Softball sweeps conference opener

Senior infielder Jillian Jakse attempts a hit during the 2022-23 season. Photo by Dylan Lux / The Jambar

By Cameron Niemi / The Jambar

Since the start of the season in early February, the Youngstown State University softball team has played in three tournaments: The Gardner-Webb Tournament, Presbyterian College Tournament and East Carolina Tournament.

The Penguins combined for nine wins and six losses in 15 games over the three tournaments.

The team wrapped up its final road trip of the season as it defeated Norfolk State University and lost two games to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Youngstown State had its home opener March 12 and hosted the University of Akron for a doubleheader at the YSU Softball Complex.

In the first game, the Penguins picked up a 5-3 victory. Despite being tied at three, the ’Guins went on to score two unanswered runs — one in the fifth inning and one in the sixth inning to pick up the first home win of the season.

Akron responded in the second game with a 10-8 win, splitting the series against YSU. The Zips jumped out to an 8-0 lead by the second inning.

The Penguins scored six straight runs as they attempted to comeback from the deficit. The Zips scored two more runs, making the score 10-6. Freshman Autumn Behlke hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but it was too little too late for the ’Guins.

The following day, the team traveled to Kent State University on March 13 for one game. The Golden Flashes defeated the Penguins, 2-1. The game was tied at 1-1 after the first inning. In the sixth inning, Kent State gained the lead as it scored one run and held on for the victory over YSU.

Youngstown State faced off against University of Detroit Mercy on March 16 and 17 at home for a three-game series, which kicked off Horizon League conference play for both teams.

Game one of the doubleheader was taken by the Penguins as they won 11-1, snapping a two game losing streak. Senior Sophie Howell pitched her eighth win of the season.

In game two, YSU won by a final of 10-1. Freshman Lydia Wilkerson brought the Penguins on the board first as she hit her first collegiate home run. Senior Elyssa Imler added to the lead as she hit a grand slam in the fourth inning, marking her second home run of her career.

Youngstown State swept Detroit Mercy on March 17 with another 10-1 victory over the Titans. All three games of the series were called in five innings because of the mercy rule, and the Penguins outscored the Titans, 31-3, in just three games.

Howell pitched her ninth win of the season, and fifth-year senior Conchetta Rinaldi led the team with three hits and three runs batted in. Senior Hailey Niederkohr led the team with four RBIs.

The series sweep against the Titans gave Youngstown State a 3-0 record to start conference play. YSU currently has a 14-10 overall record on the season.

The Penguins were scheduled to host Bowling Green State University in a doubleheader on March 19, but because of weather conditions, the two games have been postponed to Apr. 24.

The Penguins will look to continue their win streak as they will start a five-game road trip in Indiana to take on Purdue University Fort Wayne for a three-game series. Game one is at 3 p.m. on March 22. The doubleheader on March 23 will start at 1 and 3 p.m.