By Jordan Boitnott
Youngstown State University baseball announced three new transfers will be joining the team this season. The transfers are relief pitchers Alex Cardona, Conner Johnson and Andrew Russell.
Dan Bertolini, YSU baseball head coach, said the team needed to add pitching this offseason.
“We knew this was going to be a strange year, just with COVID. With the roster being basically intact from a year ago, we knew our recruiting class was going to be a little bit smaller,” he said. “We needed some depth. We needed some quality arms.”
Alex Cardona, an athletic junior and general studies major, transferred from Mercyhurst Northeast Junior College after playing there for two years. Cardona is also from the area; he played baseball at Boardman High School.
Bertolini said Cardona is a great player with a bright future.
“Alex is a great kid. He’s a good student. He has a really good breaking ball and a chance to really help our bullpen,” Bertolini said.
Cardona said playing for YSU is a big step up from being at a junior college.
“The coaching staff, the staff in general, athletic trainers and everyone around makes sure you’re up on your stuff and doing what’s best for your body,” he said. “[Everybody’s] pretty upbeat and doing something different everyday. It’s different in every aspect, like a whole nother step.”
Conner Johnson, a junior business major, transferred from Utah’s Salt Lake Community College. According to Bertolini, Johnson could also make a strong impact in the team’s bullpen.
“He had a great career at Salt Lake being a back end reliever, until COVID kind of ended the season. He’s done really well for us this fall to be a potential late innings reliever for us,” he said.
Andrew Russell, a sophomore information technology major, transferred from Ohio University. Russell is a designated hitter along with being a pitcher from nearby Champion, Ohio where he played on a state championship team.
Russell said once he arrived at YSU, he felt more comfortable and like he’s where he should be.
“I think I’ve definitely made a little bit better of a connection with the coaches and the players for sure. I feel like I’m really home. Even though home is only 15 minutes away, it feels like my home,” he said.
Despite the concerns with Russell’s eligibility due to how late he transferred, Bertolini said he could play a big role in the team’s future.
“He is a two-way player for us. He can pitch at a high level. Probably a starter for us at some point down the line,” he said.
Due to COVID-19, last year’s seniors were able to return and there are now two freshman classes. Cardona said all the extra bodies have created more competition than normal among the team.
“It’s 100 percent a more competitive environment. Coming off the field, and even in the weight room, guys are always trying to one-up each other to stand out and secure a spot.”
Bertolini said he plans to use all three players off the bat if able.
“Having good depth is extremely important. I do think all three of those guys, with Andrew being the exception, we will see what happens with his eligibility for this year but the rest, those other two guys, we recruited them to come in and help us right away,” he said.
The new transfers have been practicing daily this semester in order to get acclimated to the team and their new environment.