By Dan Hiner
It’s that time of year again, when snow and ice blanket the campus and students look for any sign that spring is on the way. There is a glimmer of hope: America’s pastime made its annual return to Youngstown State University.
The YSU baseball team will start its season on Feb. 13 on the road against Jacksonville State University. The team will start on the road until the middle of March.
“We’re going down to Alabama [and] North Carolina,” senior pitcher Ryan Krokos said. “We tell them to stay focused. There’s going to be good teams we’re facing. They’re no different than us, so we have to go out there and always compete.”
The Penguins are looking to build on their Horizon League Championship season from last year. The team is proud of their success last season, but knows that success in the upcoming season will require continued work.
“I think it was pretty big,” senior Kevin Hix said. “It gives us a little more momentum heading into this year. Recruiting-wise we got more interest, so players coming in know what we can do and what we are expecting from them. They are going to be ready to go and try to get some more wins and try to get a repeat.”
With an influx of new transfer players and incoming freshmen, the veteran players have taken it upon themselves to help the young roster develop.
“Usually whenever we are done practicing we try to show them everything we were taught last year — we try to implement that with them,” Hix said. “The coaches are telling them to do all that, and we try to make sure what the Youngstown State baseball way is for preparation and everything that we do.”
Head coach Steve Gillispie said that the team needs to learn from their poor start last season. The baseball team had a 12-36 record before the Horizon League Tournament.
“The biggest expectation is that we play more consistently throughout the year — that we know better how to compete on a day-to-day basis,” Gillispie said. “I don’t think you go into it thinking saying ‘I expect to win another championship.’ There’s a lot that needs to happen for us to be successful or have a successful season outside of the postseason.”
Gillispie has high expectations for the sophomores on the roster. Some of them competed as freshmen last season and the coaching staff looks to see improvement from the young team.
“Lorenzo Arcuri has shown that he has made the jump from a freshman to a sophomore,” he said. “Alex Larivee had a very good freshman year. He’s kind of a guy we could go to — he was an all-conference selection a year ago. Kevin Yarabinec and Jeremy Quinlan are two sophomore pitchers that throw really significant innings at the end of last year. That right there are four sophomores that should be the mainstays for a couple of years for us.”
Krokos echoed Gillispie’s optimism for the upcoming season — citing the player’s work ethic as the key to success this season.
“I think we are going to be really successful,” Krokos said. “We got a lot of guys who play hard on the field and if we keep playing hard we will see a lot of success. We are heading in the right direction.”