.73 ERA), junior Alex DiDomenico (3-3, 2.92 ERA), senior Melanie Nichols (4-5, 4.11 ERA) and freshman Shelby Hursh (2-4, 4.28 ERA).
IMPORTANT PARKING INFORMATION
With multiple events going on this weekend at Ohio State, including the OHSAA boys basketball state finals, fans may park in the Biggs lot or Gray Lots by entering from Olentangy River Road and turning right onto Irvin Schottenstein Drive.
FOLLOWING FROM HOME
A link to Gametracker for each game this weekend can be found on the Ohio State softball schedule page on OhioStateBuckeyes.com. The games will also be streamed on OhioStateBuckeyes.com through Buckeye Vision. Follow live action and play-by-play also on our Twitter page at @OhioState_SB.
BUCKEYES GO PINK
Ohio State's opening games vs. Michigan State will also serve as its Bucks Go Pink Weekend. On Saturday, the team will honor breast cancer survivors. In addition, fans can pick up a complementary schedule poster and attend a meet-and-greet with the team following Saturday's game.
SCOUTING MICHIGAN STATE
Jacquie Joseph leads the Michigan State Spartans in her 21st season as head coach. Since taking over the Spartan program in 1994, the she is the winningest coach in program history, guiding the Spartans to a 576-554-1 record and four NCAA Regional appearances.
Michigan State, which is 7-15 overall, returns 12 letter winners and six starters from last year's team which finished 24-25. The Spartans infield features mostly underclassmen, with the exception of first basemen McKinzie Freimuth. Freimuth is the team's top hitter with a .311 average and is one of five Spartans to start all 49 games during the 2012-2013 season. Freshman Sarah Gutknecht owns or shares the team lead in RBI (12), doubles (four), and at-bats (56). She is second on the team in hits (13) and walks (five). Another first-year player, Kristina Zalewski, ranks fourth in the Big Ten for fewest earned runs allowed (10), second in walks allowed (seven), and 12th in fewest runs allowed (22). Ohio State leads the series 63-37, claiming wins in both meetings during the 2013 season.
OHIO STATE VS. MICHIGAN STATE: A LOOK BACK TO 2013
Ohio State 4, Michigan State 1
With the bat of sophomore Shelby Pickett, the Ohio State softball team won game one, 4-1, against Michigan State. Pickett, a native of Temecula, Calif., notched a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth with one down in a 1-1 contest to help the Buckeyes improve to 28-17 overall and 7-9 in Big Ten play.
Offensively, Pickett went 2-for-3 with her second home run of the season, tying her career high with three RBI. Cammi Prantl notched a double in the third, while sophomore Maddy McIntyre was 1-for-2 with a walk and double. Melissa Rennie went 1-for-2 with a sac fly RBI, walk and run scored.
In the circle, pitcher Alex DiDomenico improved to 13-7 overall, limiting the MSU bats to three hits, one earned run, two walks and 10 strikeouts. DiDomenico, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, collects her 11th complete game victory of the season.
Ohio State 6, Michigan State 3
Down 3-1 after three innings, the Ohio State bats notched three runs in the fourth and two runs in the sixth, while Melanie Nichols limited the MSU bats to two hits, three runs, zero earned runs and six strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work en route to a 6-3 win over the Spartans in game two. Nichols, a native of San Jacinto, Calif., improved to 4-1 overall in 2013, while DiDomenico claimed her first career save, throwing the final 2.1 innings, allowing one hit on no runs with five strikeouts.
Offensively, Caitlin Conrad when 2-for-3 with a stolen base, run scored and two RBI, while junior Melissa Rennie was 1-for-3 with a run scored, triple (first of her career) and RBI. Cammi Prantl went 2-for-4 to extend her hit streak to 12-consecutive games and now has a team-best 17 multi-hit performances.
CAREER RECORDS 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 sixth in all-time in wins (43) and sixth in strikeouts (301).
1. Kim Reeder (2006-09)................ 77
6. Melanie Nichols (2010-pres.)..... 43
1. Jamee Juarez (2004-07)............ 747
5. Genice Turley (1994-95))........... 307
6. Melanie Nichols (2010-pres.).... 301
In addition, senior Evelyn Carrillo is also climbing her way up the career lists in hits and runs batted in. The senior from Corona, Calif., has started 182 of 183 career games and currently ranks 17th in hits (176), just one shy of 16th place. Her 125 RBIs are good for eighth place.
