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Softball: Ohio State looks to build on early 5-game win streak in Big Ten/ACC challenge

Ohio State junior Lilli Piper rounds third base with the intent to score against Wright State on Sep. 24. Credit: Gretchen Rudolph | For The Lantern

The Ohio State softball team enters the Big Ten/ACC challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina, this weekend after winning five games at the FAU “First Pitch” Classic. The Buckeyes (5-0) will face North Carolina State (3-2) Friday and Saturday afternoon, then will square off against Louisville (4-1) Saturday morning and Sunday.

“We’re going to take the 5-0 win and kind of build confidence and know that we can do what we did last weekend over and over and over, but there’s obviously things that we want to get better at consistently,” senior outfielder Bailee Sturgeon said.

Just about everything went right for the Buckeyes in their weekend series. They outscored their opponents by a combined score of 37-8. Despite the dominant showing, head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly is focused on continual improvement, working on first-step quickness to be able to cover more ground and get better reads off the ball.

“We’re focusing more on small details right now because we have the big picture. We just need to perfect the small little things,” freshman corner infielder Niki Carver said.

Carver was named Big Ten co-Freshman of the Week after starting all five of her first games as a Buckeye. She hit .444 this weekend and drove in seven runs while scoring five times.

Though she is only a freshman, Carver said she looks to continue to contribute this season while she tries to carve out a starting role on the team in her first year.

“If it’s four hits, five hits, then it’s that or if I’m not hitting so well … make up for it on defense and just find a way to be better and a way to help out the team as much as I can,” Carver said.

Ohio State played the Cardinals in last season’s Big Ten/ACC tournament, losing 9-0 before winning 4-3.

Kovach Schoenly noted Louisville lost its top pitcher from last year, Maryssa Becker, whom the coach said was also its top hitter.

Kovach Schoenly said Louisville freshman pitcher Danielle Watson will be a player to watch this weekend. Watson, who Kovach Schoenly recruited, has 15.2 innings pitched in four appearances, including two starts, with a 0.89 ERA and only eight hits allowed. She has struck out 12 batters and walked eight.

“She throws a nice rise ball that can fool a lot of people,” Kovach Schoenly said. “Luckily we have a lot of those players on our team so we’ve seen that pitch quite a bit from our own roster in practice so that’s nice.”

The team expects a rainy tournament in Raleigh, but the players are hoping that doesn’t throw them off.

“Our team is a big weather group and it’s just an adversity that we’re just going to have to get over,” Sturgeon said. “We just have to keep in mind that that’s something we can’t control.”

Rain or shine, the Buckeyes are continuing to work hard on every detail to keep the fire that they started last weekend burning.

“We’re going to keep thriving off those victories, but I also think that there was a lot of things we learned that we need to work on so we’re just going to continue to approach each week like it’s a new week,” Sturgeon said.

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