By Nathanael Hawthorne
The Youngstown State University softball team put on a clinic in its first game of the season against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore by beating it with a score of 17-2 at the Gardner-Webb AmericINN Lodge and Suites Tournament.
The Penguins currently sit at a 3-2 record. Senior infielder and pitcher Maddi Lusk described the record as the best the Penguins have started in her four years at YSU.
“But we always could improve. It can always be better, but it’s a good start and we can build from here,” she said.
Lusk said the win against Eastern Shore was a confidence builder for the team.
“For [our] first game this season we were able to go out and produce,” she said. “We’ve actually started off really strong offensively, probably the best we’ve started in the past couple years.”
The next two games would bode well for the Penguins. They went on to beat Canisius College 5-1 and Eastern Shore 5-1.
The team dropped the next two games against Gardner-Webb University and Canisius, 3-5 and 10-15, respectively. Penguins coach Brian Campbell said he believes the tournament and a 3-2 record is a good start for the team, specifically for the offense.
“We’ve scored 40 runs for the weekend in five games and a .300 batting average as a team. … When you look at the three areas of the game, the offense, defense and pitching, I think our offense came away really good,” he said.
Lusk led the offensive surge for the Penguins. Currently, she holds a .556 batting average, and she belted two home runs and had a triple and three doubles in the five-game stretch that ran from Feb. 7-9 in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.
Junior infielder Nikki Saibene and junior outfielder Yazmine Romero also helped the team’s cause by posting .615 and .421 batting averages, respectively, and adding 16 hits combined.
On the defensive side of the diamond, the team played solidly and only made a handful of errors.
In the first three games the team won, Lusk, junior Elle Buffenbarger and sophomore Kayla Rutherford combined to give up only 11 hits, eight walks and strike out 23 opposing batters.
“When you have an offensive turn out what they did this past tournament, it’s something that does take some pressure off of the defense and pitching,” Campbell said.
During the offseason, the team spends almost all its time in the Watson and Tressel Training Site. According to Campbell, that lent a hand in how well the offense performed.
He said when the team does have the opportunity to be outdoors, it concentrates on defense and pitching. When the team is indoors, however, hitting takes precedent.
With the momentum of the last tournament, the team is looking forward to the games and the rest of the season. Lusk said throughout the season, the team needs to keep putting runs on the board.
The Penguins head to Hampton, Virginia, on Friday for a five-game series in the 2020 Pirate Classic tournament.