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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After getting its first opportunity to play in front of the home fans on Wednesday, 25th-ranked Ohio State has another first this weekend: it’s first conference series in Columbus. The Buckeyes host Rutgers in a three-game set beginning on Friday.
Friday’s series opener will be broadcast live on BTN with Dean Linke and Jennie Ritter on the call. Fans can watch Saturday and Sunday’s contests on BTN Plus (subscription required).
BUCKEYES IN A NUTSHELL
• Following a 14-1 win over Wright State on Wednesday, the Ohio State is 19-7 on the season and has won 12 of its last 13 games.
• A well-balanced Buckeye offense features six everyday starters who are batting .280 or better. That group is headlined by Lilli Piper, who checks in with a .420 average to go along with a team-best 33 RBI. She’s also scored 23 runs, have seven home runs, four doubles and a .750 slugging percentage.
• Senior Anna Kirk was moved into the lead-off position last month and now leads the team – and is second in the Big Ten – with a .548 on-base percentage. She’s also hitting .359 with 15 RBI and 29 runs scored.
• Alex Bayne continues to be one of the best home run hitters in both the Big Ten and the nation. She connected on a first-inning grand slam against Wright State and now has 10 home runs on the year to go along with 24 RBI.
• Becca Gavin, who has started 22 of the 23 games in which she’s played, is batting .298 with hits in each of the last two games. Emily Clark, meanwhile, drove in a career-high five runs on Wednesday vs. Wright State, including a two-run double and three-run home run.
• In the circle, the five-member pitching staff has a 2.05 team ERA, which is fourth best in the Big Ten.
• Katya Duvall, Shelby Hursh and Lena Springer all have ERAs that are below 2.00. Hursh has logged the most innings at 65.1 with eight wins, 63 strikeouts and a .208 opponent batting average. Springer is 7-2 in 55.2 innings with two shutouts, 43 strikeouts and a .226 batting average against.
• On Wednesday, Morgan Ray and Duvall combined to go five innings and allow just three hits against Wright State with six strikeouts.
2017 Record: 9-21, 1-2 Big Ten
2016 Record: 24-33, 8-15 Big Ten
Top Hitter: Taryn Altee - .416, five doubles, nine RBI, .469 on-base percentage; Rebecca Hall - .365, 32 RBI, 10 home runs, six doubles
Top Pitcher: Shayla Sweeney – 8-6, 98.0 IP, 4.00 ERA, 43 Ks
Series History: Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten for the 2015 season, Ohio State is 6-1 against the Scarlet Knights. The Buckeyes swept Rutgers last year in Piscataway during the regular season and then topped the Scarlet Knights in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. In the three wins during the regular season, Ohio State hit 11 home runs and scored 38 runs.
BUCKEYES VS. SCARLET KNIGHTS
• In four games against Rutgers last year, Clark hit .462 with three home runs and seven RBI. She enjoyed the first multi-home run game of her career in the second game of the three-game series.
• Bayne has played in six career games against Rutgers and is hitting .529 with three home runs and seven RBI. Last year, she hit three home runs and drove in six runs while also drawing a pair of walks.
• In the circle, Springer has enjoyed the most success against Rutgers, starting three games while giving up just two earned runs over 24.0 innings. Last year, she shutout the Scarlet Knights twice – first getting a three-hit shutout to complete the regular season sweep and following that up with another shutout in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. All told, Springer went 14 innings without allowing a run and scattering just seven hits against Rutgers in 2016.
• Taylor White has played in seven games over her career against Rutgers with a .353 average to go along with a home run, double and five RBI.
THE LAST 10 GAMES
Maddie Marotti | .625, 5-for-8, two runs scored
Marotti went 3-for-3 during a 22-0 win at Maryland last Sunday and then earned a start in the home opener on Wednesday. She responded by going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and a run scored. She’s reached base safely in five of her last six plate appearances.
Lilli Piper | .429, 14 RBI, 11 runs scored, .771 slugging percentage
The Big Ten Player of the Week after hitting over .700 in a three-game sweep of Maryland, Piper has hits in eight of her last 10 at-bats with two home runs and 10 RBI. For the seasons, she ranks sixth in the Big Ten is batting average, fifth in slugging and fourth in RBI.
Taylor White | .385, 12 RBI, .731 slugging percentage, double, triple, two home runs
White followed up a big conference-opening weekend that included an eighth-inning grand slam last Saturday with another strong showing on Wednesday that included a third-inning triple.
Anna Kirk | .348, 16 runs scored, .615 on-base percentage
The Buckeyes’ lead-off hitter, Kirk has walked 12 times in 39 plate appearances over the last 10 games and has also been hit four times. She also has eight hits, including a solo home run against Maryland last Saturday.
WHIP IT GOOD
The 16 teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Super Regionals all possessed a pitcher with a WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched) no higher than 1.84 and as low as 0.72 amongst the top two of their staff. Twenty six games into the 2017 campaign, Hursh and Springer are in that company, checking in with a 1.34 combined WHIP (Hursh: 1.33; Springer: 1.36). Ohio State's staff has a 1.40 WHIP.
The second RPI of the 2017 was released on Monday and Ohio State is No. 21, the third highest-ranked team in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 4-2 vs. teams ranked between 26 and 50 and own eight wins against Top 100 teams.
TWO OUTS? NO PROBLEM
Nearly half of the 176 runs that Buckeye batters have driven in this year have come with two outs (76 of 176). In last Saturday’s 10-6 extra-innings win over Maryland, eight of the 10 runs there were scored came with two outs, including all five in the top of the eighth.
Ohio State’s 31 home runs is good for third in the conference, behind just Michigan State and Illinois. Over half of those home runs have come with runners on base, including five grand slams. Dating back to last weekend, three of the last home runs that have been hit have been grand slams. The Buckeyes are on pace for hit 60 or more home runs for the third straight season.
• Over the last two seasons, Ohio State is 21-2-1 when Bayne hits a home run (16-0-1 in 2016, 5-2 in 2017).
• In its current string of wins in 12 of the last 13 games, the Buckeyes have scored first in 11 of those wins.
• Hursh's 36 career wins places her 10th on the all-time list, just two behind Belinda Cernava for ninth place.
• The Buckeyes rank 12th nationally in home runs per game (1.16) and seven of the last nine that they’ve hit out have come with runners on base.