The Ohio State softball team is looking to bounce back after a three-game winless weekend at No. 2 Michigan. This week, the No. 23-ranked Buckeyes (25-11-1, 9-4-1) continue their 2016 campaign with a doubleheader at Ohio before making a weekend return to Buckeye Field for a three-game series with Purdue.
OSU currently sits fourth in the Big Ten with three weekends left in the regular season, but coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly remains relaxed as her team heads toward the postseason.
“The Big Ten conference is a dogfight,” Schoenly said. “Every game comes down to a few key moments, and we have put ourselves in a good position for the homestretch.”
Ohio at a glance
The Bobcats (25-16) are currently fifth in the Mid-American Conference’s East division and are coming off a losing weekend at Akron. Ohio, however, is still holding onto a winning record, an impressive feat after only winning 15 out of 47 games in 2015.
On the mound, Ohio relies on the duo of redshirt junior Savannah Jo Dorsey and sophomore Danielle Stiene. Dorsey is boasting an 18-9 record with a team-low 1.82 ERA, while Steine, a transfer from Hillsdale College, is 7-7 with a 2.52 ERA. The pitching staff has combined for 356 strikeouts, compared to its opponents’ 187.
Redshirt sophomore Taylor Saxton provides simple, clutch hitting for the Bobcats. The leadoff hitter is batting .406, and only one of her 52 season hits has been for extra bases. Third baseman Mikayla Cooper has nine home runs, and the sophomore’s batting average has climbed from .258 in 2015 to her current .359.
OSU and Ohio have matched up every year since 2012, with the Bobcats going 1-7 against the Buckeyes. With a relatively young squad of two seniors and 11 underclassmen, the odds, historically, might be against Ohio, but it will still be a battle for the Buckeyes.
After playing Butler on Wednesday, Purdue will pay a visit to Columbus in a conference contest with the Buckeyes. This season, the Boilermakers (24-20, 6-8) have been using a flexible lineup, as only three players have appeared in all 44 games.
Last season, OSU and Purdue did not face off, but in 2014, Purdue came out on top with a 2-1 series victory.
At the plate, only two players are hitting above .300, one being junior Kristen Hoppman. The middle infielder is leading off with a .322 average and 14 extra-base hits.
The circle is dominated by senior Lilly Fecho, who has seen action in 170 innings this season. By comparison, OSU junior Shelby Hursh has only pitched in 108. The two will likely face off in at least one of this weekend’s matchups.
Fecho, a left-hander, comes into this series with a 1.97 ERA and a 16-9 record. The other three pitchers, freshman Maddie Damon, sophomore Gina Snyder and junior Katie Johnson, have only started 19 games and have a combined 5.13 ERA, which might put the Boilermakers in some hot water if the Buckeyes can take advantage of this opportunity.
The Buckeyes’ bats last weekend against Michigan were rather quiet. OSU only scored four runs over three games and struck out 25 times. Even the team’s stars this season, like redshirt junior Alex Bayne and senior Maddy McIntyre, struggled to provide big hits for the team.
Still, Schoenly expressed her satisfaction with players who stepped up against the Wolverines. She mentioned the impressive mentality of Hursh as what drove the team, along with the role sophomore Becca Gavin is taking for the first time this season. Gavin slid to the catcher position while senior Cammi Prantl spent some time in left field.
“This weekend gave Gavin substantial time behind the plate, and she has become more comfortable in her new role,” Schoenly said.
Sophomore Taylor White and freshman Emily Clark also continue to frustrate pitchers with their power. And, for the first time this season, Clark was moved into the cleanup position, where she hit .500.
“We saw the emergence of Emily Clark and Taylor White in high-pressure moments, and they rose to the occasion,” Schoenly said, while also expressing confidence that the rest of the roster will join in and do the same.
After their home series against Purdue, the Buckeyes don’t see action again until April 29 when they are scheduled to travel to Indiana for the penultimate Big Ten series of the season. The first of the three-game series against the Hoosiers is set to get underway at 6 p.m.