By Jordan Boitnott
Youngstown State University is playing their best baseball this season. After a tough 1-6 start, the Penguins have boasted a 17-11 record and haven’t lost a series since they were swept by Wright State University mid-March.
Dan Bertolini, YSU baseball head coach, said the series was a turning point in the season offensively.
“We hadn’t been outside much before playing, so I think [we’re] kind of working some kinks out those first couple weekends. I thought it was good we found ways to win early, then lately the difference was really after the Wright State series,” he said. “At Wright State we kind of really made a change in what we’re doing — the way we were practicing — and the guys have really responded that way.”
The team scored a season-high 18 runs on Sunday at Northern Kentucky University. Senior catcher Nick Caruso went four-for-four at the plate with a homer, six RBIs and scored three runs. According to YSU Sports, Caruso was also named the Nike Horizon League player of the week.
Caruso believes the offense hasn’t reached its peak potential yet.
“We really focus on those changes, whether it was a 2-strike approach or not swinging 3-0, making sure you get your pitch to hit. Everyone really bought into that, and ever since our offense has been taking off,” he said. “We’re hitting above .280 as a team now, and we don’t even think we’ve reached our peak. We’ve played a lot of good baseball.”
The team has four series left — all against Horizon League opponents. In upcoming weeks, it plays two of the three teams ranked ahead of it in the league standings: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Illinois at Chicago.
Phillip Glasser, junior infielder, talked about how important the upcoming series are.
“Obviously, every game is meaningful, especially knowing that they are only taking four teams from the Horizon League this year to the tournament,” he said. “We can’t really think about it too much and put too much pressure on ourselves, but we know what’s at stake. We’ll be ready to go every single day, every single game. At the end of the season, I’m sure we will be in the top four.”
As of right now, the team sits right on the cut-off line at fourth place in the Horizon League.
Caruso detailed some workouts the team does to keep things competitive in practice.
“We have a thing called ‘the catching olympics’ that we do in the off-season, and we’ll have our for catchers compete, and we’ll go do anything like throwing into a target, blocking, pop-ups anything like that. It always goes into a point system we compete for about a week. We have something called ‘competitive wage,’” he said. “We just constantly, constantly throw live, and we constantly have inter-squad scrimmage. It’s just really trying to compete in any way possible to give us the most game-like experience.”
The Penguins will have a four-game series at home this weekend against Oakland. The series will begin with a doubleheader at 2 p.m. Friday, followed by a game Saturday scheduled to start at 1 p.m. The series finale will be Sunday at 1 p.m. all at Eastwood Field in Niles.