By Marc Weems
Fall is a time for the Youngstown State University softball team to get better and work on what it needs to in preparation for the spring slate in a few months. For YSU, it is about improving in any way each and every day.
“The upperclassmen are great teachers for the younger girls,” YSU Head Coach Brian Campbell said. “Some of them have been here for four years. They do a great job of teaching the freshmen. They show them what to look for and what to do in certain situations. We do certain things for the kids but the upperclassmen teach the other kids very well. They are an extension of the coaching staff.”
This year, the Penguins have seven freshmen with nine new players overall. For Campbell, it is a delicate balance of playing time between the new girls and the experienced players.
“You try your best to balance playing time and evaluate the nine new players,” Campbell said. “You want balance as much as possible. You want to get underclassmen some reps as well as the upperclassmen. You have to try to get them to do everything you can. The upperclassmen are so good for this team.”
Campbell said that the upperclassmen are best at slowing the game down as the speed increases with the jump from high school to college.
Five of the seven freshmen are from within an hour and a half of campus while all seven are from Ohio or Pennsylvania. For this team, recruiting locally is nothing new.
“I’ve always said that I always want to recruit local first and foremost,” he said. “We’ve had some great ladies that played locally come to play with us. I also go by what is the best fit for my team. Being able to go out and bring some other young ladies that fit our system is important.”
With just three seniors on the team, the Penguins will rely quite a bit on underclassmen for continued success.
This team is loaded with great young talent and will need them to succeed as the program has in the last five seasons. The fall schedule is a great way to get every girl comfortable playing with each other in different positions.
“There are a few young girls that have played very well,” Campbell said. “Coming off of summer ball, those girls are actually much more ready to go than the other girls. The upperclassmen are off for three months while they rest their bodies. The freshmen are always ahead of the upperclassmen and that’s just how that goes.”
The fall is much different than any other time for the softball team. It is the only time they see the dirt until the spring away games they start with.
“It does make a difference,” Campbell said about the difference of teaching from fall and winter to spring. “We don’t spend a long time with hitting in the fall. When you come to college, everything is different. Pitching is faster, hitting is tougher. Even the returners struggle with hitting because of the time off.”
Campbell said that the biggest focus of the fall is pitching and defense as it always is.
“In the fall, we worry about the defense and pitching more than anything,” Campbell said. “I think they’ve come a long way. The defense has held strong. When we hit winter, that is when we hit more and pay more attention to that.”
YSU has one last fall game against the University of Akron on Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. at home.