1. Anna Smith (1999-02).............. 243
16. Jodi Dolan (1995-98)............... 179
17. Evelyn Carrillo (2011-pres.) .... 176
1. Sam Marder (2007-10)............. 191
7. Jamee Juarez (2004-07)........... 127
8. Evelyn Carrillo (2011-pres.)...... 125
O'REILLY SHINES IN CALIFORNIA
Olivia O'Reilly, a junior from Sylvania, Ohio, was Ohio State's brightest star in the circle for the Buckeyes last weekend, going 20.2 innings in six games and giving up just three earned runs. Against California, she went 2.2 innings in relief and didn't allow a hit. Two days later against Cal Poly, O'Reilly tossed a complete game shutout, striking out three and walking none. The next day against Pacific, she did not give up an earned run in seven innings, guiding the Buckeyes to a 4-1 victory. On the final days of the Fresno State Classic, O'Reilly pitched four innings, giving up four hits, three earned runs and striking out six.
A MARKED IMPROVEMENT
Several Buckeyes are enjoying significant statistical improvements at the plate from 2013 to 2014, including senior Melaina Saalfeld, junior Caitlin Conrad and sophomore Jayla Saibene.
Player 12-13 13-14 Diff.
Caitlin Conrad .285 .365 +.080
Jayla Saibene .214 .282 +.068
Melaina Saalfeld .193 .260 +.067
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.
EXPERIENCED COACHING STAFF
Ohio State's coaching staff of Kelly Kovach Schoenly, Amanda Buchholz, Jenna Hall and Megan Coletta has 36 years of combined experience either playing for coaching in the Big Ten. Kovach-Schoenly was four-year starter at Michigan and was an assistant coach for nine years at Penn State. Buchholz was a starting shortstop at Nebraska from 2000-03 and a volunteer assistant coach with the Cornhuskers for six years as a volunteer assistant. Hall played at Illinois for four years and is the school's all-time leader in career and single season batting average. Coletta wrapped up her four-year playing career with the Buckeyes last spring.
FRESNO STATE CLASSSIC REWIND
Ohio State 5, Cal Poly 0
Jayla Saibene and Caitlin Conrad each hit home runs and Olivia O'Reilly tossed a complete game shutout to lift the Buckeyes to a 5-0 win over Cal Poly in Ohio State's opening game of the Fresno State Classic.
Saibene got the Ohio State on the scoreboard first when she hit a solo home run to left field on the first pitch of her at bat. It was the first home run of Saibene's career.
Overall, O'Reilly went seven innings, scattering six hits while striking out three and walking none. It is the third shutout of her career.
Offensively, Saibene went 2-for-3 with a RBI and run scored. Conrad went 1-for-3 with three RBIs while Watkins and O'Reilly registered the other Buckeye hits.
Fresno State 3, Ohio State 1
Saibene picked up right where she left off in the first game, delivering a two-out single to center field that gave Ohio State a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Conrad started the rally with a walk, followed by a single up the middle by Carrillo and then Saibene's RBI.
Fresno State tired the game in the bottom of the second thanks to a walk and a single to first base that scored Vonnie Martin. Starting pitcher Alex DiDomenico got out the inning thanks to a ground out to third and a diving catch in foul ground by catcher Melissa Rennie.
Ohio State 4, Pacific 1
O'Reilly threw her second complete game of the weekend and Ohio State's offense came alive for four runs in the fifth inning to register a 4-1 victory over Pacific.
Nester led off the bottom of the fifth with an infield single, was bunted over to second by Conrad and then reached third when she and Watkins were safe on a fielder's choice. Nester was caught in a run down after a Saibene grounder, but a throwing error by Pacific allowed her to come home and tie the game at 1-1. Melaina Saalfeld then delivered the biggest blow of the inning, a two-run stand-up double that scored Saibene and Watkins. Erika Leonard then drove Saalfeld home with an infield single.
Ohio State 5, St. Mary's 0
Melanie Nichols provided the pitching (six innings, no runs, three hits allowed) and Conrad and Watkins provided the hitting (combined 6-for-8 with two home runs and three RBIs) as the Buckeyes picked up their second win of the day.
Ohio State put the game away in the top of the seventh when it struck for three runs of four hits. Conrad started it with a double to left field and Watkins followed with a RBI triple to right field. After Watkins scored on a wild pitch, Saibene singled to center field and eventually scored on a double by Prantl.
Colorado State 4, Ohio State 3
Caitlin Conrad hit her third home run in the last five games but the Ohio State softball team fell to Colorado State, 4-3, in its final game of the Fresno State Classic.
Colorado State scored four times in the bottom of the fifth on three hits and three walks. The biggest blow was a two-run double by Ashlie Ortega that gave the Rams their first lead of the day at 4-3.
Prantl gave Ohio State a base runner in the sixth but the Buckeyes were not able to advance her. In the top of the seventh, Ohio State went down in order.
FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
Fans can follow Ohio State softball on the web and through social media via the following outlets: