By Madeline Hippeard
Over the course of its 2024 season, the Youngstown State University softball team will compete in 56 games, including four five-game tournaments and 20 home games at the YSU Softball Complex.
The ‘Guins will begin their season on the road Feb. 9 through 11 in Boiling Springs, North Carolina in a five-game tournament hosted by Gardner-Webb University.
After that, the Penguins will travel south to participate in tournaments hosted by Presbyterian College from Feb. 16 to 18, East Carolina University from March 1 to 3 and Norfolk State University on March 8 and 9.
The team’s home opener is set for March 12 against Akron University, followed by the team’s Horizon League opener March 15 and 16, with a three-game home series against University of Detroit Mercy.
The Penguins finished their 2023 season with an appearance in the Horizon League Softball Championship tournament. Youngstown State fought elimination three times in the tournament before losing to Oakland University in the semifinals.
Graduate student Sara Fessler said the Penguins’ experience in last year’s Horizon League Championship made her excited for another shot at the championship this season.
“Conference play is going to be insane, especially because — in tournament play, we were in the loser’s bracket. Basically, we made the loser’s bracket our bracket as Youngstown State, and people were worried to play us. So, I think this year, being that team in the tournament is going to make us that much more scarier and intimidating come conference play,” Fessler said.
To prepare for the season, the ‘Guins hosted a short fall ball season Sept. 15 to Oct. 13, 2023.
During the fall ball season, the team practiced two days a week and played a game each Friday to get a feel for game-like environments before the full spring season started.
Throughout the fall season, the Penguins focused heavily on the defensive side before heading indoors to focus on hitting during the winter.
With the work the ‘Guins put into preparing for the 2024 season, head coach Brian Campbell noticed improvements in the team’s speed and power.
“This year we have a lot more speed. We’ve been able to do a lot more stealing, base running and different things, taking extra bases and those things. It’s something we’ve concentrated on, and we’ve also sprinkled in some power from some of our players too. It’s a good mixture this year. It’s one of the first years I think we’ve had a good mixture as far as power and speed,” Campbell said.
Campbell also noticed the uptick of energy the incoming freshman have sparked within the team.
“They’re coming away from high school ball, a lot of the freshmen,” Campbell said. “I always love it because just the energy they bring, it helps our upperclassmen to just adjust and have fun.”
To view the full roster and schedule for the softball team this season, visit ysusports.com.