By Greg Gulas
Paige Geanangel led the Youngstown State softball team in wins (17) and earned run average (4.17) last season as a freshman, yet has come up winless in five overall appearances this spring.
After a 1-0, one-hit shutout of St. Bonaventure on Thursday, she seems to have found her groove.
Freshman Maddi Lusk tossed three-hitter in a 5-0 opening game win and both pitchers combined to limit the Bonnies to just four hits on the day and a doubleheader sweep of their Atlantic 10 opponent.
Geanangel took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and easily retired the first batter, Elizabeth Enovitch on a grounder to second baseman Brittney Moffatt.
Having faced just one batter over the minimum to that point — the only blemish was a walk to Desiree Gonzalez to start the fourth inning — she yielded the only hit of the game to the next batter, Alexandra Piergustavo.
It was a clean single up the middle, but Geanangel got the final two outs of the game on infield grounders to complete the shutout and get her first victory of the season.
“We played excellent defense today, tracked down every ball and that’s a confidence booster to a pitcher when you can count on everybody behind you,” Geanangel said. “I was just trying to keep the ball low and away from the batters with my drop-curve really working today. After the game, that was when I realized that it was the only hit of the game. I wasn’t really focused on that until then.”
As a team, YSU extended its scoreless streak to 20 innings dating to the first inning of Tuesday’s 4-1 victory in the nightcap of their doubleheader against the Akron Zips.
“That’s a great feeling heading into conference play this weekend,” Geanangel said of the streak.
The Penguins managed just four hits in the nightcap, plating the only run of the game in the third inning when Demi Ann Patonis led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hannah Lucas and advanced to third base on an infield single by Moffatt. Patonis scored after Bonnies shortstop Emma Borysevicz failed to come up with Maria Lacatena’s grounder.
As masterful as Geanangel was in the nightcap, Lusk was just as effective in the opener.
She set the tone by allowing just three hits, struck out five and walked one as she improved to 5-7, recorded her third shutout in the last four games and lowered her ERA to 2.58.
She also extended her shutout streak to 13 innings and has allowed just three runs in her last 32 innings of work.
“My drop curve, spotting my screwball inside, working inside-outside and using my change-up every once in a while was what worked best for me today,” Lusk said. “Hitting my spots, being consistent and our excellent play defensively really helped.”
She credited Lacatena with calling an excellent game behind the plate.
“Maria gives me a lot of confidence. She’s always boosting me, knows when to call time out when I’m throwing too many balls and is a ball of energy,” she stated.
The Penguins (8-17) raced to the early 5-0 lead after two innings of play and never looked back.
All five tallies were unearned with the key blows a two-run double by Sarah Dowd and run scoring single by Lusk in the opening frame.
Lacatena said both pitchers were tough to hit because they hit their spots the entire game.
“Maddie’s composure was great today. You just don’t expect that from a freshman,” Lacatena said. “She acts like an upperclassman, doesn’t like losing, enjoys the game and has a lot of fight. That’s exactly what we needed.
“Paige is a good, all-around pitcher. We learned what the batters did against Maddi and just went from there. We needed these two games in order to generate some momentum heading to this weekend’s Horizon League series with Oakland University.”
After starting the season 0-9, YSU has now won three in a row and five of eight, splitting their last 16 games.