By Richie Juliano
The Youngstown State University baseball team opens its season in Alabama, taking on the Troy University Trojans for a four-game series starting Feb. 19. The team will then face Nicholls State University, followed by Louisiana State University.
YSU plays LSU Feb. 26 and 27. The Penguins are led by fifth-year head coach Dan Bertolini.
“We’re really trying to focus on Troy. That’s the first one. Sometimes you don’t want to look past it. It’s definitely exciting, I know the fans are excited locally. It’s nice that we get to play some other teams before we get into conference play,” Bertolini said.
The Penguins have an experienced roster this upcoming season, with 12 seniors and 12 juniors. Potential standouts are seniors and left-handed pitchers Colin Clark and Collin Floyd.
Jeff Wehler, senior general studies major, has three years’ experience as a starter with YSU and feels confident the seniors can handle themselves in the early stages of the season. He switches between infield and outfield.
“A lot of veteran guys on the team know what we’re capable of, know how to handle themselves going down south and playing this early in the year,” Wehler said.
Wehler finished last season with a team-high 56 at-bats. Known for his speed, Wehler led the Horizon League with eight stolen bases.
Clark pitched a team-high 26.2 innings a year ago while leading the Horizon League with 26 strikeouts. Floyd returned after only getting four starts on the bump for the Penguins in 2020. Floyd finished second in the Horizon League in strikeouts with 25 strikeouts while only walking five batters in 23 innings pitched.
The Penguins’ record last year was 7-7, the best 14-game stretch to open the season for YSU since 2010. Although last year was a good open to the season, Bertolini doesn’t want his team to become complacent.
“We have to be focused everyday. We really put a premium on trying to win today. We appreciate being here together today, and we will try and get better tomorrow,” Bertolini said.
The Penguins’ last game was March 10, 2020. Bertolini said his team is ready to get back out on the diamond.
“I know our guys are itching to get out there and play against some other teams because we have been going against each other for so long, but we really have to focus on getting better everyday,” Bertolini said.
Fans can listen to the first games against Troy and LSU on YSNLIVE.com for the audio broadcast. The first pitch of the season is at 7 p.m. Feb. 19. Fans can also check out ysusports.com for live stats and the recap.