By Ryan Jones
Freshman Rochelle Vanyi had a terrific game for YSU against Cleveland State.
CANFIELD — It’s been a trying season for the Youngstown State softball team, but you won’t find sullen expressions on their faces.
Even though the Penguins dropped both games of a doubleheader to Horizon League rival Cleveland State, 5-1, 6-2, they’re not about to give in.
Left-fielder Rochelle Vanyi said the team prides itself on having fun.
“One of the reasons we’re here and playing softball is to have fun,” she said. “It makes it easier to be out there when you’re having good time.”
Of course it doesn’t hurt to swing the bat like Vanyi did — the freshman went 3-for-3 with two solo home runs and a double in the nightcap.
Vanyi led off the bottom of the first with a towering homer to left center field, and her shot to center in the third cut the Vikings’ lead to 3-2.
Vanyi, who tied YSU’s single-game mark with the two homers, said she was just trying to make contact and was surprised that the second ball found its way over the wall.
“I didn’t think it was close to being out,” she said. “I thought it was a flyout to center field.”
Cleveland State (20-9, 8-2) pulled away with a three run fourth inning that increased its lead to 6-2. Danielle Young and Christa Coppus both hit RBI singles for the Vikings, and Amanda Houchin drove in a run when she hit into a fielder’s choice.
Cheryl Chase threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief for the Penguins. She gave up three hits and struck out two. Kristin Bair went 2-for-4 with two singles.
In the opener, Becky Hibner found herself in an unfamiliar position — on the pitcher’s mound. The senior, who’s a regular at first base, made her first career start and third career appearance for the Penguins in the 5-1 loss.
Hibner, who threw a complete game eight-hitter and allowed three earned runs, said she was nervous taking the ball.
“I didn’t want to let my team down,” she said. “It was something different for me, but Coach [Christy Cameron] told me that we were going to try something different to try and give the team a spark. I was happy with how I threw, but there were some pitches that missed their spots. My teammates helped me out a lot because I didn’t strike out many.”
Cameron said she was pleased with Hibner’s performance.
“It was great to see Becky give us a good performance on the mound,” she said. “She absolutely will be starting for us again. She did a great job staying composed — especially during the sixth inning when they had runners on.”
With the score tied 1-1, the Vikings’ bats came alive in the sixth while the Penguins’ defense committed two errors.
Houchin singled to lead off the inning and advanced to second when Coppus reached on a fielding error at first base. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch by Hibner, and Katelyn Ciminelli followed with a two-run single to center that increased the lead to 3-1.
Tara Meyer, who pinch ran for Ciminelli, advanced to third on a single by Natalie DeMatteis and scored on a double steal.
Cameron said her team has lacked consistent defense and pitching most of the season.
“We’ve only been able to practice on our field once,” she said. “It will help us to get out on the dirt on a routine basis. We’ll be able to work on the types of defensive plays that are giving us trouble. We will score runs, but too often we’ve put ourselves in a hole to start games.”
McKenzie Bedra accounted for the Penguins’ offense. She lifted a solo homer to left field in the fourth inning.