By Christina Sainovich
The Youngstown State University softball team is gearing up for its season opener on Feb. 7.
The Penguins look to bounce back from a disappointing end to the 2019 season, where they lost the first game of the Horizon League Tournament.
After going 25-29 overall last season, coach Brian Campbell and his team have a chip on their shoulder.
Over the weekend, YSU will play five games. On Friday, they take on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Canisius College.
Sophomore Alex DeLeon said the team has high hopes for this weekend and the players are excited to play in their first games as a new team.
“We’ve been looking better than we did last year,” DeLeon said. “We are really starting to come together as a team.”
YSU returns some impact players from 2019 but will rely on a large number of freshmen to win games. The team is working on its chemistry on the field getting ready for this weekend.
“We have a lot of key returners this year, and we have a big group of freshmen. … We are really trying to work together on creating a close bonding together,” DeLeon said.
Sophomore Grace Cea is one of the key returners from last year’s squad. Campbell and her teammates will be looking for a big season from the outfielder.
Cea said she has set some goals for herself on the offensive side of the game.
“I want to just improve on basically just getting my job done every time I get up to the plate,” Cea said. “Especially the position I’m in because I hit more in the middle of the lineup, so my job is to move runners.”
The Penguins are working on team bonding. They have one theme for the season:
“We have this saying: ‘We over me.’… All of us try to be the best team players that we can be,” Cea said.
The team is anxious to finally hit the road for the first time with this year’s players.
“I’m very excited to travel with my team just because it’s the new year, and we brought in a lot of new people. I’m just excited to see how we all travel together,” Cea said.
YSU returned experienced players in the outfield in Grace Cea and Yazmine Romero. On the other hand, there is just one senior who is set to start in the infield: Tatum Christy.
Christy said she has taken up a leadership role and has loved taking the younger players under her wing.
“This year in particular, being the only senior infielder, I’ve had to take up a big role. … I think that the underclassmen are really fun to work with,” Christy said.
Campbell and the upperclassmen have set high expectations for this season and hope to finish stronger than last year.
“Our main goal is to always win the Horizon League, but I think the biggest goal we have this year is to compete overall with every team that we go up against,” Christy said.