In case you haven’t been watching Ohio State softball (may I ask why?), let me fill you in. They’re 23-7, 4-2 in the Big Ten, and have a top-10 win against Kentucky and two top-25 wins against USF. While the entire team has been contributing and playing well, there is one person in the circle who has been leading the way this season, and that would be graduate lefty Lexie Handley.
Handley has been completely and utterly dominant this season. She has a 13-3 record with a 1.56 ERA in 117 innings pitched. She’s only given up seven home runs while striking out 147. Out of the 14 games she has started, she has completed 13 of them.
Her stats alone are extremely impressive. However, from watching her all season long, I have discovered what a gritty and gutsy player she is. When the Buckeyes played Indiana a couple of weeks ago, the temperature was in the upper 20s/low 30s for the entirety of the game. However, Handley stuck it out and pitched a complete game, only giving up two runs for the win.
Additionally, that weekend she pitched two complete games out of the three played in the series, then pitched against Kentucky, one of the country’s best offenses, that following Tuesday. She didn’t just pitch well — she shut them out. Clearly, Handley shines in big moments and isn’t afraid to shoulder a lot of innings.
I know how good Handley is and now you do, too. Therefore, it got me thinking— is she the best pitcher in Ohio State softball history? Now, this is definitely not an easy thing to declare. She is in her sixth year, spending her freshman year at Akron before transferring to Auburn for her past four years. Therefore, this will be her only season as a Buckeye, unfortunately.
I think the more fair question to ask would be, “Is this the best season a Buckeye pitcher has ever had?” Taking a look at the record book, let’s start in 2009. Kim Reeder was a third team All-American. She broke the school record for single-season wins with 26 in 2009. Right now, Handley has exactly half of that with 23 games remaining, including the Big Ten Tournament, but excluding the NCAA Tournament.
Handley will most likely pitch between 1/3 and 1/2 of those 23 games and any postseason games. As a result, it is definitely in the realm of possibility that she can tie or possibly break Reeder’s win total.
During Reeder’s career year in 2009, she pitched 215 strikeouts in 199 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Comparing Handley to both Reeder and a different pitcher, second team All-American Wendy Allen in 2002, Allen struck out 143 batters while limiting the opposing team’s offense to a .187 batting average. Right now, Handley has already surpassed Allen’s strikeout total and opponents are only hitting .168 against her. However, Handley is well on her way to passing Reeder’s strikeout total and innings pitched, too.
Reeder and Allen are the only two All-American pitchers in Ohio State history. However, there are plenty of pitchers to compare Handley to around the nation this season. Ohio State is fourth in the conference in team ERA, with 2.27. The top team in the Big Ten is Michigan State, who the Buckeyes bested this past weekend, winning the series 2-1. Handley won both games she pitched.
The southpaw is currently ranked No. 23 in the country in strikeouts among all NCAA Division 1 softball pitchers. She also is in the top-25 of innings pitched. It truly is remarkable how much of a workhorse Handley is, and how well she does with the amount of games she pitches.
I strongly encourage you to watch any Ohio State softball game, but especially one that Handley is pitching. She gets so fired up with her teammates and hypes up her catcher whenever she gets a strikeout. However, whenever interviewed, the humble Handley will always credit her team for the success they all experience. She's very easy to root for.