I might be a little biased, but I think I have the best sports beat for The Lantern, Ohio State’s student news outlet. I am the softball beat reporter this season, and it has been so much fun to cover this team! The Buckeyes (13-3) are off to their best 16-game start since 2018.
I’ve talked to a lot of the girls on the team, and the overall theme I’m getting from them is that this year’s team is different. They have gelled together tremendously and get along with one another really well. This type of camaraderie may have been missing in the past, and could be the key to their success this year.
The Buckeyes scored big time in the transfer portal during the offseason, receiving graduate left-handed pitcher Lexie Handley and senior outfielder Jaycee Ruberti. The 24-year-old Handley has quickly become the ace of the pitching staff, and being a southpaw is certainly not something you see everyday, which is an added benefit.
Handley has a 1.81 ERA in 61 innings pitched, amounting to a 6-2 record on the season. She is simply dominant in the circle, racking up 73 strikeouts so far, including multiple double-digit strikeout outings.
Not to count out the other members of the pitching staff, sophomore righties Allison Smith and Emily Ruck have had strong starts to the season as well, posting 1.91 and 1.66 ERAs, respectively. Additionally, Ruck pitched her first collegiate no-hitter on Sunday against UMass in a five-inning mercy rule win. I would expect to see her get some more innings as the season goes on.
Jaycee Ruberti has a team-leading .378 batting average, including reaching base safely in 10 of her 12 at-bats in the four games this past weekend. Another senior outfielder who is leading the way for the Buckeyes is Meggie Otte. She has a .273 average and team-leading 18 RBIs with a .542 slugging percentage, and is an absolute star in centerfield.
One last senior I want to mention is corner infielder Niki Carver. She hit three home runs in the four-game weekend stretch, and currently has 21 home runs for her career — the most on the active roster.
While there are some veterans that have performed really well to start the season, there are a couple of freshmen to be highlighted as well. Kami Kortokrax, a Columbus native, has started every single game at shortstop, and has done quite well. She has a .911 fielding percentage and a .235 batting average— pretty dang good for a freshman! Outside of her stardom on the field, she has also amassed a large following on TikTok (@kamikortokrax), where she has 55.7K followers and over 3.4 million likes!
Another first-year worth mentioning is Melina Wilkison. Usually the designated hitter, Wilkison has had an extremely hot start offensively. She has a .300 batting average and has been very reliable to put the ball in play, with only five strikeouts in 40 at-bats.
All of these Buckeyes and more are being led by head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. She is in her 10th season coaching Ohio State, and has a 280-172-1 record during her time with the program. Her winning percentage entering the season, .612, is the best of any coach in program history.
All of these statistics are truly impressive, and shows what a talented roster this team has. Personally, I think the best thing about this team is how much fun they’re having. While only a few games having been live-streamed so far, between watching those and talking with the players, they are genuinely excited to go out on the field and play with each other every day, and that could make all the difference this season.
The Buckeyes are currently on their spring break road-trip in Florida. They play against UCF Tuesday at 6 p.m., and it will be live-streamed on ESPN+. I encourage you to tune in!