CURBSTONE: Bertolini has high expectations for YSU baseball in 2022
BEAVER TOWNSHIP – The YSU baseball team opens its 68th intercollegiate season February 18 when they travel to Bethune-Cookman for a three-game weekend series with the Wildcats.
Head coach, Dan Bertolini, who heads into his sixth season at the helm, is cautiously optimistic that his Penguins’ squad can duplicate its success of a season ago.
Under Bertolini’s guidance, YSU went 32-24 last year, posted its first winning campaign since 2005 – it was 7-7 in 2020 before the pandemic forced cancellation of the season – and the most wins since going 37-17 in 1995.
Bertolini told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting that it has been a process, however, the expectations to win and challenge for the Horizon League championship each year remain the same.
“We went 7-7 in 2020 and I really felt like we were on the right track, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down nationally and we had to look to 2021 to regain our stride,” he said to the group assembled at Avion Banquet Center.
“That could have been our breakout year. Fortunately, a lot of players returned for their fifth and sixth seasons last year.
“Right now, the pieces are in place to sustain that success and we are ready to meet those expectations. Our recruiting has been excellent and we are excited for the ’22 season to get underway.”
Bertolini’s roster features 13 seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores and 12 freshmen.
“The key to our success will be remaining injury-free over the course of the season,” Bertolini added.
“Offensively, we batted .298 as a team and had a great year defensively so we hope to continue that trend. We have some question marks on the mound but the good news is that we are deep and have plenty of good arms, it’s just that we lack the experience we were blessed to have had the past few campaigns.
“We lost three starters in the infield but our entire outfield is back and we are excited about that. Dylan Swarmer, John Ritter of Springfield Local, freshmen Ian Francis of Cardinal Mooney and Jack Johnson comprise our catching corps and they will battle for playing time behind the plate. We must be consistent on the mound.”
Third baseman Blaze Glenn, who led the team in hitting last year with a .360 average has graduated but returning players to keep an eye on include outfielder Dom Bucko (.344, team-leading 10 home runs) and pitcher Jon Snyder (6-2, 2.76 earned run average), each of whom was named to the all-Horizon League team and earned all-region laurels.
Other players expected to have breakout seasons include first baseman Pad O’Shaughnessy (.268, five home runs) of Poland High, center fielder Lucas Nasonti (.253), a fifth-year starter from Champion High, pitcher Lane Rhodes of Salem, a true freshman who Bertolini feels can make the rotation or at the very least become a midweek starter and Braeden O’Shaughnessy (.297), also a Poland High product and Pad’s younger brother who is the top candidate to replace Glenn at the hot corner.
Graduate transfer Austin Earl from Salem (W. VA) University, a left fielder who batted .302 with 15 round trippers last year for the Tigers is expected to make an easy transition to the Penguins’ outfield while pitcher Chad Coles, who is coming off minor knee surgery and Turner Grau, who led the nation in triples (seven) a season ago and had off-season shoulder surgery, are also being counted on by Bertolini.
The 11th annual First Pitch Breakfast, which is expected to attract over 500 fans and gets everyone thinking about the season, features silent auctions, Penguins baseball gear and Major League Baseball memorabilia, will be held February 5 at Waypoint in Canfield.
This year’s event features former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Kendall and former YSU twirler Collin Floyd.
“This is a great event every year, the community support is fantastic and is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Bertolini stated. “Jason Kendall is a great guy who loves baseball and with Collin Floyd, there is no better representative of YSU and our baseball program. Both will do a great job.”
Next Monday, Rebecca Fink, senior associate athletic director-senior woman’s administrator at YSU will serve as guest speaker.