Senior shortstop Lilli Piper and senior second baseman Emily Clark have shared quite a bit as two-year roommates at Ohio State.
They shared a short stretch of dirt on the diamond at Buckeye Field playing next to each other on the infield for three seasons.
They share a spot on the 2019 All-Big Ten first team.
Even with their Buckeye tenure complete as of Saturday, the pair will move on to share a place on the Cleveland Comets after being selected back-to-back in April’s National Pro Fastpitch draft.
The best friends, whose relationship has been integral in propelling Ohio State softball to record-setting highs, have no problem sharing: They’ve been doing it for years.
Piper and Clark hit it off immediately upon meeting at age 15 on a summer softball team in Ohio called Lady Lasers Blue. The pair have come a long way since then, though Clark said Piper’s demeanor is no indication.
“I don’t think she’s changed much,” Clark said. “Even when we were little, people were scared to pitch to her and everything, and it’s still like that today.”
It wasn’t just Piper opposing pitchers feared.
Clark was a three-time first-team All-Ohio selection in her decorated high school career, and her and Piper’s 16 and under travel team featured three more future Ohio State teammates: sophomore catcher Claire Nicholson, junior outfielder Andi Farrah and sophomore outfielder Summer Constable.
That team captured the 2014 ASA/USA National Championship.
By that point, Ohio State head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly had already been recruiting these players for years.
“From 12 and under [Piper] was a kid you just looked out on the field and she had such a presence and there’s an amazing athleticism that just oozed out of her,” Schoenly said. “You look out there like, ‘Woah, this kid’s special.’”
Piper, however, had other plans.
When Clark committed to Schoenly and Ohio State, Piper went to Akron initially to pursue a basketball career, though she ultimately played softball for the Zips as well.
Clark was already making waves for the Buckeyes with a .324 freshman batting average, while Piper struggled to stand out on the hardwood, putting up just 3.2 points and 2 rebounds a game.
After years of being a two-sport athlete, Piper said she realized picking one would allow her to jump up into a power five conference.
“It was something that people had always told me when I was growing up that I was better at [softball,]” Piper said. “It was kind of that whole like, I’m hard-headed, I wanted to learn myself. That’s kind of what happened. I learned that I was much better at softball.”
Clark, who said Piper is everything to her, kept contact with her former teammate throughout their freshman year of college, and saw an opportunity to reunite once she found out Piper was transferring.
“All the coaching staff and I talked about it and I said, ‘You’d be dumb not to get her,’” Clark said.
Their first season together yielded explosive results for the Buckeyes. Piper led the team with a .421 batting average and 18 home runs, while Clark had a .333 average with 45 RBIs. The pair both made first-team All-Big Ten.
The following year was even more successful, as Piper set the school’s single-season home run record with 20 on her way to a second straight All-American season. Ohio State’s 36 wins were the most since 2010.
“You have the Dwayne Haskins and you have those guys for each sport that can carry the load of being the face of your program,” Schoenly said. “I think Lilli is someone that can handle that and has never shrunk from it.”
Clark said Piper’s confidence and attitude brought an edge to the team that helped lift the program and herself as a player.
Clark and Schoenly have led Ohio State to four consecutive NCAA Tournament bids for the first time in program history, with Piper contributing to the past three.
Schoenly said it was no coincidence that this group of seniors were the ones to reach that historical achievement for the Buckeyes.
Another trait that Clark said she and Piper share is the aptitude to perform under pressure, which was something they would need to do as underdogs in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I feel Like Lill and I know that our team counts on us a lot, and so does our coaching staff,” Clark said. “I feel like we both like that role. I want to be the one that’s picked in the pressure moments and I know so does Lilli. It doesn’t really put pressure on us. I think it’s more excitement and we know that we want to do and we can do it.”
While they weren’t able to advance, Piper ended her season and college career with a 13-game hitting streak, while Clark upped her stellar .383 season batting average to .556 in the three tournament games.
Both Piper and Clark finished their collegiate careers amid the top 10 all-time Buckeyes in home runs and RBIs.
After a three-year run as Ohio State’s most prolific one-two punch, it was only fitting that the duo be drafted directly after one another, with Piper going No. 15 and Clark going No. 16 in the NPF Draft on April 18, both to the Cleveland Comets.
Despite her superlative individual accomplishments, Piper said having the chance to extend her softball career post-college alongside her long-time teammate and friend is what she is most proud of.
While they may not have to share a room at Ohio State much longer, it is safe to say the pair will not be apart for long.
“We’re inseparable,” Piper said. “Those things you go through, you wouldn’t want to go through with anybody else but them. To go through all this stuff with my best friend by my side is amazing.”