By Jon Moffett
Brian Campbell figured it would take his Youngstown State softball team a little bit of time to get reacquainted with the city after having spent most of the past two months in the southern part of the country.
After all, the Penguins were used to playing the warm, sun-drenched fields of North Carolina and Florida. A trip back home to Youngstown — where the temperature has been in the teens in the mornings and slightly better in the afternoons — was almost like a culture shock.
That’s why Campbell isn’t really all that worried about the Penguins recent slump. Since they returned home, the Penguins have dropped their first three games — all Horizon League contests —against Loyola. But, Campbell said, it isn’t the end of the world.
“With the young ladies, there is that a little bit of that,” Campbell said of the readjustment. “When you come back from the warm weather, you have to stretch a little bit more when you play in the cold. And your field is either hard as a rock, or maybe a little wet. So the ball can either come at you a little bit faster, or slower depending on the field conditions.”
The Penguins (15-10, 0-3 Horizon League) have a little bit of time to rebound. They’ll play host Dayton in a doubleheader Thursday before running head-first into the heart of their conference schedule. And that’s where the games really count.
“The biggest part is the conference is a very good conference,” Campbell said. “Not taking anything away from the other teams, but if we go in and play as a team we’ll compete. And there are some good teams.”
Added freshman pitcher Casey Crozier, “I think everyone was pretty confident going into conference play. I think we’re still all levelheaded.”
Crozier has become the ace of a Penguins staff that lost a lot of innings in the circle from last year’s team. The right-hander is 9-6 with a 2.94 ERA. She’s already pitched 951/3 innings and has held batters to a .251 average.
Interestingly enough, Crozier grew up in Valparaiso, Ind., home of Valpraiso University — one of the Penguins’ biggest rivals in the Horizon League.
“When you can lure a young lady right out of the backyard of one of your opponents, that’s a big win for us,” Campbell said jokingly — kind of.
But Campbell said he has been impress with Crozier’s ability to transition to the game at the next level.
“Casey is just a great young lady first and foremost. And what she brings to the table is that she keeps us in ballgames,” he said. “She’s been able to come up with some really big outs to get us out of an inning. And for a freshman coming in and playing in her first college experience, I think she’s done a great job.”
Offensively, the Penguins have a more familiar face doing most of the damage: junior outfielder Jordan Ingalls. Ingalls leads the team with a healthy .456 batting average. Her six doubles, four triples and 28 RBIs also lead the team. She’s tied for second with three home runs, behind classmate Haley Thomas, who has four.
And Ingalls’ play on the field, and attitude off it, have made her invaluable.
“Jordan this year has just done a tremendous job and has single-handedly won some ballgames for us,” Campbell said. “She always comes through with a big-time hit. And it’s like having an extra coach out on the field. She helps teach some of the younger girls the game at the college level.”
Though the team has just three seniors, the veteran leadership is working. One of those seniors, second baseman Kristina Rendle, said the team has the right mental makeup.
“I’m definitely excited to see the way that the rest of the season is going to play out,” she said. “I’m really happy with the attitudes.”