YSU’s Campbell wins 500th game
By Brian Dzenis
If nobody told Youngstown State softball coach Brian Campbell he was nearing a milestone, Tuesday’s doubleheader with Northern Kentucky would have been a regular split.
His players took it upon themselves to get their coach his 500th career victory and they got it in Game 1 in a 2-1 walk-off victory. They dropped the second game by the same score.
For a coach players admire for being even-keeled, his reward between the games was humble. The team gave him a card and a few bottles of his guilty pleasure — Mountain Dew.
“I’m excited for 500, but going out there and seeing the excitement in the young ladies and their eyes when I got out there, that’s fulfilling enough,” Campbell said. “It’s exciting and they know they’ve achieved something, too.”
In his 10th season, Campbell is the program’s winningest coach at 215 victories with the Penguins, putting his overall record at 500-402-2. The Penguins have won at least 30 games three times in the last four seasons with last year marking the first time the Penguins have won 30 in back-to-back years. In the last five years, the Penguins have advanced to the Horizon League Championship game twice.
Campbell’s previous stop was at Tiffin, where he compiled a 285-129-1 record as he helped transition the Dragons from NAIA to Division. His answer to what got him this far is simple: the players.
“When I look back at the last 18 years, I remember the young ladies that had the opportunity to play something that they love in college while they get their education,” Campbell said. “I’m excited for 500, but I have to keep going and watch these ladies continue to get their degrees.”
Campbell got No. 500 on two Norse errors in the seventh. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Cali Mikovich reached base on error, then NKU starter Taylor Ginther plunked Lexi Zappitelli. Maddi Lusk followed up with a grounder straight toward second base. The ball was bobbled by Norse shortstop Toree Stalter, freeing up Mikovich to score from second.
“It’s huge. It was such an honor to play and win that game for him,” Zappitelli said. “We’re all pretty happy and excited.”
YSU (14-19, 5-6 Horizon League) took the lead on Lusk’s RBI double in the first inning. NKU (17-12, 4-3) equalized with Alina Maher’s RBI single in the fourth. Paige Geanangel got the win by giving up just the lone run on eight hits and a walk. She struck out five.
In Game 2, Elle Buffenbarger came in for Lusk after the starter struggled through her first five batters. Lusk served up a two-run home run to Norse third baseman Sydney Ferrante and then walked the next two batters she faced. When Lusk fell behind Hailey Whitmer 3-0, Campbell made the pitching change.
Buffenbarger inherited two runners on base with just one out, but handled the situation well. She walked Whitmer before retiring the next two batters — one by popping out and the other by strikeout.
Buffenbarger pitched shutout ball the rest of the way giving up four hits and a walk while striking out six. Mikovich hit a solo home run on the first pitch of the sixth inning, but YSU got no closer.
The Penguins and Norse are scheduled to complete a three-game series at 3 p.m. today.