The Ohio State softball team is on a 12-game winning streak, its longest since 2017, as it heads into one of the biggest matchups of the season.
The Buckeyes (18-7) will host rival Michigan (13-11) this weekend at Buckeye Field for a three-game series. The original start was Friday, but due to inclement weather, the series will begin Saturday at 3 p.m. and continue Sunday at 1 p.m. The final game date and time are to be determined.
This weekend is special for some of the soon-to-be-graduating Buckeyes, including senior infielder Mariah Rodriguez, who said this series is personal to her not only because she is a senior, but also since Ohio State has not won a series against the Wolverines during her time with the Buckeyes.
“I want to be a part of history,” Rodriguez said. “I want to do something big, and I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
Head coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly pitched for Michigan from 1992-95 and said playing her alma mater means a lot to her.
From her time as an assistant coach at Penn State, Schoenly said she’s learned that it’s about her players when it comes to rivalry games and especially at Ohio State.
“I want them to have the rivalry to mean something to them because it means something to our school and not really about me,” Schoenly said.
Junior pitcher Emily Ruck said playing against Michigan is different because of the relationship between Schoenly and the Wolverine coaching staff.
“We have a respect for her because that is what got her here,” Ruck said. “We have a respect for them as well because it’s not the violent and brutal rivalry. It’s very humble and strictly competitive.”
Michigan lost two of its aces, pitchers Alex Storako and Meghan Beaubien from last season, but Schoenly said Buckeyes have seen some of the Wolverines’ current pitching already before this season back when they were in travel ball.
“We haven’t played them as Buckeyes or Wolverines yet,” Schoenly said.
Although some Wolverines might be familiar, Schoenly said the Buckeyes are still facing new pitchers, and Ohio State wants to put pressure on the Michigan defense. Schoenly said Michigan’s pitching staff throws many off-speed pitches, so the goal is for the Buckeyes to hit them and cause damage.
“I think that what they’re bringing to the table is their experience,” Schoenly said. “They have a lot of left-handed sticks in the order, and so for our pitchers to be able to hit both sides of the plate and not let them extend too often.”
Michigan has faced a tough slate this season, already facing No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 3 UCLA and No.12 LSU in losses.
Schoenly said with a difficult preseason schedule, the Wolverines gained more experience, but both teams possess strengths that make this weekend a close matchup.
“Nothing we do is going to surprise them,” Schoenly said. “It’s going to be who executes in the game.”
Sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Farley said the Buckeyes are on a roll that has made them more confident from their 12-game winning streak.
“We’ll have that momentum going into the weekend to play them and the excitement of being at home for our first home series against them,” Farley said.
First pitch against the Wolverines takes place Saturday at 3 p.m. and will be streamed on BTN+.
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