The No. 18 Ohio State softball team will travel across the border to the Hoosier state to take on Indiana in a three-game series this weekend.
The first game on Friday marks the beginning of Big Ten play for Ohio State, something the Buckeyes are feeling good about after an 11-game, nine-day stretch in California.
“Obviously we’re coming off a good few weeks of playing and we feel really confident in ourselves right now,” redshirt senior infielder Maddie Marotti said.
After playing different teams from around the country, Ohio State will get a chance to play more familiar teams in conference play, beginning with Indiana.
“There’s a lot of rivalries between the teams,” head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said. “We know a lot of their players, they know our players … there’s a lot of pride involved in the conference play.”
This is especially true for freshman third baseman Taylor Stevens, who is from Hebron, Indiana, and played travel softball with Indiana freshman outfielder Makayla Ferrari for about three years. Even though the two are friends, the rivalry runs deep.
“She’s my friend, but I’m going to beat her,” Stevens said.
The Buckeyes, who currently have a 19-4 record, will head into the three games against Indiana, a team sitting at 7-21 with some knowledge about their opponent.
The Hoosiers have a few players who stand out, and their pitching staff has kept them in games, Kovach Schoenly said.
“They strike more people out than innings pitched which is a high-level strikeout pitching staff,” Kovach Schoenly said.
Kovach Schoenly said Indiana junior pitcher Tara Trainer will be one to watch for. Though she is 3-11 this season, her 3.80 ERA indicates she has been more the victim of poor run support than poor pitching.
“Even though her record isn’t very strong… she strikes a lot of people out, so you have to make sure that when you get good pitches, you’ve got to make contact and drive the ball,” Kovach Schoenly said.
Though the pitching staff could give Ohio State trouble, making contact and driving the ball hasn’t been a problem for these Buckeyes with the team already having 29 home runs this season.
The Hoosier pitchers might be something to keep an eye out for this weekend, but Kovach Schoenly also had high praise for Ohio State junior pitcher Morgan Ray.
Kovach Schoenly said Ray has made major improvements within the last few years and according to Ray, it wasn’t a physical change.
“A lot of times people just focus on the physical stuff and that’s what I’ve done my whole career, I think, and so I’m focusing a lot more on the mental stuff,” Ray said.
Ray and the rest of the team will try to shut down what Kovach Schoenly described as a fast Indiana team that will run a lot in the three games. So far this season, Indiana has stolen 46 bases in 64 attempts and averages 1.64 steals per game, the 38th-most in the country.
The series kicks off in Bloomington, Indiana, with two games on Friday and finishes off with a final game on Sunday.