It's early, but losses still hurt
When the Youngstown State baseball team opened the season with seven straight losses nobody was really concerned. Well, almost nobody.
The Penguins had maybe one or two days outside for practice before they went south to play teams that had been playing games for a couple of weeks.
Still, YSU coach Mike Florak was disappointed in his team's start to the season.
The reason, according to Florak, is that the Penguins were in every game and leading in most. Of those first seven games, six were decided by two runs or less.
"We should have won most of those games and that's what was disappointing," Florak said.
Florak has broken down the season into two-week increments.
Bad, then better;Will see what happens
"We were pretty bad the first two weeks, but we got better the next two weeks," he said. "Now we will see what happens in these next two weeks because we have some tough games, including the start of the Horizon League season."
The Penguins are a veteran ball club with six position starters returning and a pitching staff that returns six regular performers.
Going into last weekend's Horizon League opener at Butler, the Penguins had won six of their last nine games. They dropped a 12-4 contest to the Bulldogs in the snow, sleet and hail Saturday to fall to 6-11 overall.
Last Thursday, in the team's home opener at Cene Park, the Penguins put on a tremendous offensive display against a bad West Liberty team.
The Penguins performed the way they should have against the Hilltoppers by pounding out 21 hits, including eight for extra bases, posting an 18-1 victory.
Visit to Toledo next,then Ohio University
Penguins are scheduled to visit Toledo Tuesday and Ohio University Wednesday, then finish up the two-week period against Horizon League opponent UIC, also on the road.
YSU will then travel to Akron and Duquesne returning home for a five-game stand against league rivals Wright State and Cleveland State.
The Penguins will play all of their non-conference games at Cene Park in Struthers, while all of the Horizon League games will be played at Eastwood Field in Niles.
YSU is fortunate to have two outstanding facilities to play their home game. Cene Park was in immaculate condition Thursday for the home opener.
Florak says that there are still plenty of things that the Penguins need to work on before they get to where he feels they need to be.
"We are hitting the ball better right now, but there are still things that we need to improve on with offense. We definitely need to improve on our base running."
"Our pitchers need to be throwing more strikes than they have been," he added.
Against West Liberty, the seven pitchers who saw action walked only two batters in nine innings and struck out eight, while the defense committed just a single error, although it did lead to West Liberty's only run of the game.
Softball season getsoff to very slow start
The YSU softball team has also struggled early this season, posting a 1-8 record, but again the Penguins went 0-6 right out of the box playing against teams that had been playing games for a while.
Coach Kristy Cameron also has a veteran team, especially her pitching staff.
The Penguins, whose only victory was an 11-1 win over Robert Morris, will play at Toledo Wednesday before getting into Horizon League play.
YSU is scheduled to open league play at home on Saturday with a doubleheader against Wright State at 1 p.m. at McCune Park in Canfield. The two teams also play a single game Sunday beginning at noon.
The Penguins will also host the Horizon League tournament beginning May 11 at McCune Park and Cameron hopes to have her team in peak performance by the time those games roll around.
Gary Williams, who is an assistant coach with the Penguins and is the president of the Canfield Baseball Club that operates McCune Park, has put in countless hours over the past two or three years to get the Penguins softball field in one of the top-conditioned fields in the conference.
Pete Mollica covers YSU athletics for The Vindicator. Write to him at email@example.com.