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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State placed a program-record tying five players on the NFCA All-Midwest Region teams that were announced on Thursday morning. Shortstop Lilli Piper and pitcher Shelby Hursh garnered first team selections while second baseman Emily Clark, catcher Becca Gavin and outfielder Alex Bayne earned spots on the second team.
The five all-region choices are tied for the most in a single season, marking the mark set in both 1994 and 2002. The all-region teams were chosen by NFCA member coaches from each region, and all the honorees are now eligible for selection to the Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America first, second or third teams. Over the past two seasons, Ohio State has had nine all-region choices, including four first-teamers.
Piper emerged this season as one of the most dangerous hitters in the Big Ten. During the regular season, she was third in the league in hitting (.420) with 49 RBI, 44 runs scored, 16 home runs and a .784 slugging percentage. She was a unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection. At last weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, she hit a two-run blast in the first inning of the semifinal contest versus Michigan State to push her over the 50-RBI mark for the year.
A transfer from Akron, Piper set a program record for home runs by a newcomer and is currently ranked fourth in single-season batting average, third in home runs and tied for eighth in RBI. She has a team-high 24 multi-hit games and 14 multi-RBI games. Against RPI Top-75 teams (21 regular season games), she hit .429 with 23 RBI, eight home runs and 17 runs scored. Among the highlights was a career-high six RBI effort against Central Florida and a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to clinch a series win at Illinois.
Hursh led Ohio State’s five-person pitching staff in nearly every statistical category, including wins (15), ERA (2.33), innings (129.0) and strikeouts (115). A member of the Big Ten All-Tournament team, she pitched a four-hitter and allowed just two runs with a season-high 10 strikeouts in a quarterfinal win over Wisconsin. Other notable performances came when she fanned 10 in a 4-0 shutout of Mercer, gave up just two hits to Indiana in a 2-0 series-opening win and shut out LIU Brooklyn at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs. It’s Hursh’s second All-Region honor in as many years.
Clark, also a first team All-Big Ten choice, hit .338 during the regular season and drove in 42 runs, tied for second most on the team. Against conference opponents, she upped her numbers to .371 with 21 runs scored, 18 RBI, five home runs and two doubles. This is her second all-region honor (she was a first-team choice last season).
During the week of March 29-April 2, Clark has one of the most prolific stretches of any player this season in the country. She hit .875 with 11 RBI, a .917 on-base percentage and 1.750 slugging percentage in four wins over Wright State and Rutgers. Perhaps most impressively, she reached base in 10 straight plate appearances. A Big Ten All-Tournament team selection, Clark hit a two-run home run to give the Buckeyes a 4-0 lead in their semifinal win over Michigan State. She also had a 1.000 fielding percentage in three games at second base.
Gavin, a junior catcher from Gahanna, had her most productive season this spring, improving her batting average by over 100 points from 2016 while hitting .303 overall in the regular season with 18 RBI and 14 runs scored. She also made a big impact behind the plate, throwing out runners at a 50 percent rate for much of the regular season. In Big Ten-only games, Gavin hit .348 – including a key go-ahead double in the series finale at Michigan State – to go along with her 1.000 fielding percentage and eight caught stealings. Her throw-out rate both in conference games and overall contests was the best in the Big Ten.
One od the most prolific home run hitters in school history, Bayne has 14 round-trippers this year after tying a school record with 19 last season. In a 4-3 win against Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last February, she drove in three of Ohio State’s four runs with two home runs. She also had a pair of solo blasts in an 8-2 series-clinching win over Indiana and hit a grand slam to break a scoreless tie at Stetson in March. Overall, Bayne ranks fifth in school history with 37 home runs. The Buckeyes are 8-3 this year when she hits a home run. Bayne is now a two-time all-region choice after earning first team honors in 2016.
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