There might be snow on the ground in Columbus, but the Ohio State softball team is headed South for their first game and tournament of the season at the LSU Tiger Classic. This will mark the 44th season for the Buckeye softball team, and it'll start with four games in the first 36 hours.
The Buckeyes will face Pacific in their first contest of the weekend, taking the field at 10:30 a.m. Friday, followed by a matchup with their host, the LSU Tigers at 6:00 p.m. Saturday's lineup includes Connecticut at 10:30 a.m., and North Florida at 1:00 p.m.
Last season, Ohio State opened the year winning nine of their first 10 games, including four in a row at the season-opening Charleston Southern Tournament; they are looking to make a similar run in 2016. Their first test should be a good confidence-booster, as they face Pacific, a team coming off a 19-36 season. Their top returning pitcher, Marissa Young, went 8-5 last season, with a 4.10 ERA, 41 Ks and six CG.
The team will face a much tougher challenge in the evening of Day 1 when they face their host, the LSU Tigers. The Tigers went 52-14, 15-9 in the SEC, and return their top pitcher Carley Hoover, who went 18-7 in 2015 on 169.9 IP, with an 1.78 ERA, and 174 Ks.
Day 2 will afford the same type of schedule, with 18-35 Connecticut in the morning and 31-28 North Florida in the afternoon. The Huskies have a much more seasoned pitcher than North Florida, with Chelsea Eckert having 127.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 70 Ks, and 10 CGs in 2015. Janet Snipe for North Florida has only 27.2 IP, 3.80 ERA, and 13 Ks.
If you want to catch the Buckeyes in their first tournament of the 2016 season, you can watch the second game of Day 1 - against LSU - live on the SEC Network and streamed on WatchESPN. Updates to all other games can be found via Gametracker and Twitter (@OhioState_SB).
Led by head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly, the team is coming off their third straight 30-win season, having gone 30-22 in 2015, and setting single-season highs for team batting average, runs scored, extra base hits, home runs and stolen bases. Other feats include nine Buckeyes earning Academic All-Big Ten honors and four players having double-digit home runs.
2016 will see five pitchers on roster with two incoming freshman and a sophomore transfer; these newbies will join veterans Lena Springer and Shelby Hursh on the mound. The Buckeyes also return many of the team's starters and offensive weapons, including Anna Kirk, Taylor White, and Alex Bayne.
Seniors Maddy McIntyre and Erika Leonard, will be leading the offensive charge, having combined for 110 RBI, 29 home runs, 82 runs scored and a .789 slugging percentage in their time at Ohio State. Senior catcher and outfielder Cammi Prantl, has amassed 163 games played for the Buckeyes, has never batted lower than .329 while also bringing in at least 30 runs in three seasons.