COLUMBUS, Ohio – A 35-win season and Big Ten Tournament finals appearance has earned the Ohio State softball team an at-large bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes were one of 32 teams to secure an at-large selection when the 64-team field was announced live on ESPN2 Sunday night.
Ohio State (35-16) is headed to the Knoxville Regional where it is the No. 2 seed and will face No. 3 seed USC Upstate (44-11) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. live on ESPN3. The other two teams in the regional are No. 1 seeded and host Tennessee (44-10) and fourth-seeded Big South champion Longwood (28-27). The Vols and Lancers face each other on Friday at 7 p.m.
This will mark Ohio State’s ninth NCAA Tournament appearance and second in a row. For Kelly Kovach Schoenly, it will be her fourth as a head coach – she took Miami to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2012 as well as the Buckeyes in 2016.
“We’re thrilled to be headed back to the NCAA Tournament,” said head coach Kovach Schoenly. “We tested this team against a very difficult schedule and they’ve always found a way to rise to the occasion. It’s gratifying to be able to continue our season, especially for the seniors and leaders who have pushed us the entire year.”
The Buckeyes earned their at-large bid of the strength of a regular season that saw them win 13 games against RPI Top 100 teams and finish 15-8 overall in Big Ten play, good for a third-place finish. At this past weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State knocked off Wisconsin and Michigan State in making its first championship game appearance since 2007. Other highlights of the 2017 campaign include:
• The Buckeyes played 18 games against teams that earned a spot in the 2017 tournament.
• Ohio State was ranked or receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Collegiate Softball Top 25 poll for every week during the regular season.
• The Buckeyes were 18-7 against a non-conference schedule that featured 11 games against teams from Power 5 conferences.
• Ohio State’s non-conference RPI was ranked No. 24 nationally, third highest in the Big Ten, and included 11 games against programs that were in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
• The Buckeyes compiled 12 true road win and a total of 25 victories at either road or neutral sites.
• Ohio State played its first 25 games away from home, going 18-7 in that stretch.
• The Buckeyes’ 35 wins to this point in the season are the most since 2010.
Statistically, the Scarlet and Gray are led by sophomore Lilli Piper, who is batting .424 this year with 17 home runs, 51 RBI, 46 runs scored and a .785 slugging percentage. The first team All-Big Ten selection was a member of the Big Ten’s All-Tournament Team after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning of Saturday’s semifinal versus Michigan State. Classmate Emily Clark was also an all-tournament selection and is hitting .338 this year with nine home runs, 44 RBI, and 29 runs scored.
In the circle, the Buckeyes boasted the Big Ten’s best overall ERA in 2017 at 2.46. Senior Shelby Hursh leads the way at 15-5 with a 2.33 ERA over 129.0 innings and 115 strikeouts. All four pitchers who have seen at least 60 innings of action have an ERA of under 2.80.
KNOXVILLE REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, May 19
Game 1: Ohio State vs. USC Upstate | 4:30 p.m. | ESPN3/WatchESPN
Game 2: Tennessee vs. Longwood | 7 p.m. | ESPN2
Saturday, May 20
Game 3: G1 Winner vs. G2 Winner | 12 p.m.
Game 4: G1 Loser vs. G2 Loser | 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: G3 Loser vs. G4 Winner | 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 21
Game 6: G3 Winner vs. G5 Winner | 12 p.m.
Game 7: G6 Winner vs. G6 Loser (If necessary) | 2:30 p.m.