By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Maybe it is a small world after all.
When Youngstown State freshman catcher Kristen McDonnell was playing summer league softball in Keizer, Ore., she caught and also played against pitcher Lorilyn Wilson.
Friday when the YSU softball team makes its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament, McDonnell will again face Wilson, the starting pitcher for the University of Michigan (40-13).
Make that the defending national champion Michigan.
"I know the pitcher from Michigan because she is from Oregon," McDonnell said.
Played against top pitcher
Five players on the YSU (22-25) roster are from the same area of Oregon and several competed in the same high school league as Wilson.
"Five of us have played with her," McDonnell said. "We do know her. Going into this game we have nothing to lose."
McDonnell knows the Penguins will carry the support of Buckeye Nation when YSU meets Wilson and the Wolverines.
"I've actually caught for her," McDonnell said. "I've hit off her. She was in our own high school league, too. I've played with her in summer league."
The Penguins earned the automatic berth in the NCAA tournament when they captured the Horizon League title Saturday.
McDonnell hit .385 in the Horizon tournament and on the year has 10 homers and a team-best 31 RBIs.
Seek Tressel's help
"This is going to be a great experience for the kids," YSU coach Christy Cameron said. "I think we're going to get on the phone with coach Tressel and get some words on Michigan."
Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is 4-1 lifetime against the Wolverines.
Four teams will play in a double-elimination regional tournament at Ann Arbor with one advancing to the national final 16. Kent State takes on Oklahoma in the first game of the Michigan regional.
One of the Penguins who is quite familiar with an Ohio-Michigan rivalry is freshman second-baseman Allyse Ledford, a graduate of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's.
"I'm ready to go; I'm ready to play tomorrow," Ledford said.
"I'm very excited to go and play there. We're going to take whatever they got to bring us. We'll bring it right back."
Ledford was named the Horizon League tournament's outstanding defensive player after the Penguins played four error-free games.
She hit .556 in the tournament and was perfect on 25 defensive chances.
Dropped three to Flashes
YSU lost three times to Kent this year and Ledford wants another crack at the Flashes.
"It'd be nice to see them beat Oklahoma and then us match-up right after we beat, um, Michigan," Ledford said.
She paused briefly as she absorbed the daunting challenge facing the Penguins.
Junior Karlie Burnell (16-8) pitched all but two outs in the four YSU wins of the Horizon tournament. She seemed ready to face the Wolverines.
"We're more prepared now; we have it under our belts now -- the underdog thing," Burnell said.
"So whatever happens, happens. We're excited to go. We're excited to be there."
Burnell, a native of Brampton, Ontario, anticipates several family members and friends to come to the regional.
Another Canadian native is Penguin shortstop Tiffany Patteson who hit the championship-clinching home run in the Horizon title game.
"It's an awesome feeling to know you can play someone of that caliber," Patteson said of facing Michigan.
"Our team is right up there with them. The underdog role is perfect. They don't know who we are."