Ohio State’s Lilli Piper steps into the batter’s box against Michigan State in the Big 10 Softball tournament semi-final game. The sophomore from Norton Ohio, just southwest of Akron, falls behind in the count. As the Spartan pitcher serves up what she hopes is the final strike Lilli steps up into the pitch and puts it out of the park over the left-center field fence for a two-run homer and a big Ohio State lead.
“You can’t catch Lilli with the changeup, ” smiles the Buckeyes hitting coach Jenna Hall. “You just can’t.”
This was just one of the many highlights of the young shortstop’s career thus far as a Buckeye earning her third team All-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). Lilli is the 12th Buckeye in the softball program’s history to earn the prestigious honor.
I’m so excited for Lilli to be recognized for her phenomenal year,” said head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly. “Her stats were clearly worthy, but what I loved about Lilli this year was that she brought passion, energy and a love for the game that was contagious to our team. This is a fitting honor for a consistent, relentless competitor.”
Lilli emerged this season as one of the most dangerous hitters in the Big Ten. In 48 regular season games, she was third in the league in batting (.420) with 49 RBI, 44 runs scored, 16 home runs and a .784 slugging percentage. While stats from conference tournament and regional games are not included in the All-American voting, she continued her torrid pace in the postseason, hitting .438 with a pair of two-run home runs – including one in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and another in the NCAA Tournament – to go along with a .813 slugging percentage. Her overall numbers included a .421 average, 18 home runs, 53 RBI, 47 runs scored, .787 slugging percentage and .436 on-base percentage.
A transfer from Akron where she played both basketball and softball for the Zips, Lilli set a program record for home runs by a newcomer and was just one shy of tying the single-season mark of 19 set by Sam Marder (2009) and Alex Bayne (2016). She had a team-high 24 multi-hit games and 15 multi-RBI games. Against RPI Top-75 teams (21 regular season games), she hit .429 with 23 RBI, eight home runs and 17 runs scored. Among the highlights was a career-high six RBI effort against Central Florida and a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning to clinch a series win at Illinois.
In 23 Big Ten games, Lilli batted .430 and slugged a conference-best 10 home runs while driving in 22 runs and scoring 24 times. Her overall numbers ranked among the top 10 in seven different offensive categories as she was a unanimous first team all-conference selection and first team all-region choice. In Ohio State’s record book, her .421 average is fourth-best in a single season, 53 RBI rank fifth and 75 hits and 18 home runs are tied for second most.
With Lilli’s help, Ohio State went 35-18, 15-8 in the Big Ten and earned its second consecutive at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 35 overall wins and 15 in the Big Ten were both the most since 2010. After finishing third in the conference standings during the regular season, Ohio State advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the first time in 10 years. Lilli was one of nine All-America choices from Big Ten programs, the third most of any conference.
Lilli is the daughter of Gary and Ronda Piper and her Aunt Kay Piper was a two-sport athlete (softball and volleyball) at Akron from 1982-85.