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COLUMBUS, Ohio - After a memorable regular season and run to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament, the Ohio State softball was rewarded with an at-large bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament and will begin play on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. against USC Upstate in Knoxville, Tennessee at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.
Saturday, May 20
Game 3: G1 Winner vs. G2 Winner | 12 p.m.
Game 4: G1 Loser vs. G2 Loser | 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: G3 Loser vs. G4 Winner | 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 21
Game 6: G3 Winner vs. G5 Winner | 12 p.m.
Game 7: G6 Winner vs. G6 Loser (If necessary) | 2:30 p.m.
BUCKEYES IN A NUTSHELL
• Ohio State, a Big Ten Tournament finalist, is 35-16 on the year and was 15-8 in the Big Ten during the regular season.
• Seven everyday starters are hitting .270 or better this season, led by unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection Lilli Piper. She finished third in the league in batting and is currently hitting at a .424 clip with team highs in home runs (17), RBI (51), runs scored (46), slugging percentage (.785| and on-base percentage (.420). At last weekend's Big Ten Tournament, she hit a two-run first-inning home run against Michigan State in the semifinals.
• Piper's classmate, sophomore Emily Clark, is hitting .338 this year with 44 RBI, nine home runs, nine doubles and a .406 on-base percentage. Like Piper, she hit a two-run home run in the semifinals and was named to the All-Tournament team.
• Senior Alex Bayne is neck and neck with Piper for the team home run lead, having her 14 of her own on the season. Last year, she tied the school record for single-season home runs (19) and is also batting .301 overall with 32 RBI and 44 runs scored.
• Junior catcher Becca Gavin has increased her batting average this year by nearly 100 points while also possessing one of the highest throw-out rates in the conference (41.6 percent). At .291, she ranks fourth on the team in average, has driven in 18 runs and scored 15 times.
• Junior Taylor White anchors the outfield where she has nine assists, the most of any outfielder in the conference. In a quarterfinal win over Wisconsin, she had two inning-ending assists, including one in the sixth inning with Ohio State clinging to a 3-2 lead.
• Overall, Ohio State's offense features three players would double digit home runs, seven with 18 or more RBI and four players with a .390 or better on-base percentage.
• In the circle, every pitchers that's seen at least 10 innings of action this year has an ERA of 2.80 or better. The group is led by senior Shelby Hursh, who leads the team in innings (129.0), strikeouts (115), wins (15) and shutouts (five).
• The trio of Morgan Ray (6-4, 2.17 ERA, 61.1 IP, 49 Ks), Shelby McCombs (6-2, 2.53 ERA, 63.2 IP, 50 Ks) and Lena Springer (8-4, 2.79, 72.2 IP, 52 Ks) make the Buckeyes' staff the deepest in the Big Ten.
• Ohio State's 12 shutouts are the most in a single season since 2009.
FOLLOWING ALONG ON ESPN
ESPN will cover every game from all 16 Regionals of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship for the first-time ever, resulting in up to 112 games on an ESPN network between Thursday, May 18, and Sunday, May 21. This season's expanded Regional round coverage, combined with the continuation of ESPN's tradition of televising every Super Regional and Women's College World Series game, results in ESPN carrying every game of college softball's month-long postseason tournament for the first time ever. Lisa Byington and Jennie Ritter will be on the call at the Knoxville Regional.
OHIO STATE EXTENDS KOVACH SCHOENLY'S CONTRACT
The contract of head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly has been extended through the 2020 season, TJ Shelton, associate athletics director for sports administration announced on Wednesday. Kovach Schoenly is 163-105-1 in her fifth year guiding the Scarlet and Gray with 30 or more wins in every season. Last week, her team reached the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the first time in 10 years.
SCOUTING USC UPSTATE
2017 Record: 44-11, 14-4 Atlantic Sun
How They Got Here: Won the Atlantic Sun title with an 8-0 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in the championship game.
Top Hitter: Karla Beasley - .327, 38 RBI, seven home runs, 14 doubles, 28 runs scored; Abbie Millete - .331, 32 RBI, eight home runs, .404 on-base percentage
Top Pitcher: Holly McKinnon - 24-7, 1.36 ERA, 207 Ks, 196.0 IP; Lexi Shubert - 19-4, 1.43 ERA, 156.1 IP, 158 Ks
Series History: While the Buckeyes and Spartans have only met once, it came recently: USC Upstate edged Ohio State 2-0 last year in Spartanburg, S.C.
2017 Record: 28-27, 13-8 Big South
How They Got Here: Won the Big South Tournament title with a 4-2 victory over Liberty.
Top Hitter: Kaylynn Batten - .301, 24 RBI, 2t runs scored, .430 on-base percentage
Top Pitcher: Sydney Gay - 14-14, 181.1 IP, 139 Ks, five shutouts; Elizabeth McCarthy - 14-8, 142.1 IP, 123 Ks, 2.75 ERA
Series History: Ohio State won the only meeting between the schools in 2012, a 12-3 win at the Citrus Classic in Orlando.
2017 Record: 44-10, 16-7 SEC; No. 8 national seed
How They Got Here: Earned one of 32 at-large bids. Finished third in the SEC regular season standings.
Top Hitter: Meghan Gregg - .439, 11 home runs, 18 doubles, 71 RBI, 47 runs scored, .797 slugging percentage
Top Pitcher: Matty Moss - 23-2, 1.82 ERA, 165.2 IP, 166 Ks, 11 complete games
Series History: The Buckeyes have Vols have met just two times previously, most recently last year in the Knoxville Regional semifinal. Tennessee has won both contests.
OHIO STATE'S NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY
• This year marks Ohio State's ninth NCAA Tournament appearance.
