As the 2014 baseball season approaches, the Youngstown State University Penguins are certain they can improve from 2013. Despite a tough first season under head coach Steve Gillispie, they feel they have what it takes to win.
Throughout the offseason, players and coaches have worked hard to develop the team into a winner. Pitching proved to be a problem for the Penguins last year as the club posted a 6.53 ERA. Senior pitcher Patrick O’Brien ranked third in innings pitched with 91, yet ranked ninth in strike outs with 51.
When it comes to this season, Gillispie said he believes that there will be a difference in results when the players take the field.
“We have several pitchers that are new this year from California and warmer weather states, so over break they were able to do more throwing to keep their arm strength. As we go into the first couple weeks, I feel we’ll be more effective as a pitching staff, because we’ll be more prepared,” Gillispie said.
YSU will play nine exhibition games before their season opener in Charlotte, N.C., the first of 20 consecutive road games. Last year, the Penguins posted a 7-24 record on the road and failed to rank number one in any statistical category.
Not only are the Penguins going to be on the road a lot this season, they face some stiff completion. YSU begins the season against Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and travels back to the same destination to square off against Notre Dame on March 1.
Leadership will be an important factor in helping the Penguins win more games this season. YSU has nine returning seniors this year, including senior center fielder Mike Accardi, and veteran players hope leadership can help this team reach the top.
“A lot of us have been here for multiple years and have dealt with the losses in the past. We know what it takes to win and with a lot of new faces this can be exciting,” Accardi said.
There is also a sense of excitement as incoming players breathe new life into the team.
“With 15 new guys this year, we have a whole new dynamic as a team, which is good and can correlate into a different kind of team then we’ve had the past few years,” said outfielder David Saluga.
The Penguins are ready to get this season underway to prove to Youngstown and the rest of the Horizon League they can win ball games.
“Our team will be playing some big games this year. Pitching will be more solid. We should have more consistent hits and scored runs, staying ahead and taking advantage of more opportunities to win games,” said senior pitcher Mike Switka.
For some of the regular winners in the Horizon League, a different YSU team could take the field this year — a team that brings everything it has to the field in order to win.
Gillispie sums up the team’s spirit and leadership with the simple philosophy: be as good as we can be and have no regrets.