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Softball: Despite returning starters, the Buckeye offense is led by newcomer Lilli Piper

The Ohio State softball team (7-5) returned the bulk of its offensive production from last season, but through its first 12 games of the 2017 season, the best offense has come from a newcomer — sophomore shortstop Lilli Piper, an Akron transfer.

Piper has made an immediate impact for the Buckeyes since her arrival before the season. She leads the team in hits, RBIs, multi-base hits and has the team’s second-highest slugging percentage.

Before putting up those team-leading numbers, Piper had to adjust to a new environment and group of teammates.

“It was almost like starting freshman year all over again,” Piper said. “I was kind of finding my niche in the program and what they wanted to do and what they wanted from me. I was just getting used to the girls, getting used to the team, making new friends and a new family.”

Complicating matters, Piper wasn’t just switching teams, she was switching sports. Though she did play softball at Akron, Piper was on scholarship with the basketball team and spent extensive time on the hardwood.

“Going from playing basketball year-round for years to stopping and completely switching was definitely another switch in my head that had to come on and a different mentality,” Piper said. “Playing both sports really helped me become the athlete and player today when it comes to softball.”

The changes didn’t seem to hinder Piper. She earned a starting spot before the season, beating out freshman shortstop Amy Balich, and exceeded expectations at the plate. Before the season, OSU coach Kelly Schoenly said Piper proved she could handle the job defensively, but was waiting to see what she could add offensively. Obviously, she’s more than proven herself at the plate.

Senior pitcher Lena Springer said she knew immediately Piper was going to add a lot to the Buckeye offense.

“I actually thought that the first day of practice, when she first stepped foot on the field,” Springer said. “I remember I was throwing batting practice for her one day and I was like, ‘Woah, this kid’s got a bat.’”

Despite the immediate success, Piper knows she must keep working, or she will lose her spot as quickly as she got it.

“Every single day, every game you’re fighting for a spot on the field,” Piper said. “That’s what kind of pushes me, that nothing is guaranteed. So, coming out there it’s working every single day to be out on the field and earning the right to be on the field. That’s the mentality I had.”

Piper will look to continue her hot hitting at the Central Florida Tournament, where the Buckeyes will face Georgia, Central Florida, Delaware State and Mercer.

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