By Christina Sainovich
Baseball season is still a few months away, but the Youngstown State University baseball team is not taking any days off.
Over the last two weeks, the team has played in two exhibition games. It fell to the University of Pittsburgh 17-2 and then played two sets of six innings against Mercyhurst University.
The Penguins are returning most of last season’s starters that posted a 13-41 record.
Lucas Nasonti, junior outfielder, started in 50 games for the Penguins. In those games, he hit .245 with eight doubles, a triple and a home run.
Nasonti will bring experience and leadership to the team this season, and he said they still have a lot to work on after playing in the two exhibition games.
“I feel good; like I said, it’s good to be home, but we have a lot and good thing the season isn’t tomorrow,” Nasonti said.
The team is still a long way from the first pitch, and coach Dan Bertolini said they have plenty to work on in that time.
“I think there is a lot we can work on and continue to get better every single day. … There was some guys that stepped up and had some good series,” Bertolini said. “There’s some definite things that we have put in the work to try to continue to get better every day.”
A bright spot for the team is that a few players are returning after missing last season due to injury.
Bertolini said he was happy to see those players back out on the diamond.
Collin Floyd, redshirt senior and left-handed pitcher, missed the entire 2019 season and received medical redshirt status.
He finished out the 2018 season with Second Team All-Horizon League honors and will look to be the team’s ace.
Cam Murray, senior outfielder, missed 16 straight games at the start of the 2019 season after being hit in the face with a pitch, resulting in a broken face and hand.
When he returned, he started 21 games as the team’s designated hitter. Murray said he was very excited to get back out on the field with his teammates.
“It was great being back at ‘the Wood’,” Murray said. “We always have fun there, and it’s nice to just be comfortable in your home place and getting back there, you just feel good about it.”
Bertolini said there are some players who are now healthy.
“We had a bunch of guys that were injured last year, and it was great to see Collin Floyd be able to come out and throw a little bit at our intrasquad and in the game against Mercyhurst,” he said. “Nick Caruso was back on the field and Joel Hake, so that was exciting to get those guys back out on the field.”
The team also has a large number of newcomers, including 11 freshmen and four transfer athletes.
Of those freshmen, Bertolini said one has particularly stood out to him.
“I think Turner Grau has had a really good fall. He had a couple hits in both games: one against Pitt and one against Mercyhurst,” Bertolini said.
Nasonti said he thinks they have a good mix of players this season.
“I think we have a lot of young guys with a lot of athleticism and some returners, and we have a good group,” Nasonti said.
YSU will open its season on Feb. 14 for a series against the University of Houston. The team will not return home to Eastwood Field until March 10 when it hosts Bowling Green State University.