By Dylan Lux
The Youngstown State University softball team opened this season in Norfolk, Virgina, where the Penguins took on Norfolk State University. The team had four matchups against the Spartans and were victorious in one.
The Penguins had a .257 batting average and 13 runs in the four-game stretch to rival the Spartans’ .282 average and 21 runs.
Brian Campbell, head coach of YSU’s softball team, said the biggest change for the team in the offseason was five starters graduating. Campbell said those players excelled as team leaders.
“The big change is, they did a good job teaching the younger players that were here last year, to be able to come in and know what to expect,” Campbell said.
Campbell said this year’s upperclassmen are taking on the leadership mantle this season.
“Our upperclassmen this year have done a tremendous job with our younger kids. Teaching them what we’re looking for, teaching them the aspect of the game,” Campbell said. “The college game is a lot faster.”
YSU also added former pitcher and YSU record-holder for career wins and career strikeouts, Elle Buffenbarger, to the coaching staff in the offseason.
Campbell said Buffenbarger was a good fit for the coaching position, and impacts the team positively.
“Elle stood out when we did the interview process. She’s come in and done a tremendous job with our pitchers the last couple years,” Campbell said. “This gives us an opportunity for a pitching coach to be with them all the time, be able to work with them, and set the standard.”
Sophie Howell, a junior pitcher for the Penguins, said Buffenbarger brings valuable experience to share with the players.
“[Buffenbarger]’s very successful here, set many records, and having her knowledge and knowing the impact that she had here, and knowing how she’s played here the past five years is definitely helpful,” Howell said. “She’s very encouraging, makes you feel the best even when you’re not having the best day.”
The team plays The Ohio State University April 18. Junior outfielder Hailey Neiderkohr said she’s excited to play a Big Ten opponent.
“I have a couple of past teammates that went to Ohio State, so just being able to see them again, and play against them … I’m very excited to play them this year, because we’ve never really had the opportunity to before,” Neiderkohr said.
Campbell said that one of the challenges for the team early on this season will be switching from indoor to outdoor fields.
“It’s just getting out of the beautiful W.A.T.T.S. that we have and on dirt is the most important,” Campbell said. “We play the first 21 games on the road. It’s nothing that’s not normal for us to be able to do. But it’s about putting everything together.”
The Penguins look to improve their 1-3 record Feb. 25, at the UMBC Tournament in Baltimore. They will face both Lafayette University and The University of Maryland Baltimore County in a two-day event. You can find updates on the games at ysusports.com.