YSU softball opens 20-game swing today


YSU softball opens 20-game swing today

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Lexi Zappitelli is trying to build on a breakout 2018 that saw her go from being a reserve to among the nation’s best. Paige Geanangel is trying climb higher in the Youngstown State softball team’s record book.

Together, they’re two of just three seniors on the team and are cornerstone pieces for the Penguins this spring.

“There’s no pressure about it. We’ve done a good job — Paige, myself [and senior outfielder Dani Dadig] — we’ve all been working together to try and make this team one big family,” Zappitelli said. “When you have that close of a bond off the field it transfers on the field and that’s where the success is.”

An injury to Austintown Fitch’s Cali Mikovich last year opened the door for Zappitelli to enter the outfield and the lineup and she started collecting hit after hit. She hit .413 and carried a .490 on-base percentage en route to a first-team All-Horizon League selection. She’s the eighth player in program to hit better than .400.

As far as building on last year, it’s the thought — or lack there of — that counts.

“I try not to overthink things. Usually if I overthink, I overwhelm myself. I did have to sit down and look back and think, ‘OK, I have to fill a bigger role now.’ I need to stay calm through it and usually, it goes pretty smooth.”

Geanangel is coming off a 12-13 campaign with a team-best 3.19 ERA. She sits in the top 10 in YSU’s career wins, shutouts and strikeouts lists. She needs just six more victories to be the fourth pitcher in school history to get to 40 wins, which would put her in fourth place all-time.

“I’m not paying too much attention to it. I know that I depend on my teammates behind me to make plays after [opponents] get their bat on the ball,” Geanangel said. “I know as long as they’re behind me, I’ll have a good season and the team will too.”

Before Geanangel hits the 40-wins mark, she should have another milestone already in hand. She needs just 22 strikeouts to reach 200 for her career. She’s an off-speed pitcher who depends on movement and pitching to weak contact to get by, making her a modern ace for coach Brian Campbell.

“I’m starting to show my age, but 22 years ago when I started coaching, if you had a pitcher who threw really hard, they usually controlled games because of their speed,” Campbell said. “Today’s hitters are more fundamentally sound, so it’s more about the movement on the ball.”

The Penguins take the field for the first time today in Spartanburg, S.C., against East Carolina in the University of South Carolina-Upstate Tournament. The game will be the first of 20 consecutive road games before the team returns to Youngstown on March 20.

“Basically, that’s where you want to work on things,” Zappitelli said. “You don’t want to get the losses, but if you do, you have to fix those mistakes and work on them come conference play.”

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