The Ohio State softball team is confident new training methods and a complete team effort will lead to success when it kicks off its season Friday.
After finishing last year with a 34-22 overall record, the team is eager to see if a productive offseason will help produce winning results in a schedule that includes some daunting opponents.
The team is scheduled to play nine games against teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the NFCA/USA Today Preseason Top 25 poll.
In her second year as coach, Kelly Kovach Schoenly said she knows what to expect more this season now that she is more familiar with the personnel.
“I think I know their strengths better and we were able to kind of change the training to try to get their weaknesses stronger, but build up what they’re good at,” Schoenly said.
Redshirt-senior pitcher Melanie Nichols said changing training regimens has helped the team during the offseason.
“We switched our workout plan and as a pitching staff we did resistance work, that made us stronger,” Nichols said.
Junior outfielder Caitlin Conrad said the team is not just working on strength, but also mental aspects of the game as well.
“We’ve learned about breathing methods to help calm yourself down because it’s a rush sometimes,” Conrad said. “All of that will build into the teamwork and the team’s success this year.”
Schoenly, Conrad and Nichols all stressed the importance of OSU taking on the difficult schedule as a team.
“It’s all about the team this year. We’ve been really focusing on everybody being one instead of individual goals,” Conrad said. “We trust each other that we’re putting the work in and the effort so that when we come back, we can give 100 percent and not lose a step.”
Schoenly said it is important for players to not only trust their teammates, but also themselves.
“We don’t expect just one person to lead. They all have a voice, the whole team,” Schoenly said. “We empower them to all have a voice at any given moment so it’s not just two people talking at them.”
Nichols said she is anxious to begin her final season, which wraps up a career that already has her ranked sixth in school history with 269 strikeouts and tied for seventh with 39 wins.
“My goals are just to get better and go out with a bang my senior year and do what I can to help my teammates and my younger pitchers,” Nichols said. “With all the seniors, I think it could definitely be a good year ‘cause we have so many upperclassmen.”
Among those upperclassmen is senior catcher Melissa Rennie.
“Rennie has been playing really well behind the plate. A lot of it is with her training and how seriously she took it,” Schoenly said. “Very strong and very confident, she’s a senior now so she wants to put it all out there for her last year.”
OSU is also returning junior pitcher Alex DiDomenico, who led the team in ERA, strikeouts and wins in 2013.
Joining Conrad in the outfield is junior Taylor Watkins, who earned Second Team NFCA All-Midwest last year. Schoenly said the outfield is looking especially impressive moving into the season.
“Their arms are phenomenal, as a group you won’t find another outfield like this,” Schoenly said. “I cannot believe I have them all on one team.”
OSU is looking to warm up its bats at two tournaments in Florida and one tournament in Las Vegas in the month of February.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to begin play a doubleheader in Boca Raton, Fla., Friday against Tulsa and St. John’s, as part of the FAU Kick-off Classic.