Softball Penguins ready to fly south
Opening game is Friday in NC
By Greg Gulas
With back-to-back 30-win campaigns, YSU head softball coach Brian Campbell is hoping that his team picks up right where it left off when the Penguins open their season Friday at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina.
Last year, the Penguins enjoyed a second-place place finish during both the regular season and at the Horizon League tournament.
“I’m tremendously excited about the mixture that we have on our team this year,” Campbell told the Curbstone Coaches on Monday. “We have seven letter-winners returning, three excellent pitchers and more speed to go with our power.
“We’ll look to make things happen with that speed.”
This will mark the fourth consecutive year that the team will open play on the first weekend permitted by the NCAA.
The Penguins finished 31-28 a year ago and 17-7 in the Horizon League, winning their final 12 regular-season conference games.
They cranked 35 home runs, 105 of their 404 hits went for extra bases and their graduating seniors exited with 107 total wins, most in program history over a four-season stretch.
“The team cannot wait to get started,” Campbell said. “I really liked how they returned to campus in the fall and were ready to go.
“An early opener like this weekend at Gardner-Webb gets us back outdoors and adjusted to playing outside once again,” he said. “We’ll then return home and have a two-week break to prepare for our next trip.”
Of the 18 players that dot this year’s roster, six are seniors with four players each representing the junior, sophomore and freshmen classes.
Three local players are seniors Cali Mikovich of Austintown and Stevie Taylor of South Range, each of whom started all 58 games a season ago, and sophomore Miyah Mitchum of Boardman.
The three pitchers, sophomore Maddi Lusk (17-13, 2.75 earned run average, 143 strikeouts), junior Paige Geanangel (5-6, 4.13) and freshmen Elle Buffenbarger all have uniquely different styles, according to Campbell.
“All three pitchers bring a different look when they are in the circle,” Campbell said. “Maddi is more of an inside-outside pitcher, Paige more downward with a nice speed mix while Elle is an up pitcher.
“I was looking for a Division I school, visited YSU and loved the campus, facilities and coaching staff,” Buffenbarger said. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Buffenbarger is from Mason High School and was an all-state pick the past two seasons, earning first-team laurels as a senior and second-team honors her junior year.
Behind the plate will be Mitchum, Carey Smith and Milena Lacatena.
Kelly Thompson-Cappadocio and Liz Birkbeck are the first base hopefuls. Tatum Christy and Nikki Saibene occupy second base. Taylor is the shortstop with Saibene at third base.
The outfield includes Alexis Roach and Dani Dadig in left field, Hannah Lucas and Yazmine Romero in center and Mikovich and Lexi Zappitelli in right.
Campbell is in his 10th year at the helm and with 486 career wins (some with Tiffin University), he is 14 wins shy of a milestone.