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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The success that Ohio State enjoyed in 2017 wasn't just confined to the softball field. Today, the Big Ten Conference announced its 2016-17 Distinguished Scholars, and three Buckeyes - Alex Bayne, Katya Duvall and Shelby McCombs - earned the award based on their stellar work in the classroom.
In total, a league-high 115 Ohio State student-athletes were honored as Distinguished Scholars. Similar to the Academic All-Big Ten honor, Distinguished Scholar Award recipients must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year at their institution. However, the Distinguished Scholar Award encompasses only students with a minimum grade-point average of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year, excluding summer school. The Academic All-Big Ten threshold is a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher for a student's academic career.
Bayne, one of the best power hitters in the conference, is a kinesiology major in Ohio State's sports management master's degree program who is on schedule to graduate in August. She earned her bachelor's degree in communications in May of 2016. On the field, she hit .334 over her 146-game career and blasted 37 home runs, the fourth most in program history. As a junior, Bayne tied the single-season record with 19 home runs while driving in 49 runs, scoring 53 times and batting .364 to earn first team All-Big Ten and All-Midwest Region honors.
Duvall, a pitcher from Seal Beach, Calif., is a rising junior who is majoring in integrated Language Arts/English education. She appeared in eight games last year and finished with a 3.00 ERA with nine strikeouts in 9.1 innings. Duvall was part of a five-person pitching staff that was third in the Big Ten in overall ERA (2.49) and had 12 shutouts, the most since 2010. Duvall's .206 batting average against was the best on the team.
McCombs, also a pitcher, is a local product from Newark, Ohio and attended Licking Valley High School. She is a human development and family science major who will be a senior in 2018. This spring, McCombs went 6-3 over 69.1 innings with a 2.62 ERA, 54 strikeouts and .260 batting average against. Her marquee performance was a 10-strikeout, three-hit shutout of No. 16 Michigan on April 9. She also tossed a complete game and allowed just four hits in the regular season finale at No. 22 Illinois to secure the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
Bayne, Duvall and McCombs are three of the 18 Buckeyes who finished the 2016-17 academic year with a 3.0 or better grade point average. In May, 12 players - and 75 percent of those eligible - took home Academic All-Big Ten honors.
On the field, the Scarlet and Gray earned one of 23 at-large bids the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year after winning 35 games and appearing in the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the first time since 2007. At 35-18 overall and 15-8 in the Big Ten, Ohio State compiled its most overall and conference wins since 2010.