For the second straight season, the Youngstown State University softball team ended February with a winning record.
The Penguins (5-2) began at the Spartan Invitational at the University of South Carolina Upstate on Feb. 17 and went 2-1 with wins over the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Howard University.
They then went to the North Carolina A&T Softball Invitational from Feb. 24 to Feb. 26. The Penguins dropped the first game to Utah Valley University, but ripped off three straight wins to end the series, outscoring their opponents 34-13.
Leading the charge is senior outfielder Jordan Ingalls. Ingalls ranks second in the Horizon League with a .480 batting average, third in RBIs (10) and tied sixth in hits (12).
As a whole, the Penguin offense is first in the conference with a .344 batting average, tied fourth in home runs (three), second in RBIs (42), second in runs scored (55) and fifth in hits (65).
Head coach Brian Campbell said he is pleased with the offensive charge.
“When you score as many runs as we have in the five wins, it takes the pressure off the pitching,” Campbell said. “It’s nice to see them clicking.”
As far as pitching goes, sophomore Casey Crozier is the team’s ace. Crozier ranks seventh in the HL with a 2.86 ERA, 10th in strikeouts (13) and tied sixth in wins (two).
Between Crozier, freshman Kayla Haslett, junior Hana Somogyi and freshman Paige Miller, the Penguins’ pitching staff ranks fourth in the conference with a 3.70 ERA and sixth with 25 strikeouts.
Campbell said more runs are expected because of the youth.
“We wanted the two freshmen to get into the ballgames,” Campbell said. “When you’re giving all four of them an opportunity to throw, you’re trying to see which ones to mix in, which ones go together.”
Crozier won the HL Softball Player of the Week award for the week of Feb. 13-19, along with junior catcher/third baseman Vicky Rumph.
Campbell says Rumph is learning from last year’s weaknesses.
“She’s stepped up big in a few games for us this year already,” Campbell said. “She has really controlled the pitching staff with the two younger kids and the two older kids. It’s been a little bit easier to put a little more on her shoulders.”
Rumph and Ingalls are the only two players who have played and started all seven games. Rumph has a .364 batting average with eight hits, .591 slugging percentage, .519 on-base percentage and seven RBIs.
Last season, the Penguins ended February with a 6-3 record and a four-game winning streak.
Last year, the Penguins outscored their opponents 43-24 through February. This season, the Penguins are outscoring their opponents 55-33 through seven games.
Campbell said the biggest difference from last year to this year is practicing in the Watson and Tressel Training Site.
“It gives us a realistic look,” Campbell said. “The WATTS gives us an opportunity to put a whole field together.”
In the two losses, the Penguins were shut out both times (4-0 and 8-0).
“It was just tough luck as far as hits,” Campbell said. “We did hit the ball well in both [games].”
After a week off from action, the Penguins practice for the upcoming Rebel Spring Games, beginning with Manhattan College and Bucknell University on Sunday. The Penguins will play 10 games in six days.
“It’s an opportunity to get down and play 10 games in a week,” Campbell said. “It really gives us the opportunity to get into the flow with each other. It really shows who we are as a team.”