• Last year, Ohio State also played in Knoxville, dropping the opener to Arizona, 2-0, before knocking off Marist, 6-1. The Buckeyes were eliminated by Tennessee, 10-1.
• In 2010, the Buckeyes hosted a regional in Columbus, going 2-2 with wins over Bucknell (6-0) and Kentucky (5-3) and losses to Kentucky (6-5) and California (7-0).
• In 2009, Ohio State made its deepest NCAA Tournament run, advancing to the Super Regionals for the first time in program history. OSU won the Columbus Regional with a 7-2 triumph over Kentucky and ultimately finished 47-11 on the year.
• In 2002, the Buckeyes won a school-record 55 games and advanced to the Ann Arbor Regional where they went 2-2 with wins over Central Michigan and Washington.
• Between 2002 and 2010, Ohio State made the NCAA Tournament in six of nine seasons.
• The Buckeyes' all-time NCAA Tournament record is 13-16.
NOTING THE BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
• In the quarterfinal win over sixth-seeded Wisconsin, Hursh matched her season high with 10 strikeouts and was just three off her career high. She limited the Badgers to just four hits.
• White chipped in defensively with inning-ending assists from center field in the top of the first and sixth innings.
• Piper hit a one-out, two-run home run in the top of the first inning against Michigan State to increase her total to 17 on the year, two off of the single-season record. The RBI also have her 51 on the year, the fifth highest total in single-season history.
• McCombs pitched the final two innings of the semifinal win and picked up her second save of the season.
• In addition to a home run, Piper also had two singles against the Spartans for her ninth three-hit game of the season and 24th multi-hit game overall.
• The Buckeyes made their first Big Ten Tournament title game appearance since 2007, a 2-1 win in Columbus against Northwestern.
• Three Ohio State players took home All-Tournament team honors: Hursh (2.71 ERA, 10.1 IP, 12 Ks), Piper (.500, HR, two RBI) and Clark (.333, home run, two RBI, 1.000 fielding percentage in 15 opportunities).
NUGGETS TO KNOW
• The Buckeyes played 18 games against teams that earned a spot in the 2017 tournament.
• Ohio State was ranked or receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Collegiate Softball Top 25 poll for every week during the regular season.
• The Buckeyes were 18-7 against a non-conference schedule that featured 11 games against teams from Power 5 conferences.
• Ohio State's non-conference RPI was ranked No. 24 nationally, third highest in the Big Ten, and included 11 games against programs that were in last year's NCAA Tournament.
• The Buckeyes compiled 12 true road win and a total of 25 victories at either road or neutral sites.
• Ohio State played its first 25 games away from home, going 18-7 in that stretch.
• The Buckeyes' 35 wins to this point in the season are the most since 2010.
• 2017 marks the fourth regional appearance as a head coach for Kelly Kovach Schoenly and three of them have occurred in Knoxville (2012, 2016, 2017).
Ohio State has hit 61 homers this year, ranking third in the Big Ten. The 61 home runs are sixth most in school history. Nearly 41 percent of Ohio State's total runs this season have scored on a home run (112 of 275). Ohio State is 24-10 this season whit hitting at least one home run.
PIPER/MCCOMBS/HURSH VS. THE NATION'S BEST
Lilli Piper's 2017 numbers as a newcomer - .424, 51 RBI, 46 runs scored, 17 home runs, .785 slugging percentage, .440 on-base percentage - makes her one of the most productive players in program history. Against the best of the best, however, she's taken her name to a new level. In 21 regular season contests against teams in the Top 75 of the RPI, Piper is hitting .429 with eight home runs, 23 RBI, 17 runs scored and a .459 on-base percentage. That includes:
• A go-ahead home run in the seventh inning of a 3-2 series-clinching win at Illinois
• A 3-for-3 effort with three RBI against California in Palm Springs, Calif.
• Multiple hit in 10 of 18 games, including four three-hit efforts.
• A career-high six RBI (2-for-3, grand slam) in an 8-0 five-inning win at UCF.
In the circle, McCombs pitched in seven games against Top 75 opponents and finished with a 2-0 record, 2.07 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 23.2 innings. Her three-hit shutout of Michigan on April 9 gave the Buckeyes their first win over the Wolverines since 2010.
Hursh logged a team-best 60.1 innings against Top 75 opponents with 11 starts. In seven of those starts, she limited opponents to five hits or less and finished a 3.13 ERA, 53 strikeouts and .262 opponent batting average.
• Ohio State's .970 fielding percentage is third best in the Big Ten, just one year after the Buckeyes set a single-season school record at .974. They are 22-3 this year when playing error free.
• Clark is five hits shy of 100 for her career while Hursh needs five more strikeouts to reach 500.
• Kovach Schoenly has the most wins (163) of any coach in program history over the first five years of their respective tenures.
• The Buckeyes are 25-12 this year in road or neutral site games. The most dangerous hitter has been Piper, who is batting .445 and has hit 13 of her 17 home runs with 41 RBI. Hursh has made a team-high 17 appearances in road/neutral games with a 12-4 record, 2.23 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 100.1 innings.
• Ohio State finished third in the Big Ten in average per game attendance (1,048), behind just Minnesota and Michigan, and hosted seven crowds of 1,000 or more.
• The Buckeyes are outscoring opponents 92-37 in the first and second innings combined this year and are 27-5 when scoring first.
• In addition to 12 shutouts, Ohio State's pitching staff has limited its opponent to 1-2 runs 15 times are is 14-1 in those games.
• Ohio State is 13-3 in games in which Piper hits a home run.
• Buckeye pitchers have inherited 82 runners this season while coming on in relief and are preventing them from scoring at a 63.5 percent rate (82 inherited, 30 scored).
Humphrey Highlights | Taylor White