COLUMBUS, Ohio - After finishing with 35 wins a season ago, the most in seven years, the Ohio State softball team is looking ahead with the release of its 2018 schedule, head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly announced today.
The 2018 slate features 13 games against teams that made last year's NCAA Tournament, 15 contests at Buckeye Field and five non-conference tournaments.
"We've put together a challenging preseason schedule highlighted by a 10-day California swing for our West Coast players to get home," said Kovach Schoenly. "The Big Ten/ACC Challenge is a great opportunity to highlight our entire conference and we look forward to doing our part to bring home the title for the B1G. Traveling the country will provide the battles in preseason to get us ready for an extremely competitive conference schedule."
As in years past, the Buckeyes will spend the first seven weeks of the season on the road. The squad will make stops in Boca Raton, Fla., Raleigh, N.C., Austin, Texas, Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles, Calif., Northridge, Calif., Fullerton, Calif. and Bloomington, Ind.
The campaign officially starts at the Florida Atlantic Kickoff Classic in Boca Raton, Fla. The Scarlet & Gray will face Northern Illinois (twice, Feb. 9 and Feb. 10), Duke (Feb. 9), FAU (Feb. 10) and Boston U. (Feb. 11).
The following weekend, Ohio State heads to Raleigh, N.C., on the campus of N.C. State for the third Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Buckeyes will face the Wolfpack and Louisville twice (Feb. 16-18).
Next weekend the Buckeyes find themselves at the University of Texas. The team will challenge Virginia Tech (Feb. 23), Wichita State (twice, Feb. 23 and Feb. 24) and the Longhorns (Feb. 24), who made the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
OSU continues its journey with the longest trip of the year - a 10-day excursion to California during Spring Break. The Buckeyes will play four single games against San Diego State, San Jose State, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA at the Long Beach State Invitational (March 9-11). The Titans, Spartans and Bruins earned spots in the NCAA Tournament last year. On March 13, the squad has a doubleheader with Loyola Marymount before a single outing at Cal State Northridge (March 14). In Fullerton, Ohio State has games against Grand Canyon, Cal State Fullerton, CSUN and defending national champion Oklahoma.
Big Ten action kicks off March 23-25 with a road trip to Indiana. Ohio State fans will have their first chance to see the team at Buckeye Field when it opens the home schedule with a midweek game against Super Regional participant Kentucky on March 28. That weekend, the Buckeyes host a three-game set against NCAA Tournament participant Wisconsin (March 30-April 1).
Ohio State heads to Rutgers for another weekend series (April 6-8) before returning to Columbus for a midweek doubleheader against Penn State on April 11. The Buckeyes will play three games at Northwestern from April 13-15 before hosting a doubleheader with Ohio University (April 17).
Between April 20-29, the Scarlet & Gray will play six games at Buckeye Field against league foes Michigan State and Maryland. The Buckeyes will wrap up their 2018 non-conference and home schedule on May 2 with a single game against Pittsburgh. Ohio State's final regular season series is slated for May 4-6 at Big Ten rival and NCAA Tournament participant Michigan.
The 2018 Big Ten Tournament takes place May 10-12 at the Goodman Softball Complex on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.
Ohio State returns 17 letterwinners in 2018, including NFCA third team All-American Lilli Piper (.421, 18 HR, 53 RBI, 75 hits, 47 runs). Piper is joined by fellow NFCA All-Region selections: second-teamers Emily Clark (.333, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 30 runs scored) and Becca Gavin (.348, 37 hits, 18 RBI).