By Marc Weems
The Youngstown State University softball team (14-19, 4-2 Horizon League) had a rough start to the year. It began the year, losing its first nine games and began 2-13 overall. It has now won nine out of its last 11 games.
That win streak was led by two freshmen, utility infielder Tatum Christy and pitcher Maddi Lusk, who have performed phenomenally.
Lusk posted a 4-1 record during the week and posted a 0.66 earned run average. During that week, she threw two complete games and struck out 21 batters. She also threw 32 innings in her five starts. Lusk won Horizon League Pitcher of the Week.
“It felt good, and it was a great honor,” Lusk said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates playing defense and hitting really well. It was great honestly.”
Lusk also said it is nice to be able to produce on offense so that it takes some weight off her shoulders.
That weight off her shoulders was helped by teammate Christy who had a blazing-hot week.
She went 8-of-11 including her first career home run and triple along with seven runs batted in. She had a 1.182 slugging percentage during that stretch.
“Basically it was the first chance that I’ve gotten this year,” Christy said. “So it was nice to get a chance. It is cool to have my teammates there the whole season. They’ve been there to just encourage me when times are rough. We just had a good week overall as a team.”
This was the first time in YSU history that two freshmen won player and pitcher of the week in the same week since it has been a part of the Horizon League.
“It was nice. I felt like all the hard work paid off finally,” Christy said. “All the time that we put in paid off. As a team I think that we hit well. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the series [at Valparaiso University] but as a team, we were really seeing the ball well.”
Christy has started the last five games for the Penguins at shortstop and has played in just 14 games this season.
“Just putting the ball in play is important and putting pressure on the defense is huge,” Lusk said. “It helps when people can put pressure on the other team. It helps me being a hitter and a pitcher because I can identify pitches much better, whether it’s a screwball, fastball or off-speed pitch. It is really helpful for my game.”
Lusk said that YSU head coach Brian Campbell has worked with both her and Christy to improve their confidence as well as their performance.
Lusk also said this whole thing has been cool since they actually are roommates on campus.
“Maddi and I are not only teammates, but we are friends and roommates,” Christy said. “It was definitely cool, but we couldn’t have done it without our teammates. The upperclassmen gave us encouragement both on and off the field.”
Christy said that the team talks so much in the dugout which helps everyone succeed quite a lot and happens to be what keeps them so close.
“As a pitcher, I watch the first couple batters to see what their tendencies are,” Lusk said. “Once I can catch on, either as a hitter and pitcher, it’s easy to try and get the right pitch once you figure out a pitcher. That works the same as a batter. My goal is to get people to pop-up or groundout. My variety of pitches allows me to get those results more often.”
YSU comes home to take on the University of Illinois in Chicago on April 8 and 9.