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Comeback part of another YSU sweep

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU pitcher Sophie Howell, from Champion, reacts after a strikeout to end the ninth inning in YSU’s 7-6 extra-inning win over Oakland.

YOUNGSTOWN — If opportunity arose to provide Youngstown State’s softball team with a gut check, it was Saturday in the first game of another doubleheader against Oakland.

YSU trailed 4-0 early in game one, with the Golden Grizzlies looking for revenge after being swept Friday evening by the Penguins. YSU got a pair of runs back, then freshman pitcher Sophie Howell (Champion) came in to relieve senior Maddi Lusk in the top of the fourth. Oakland got the two runs back during the inning and led 6-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth.

It appeared, on the surface, that it was going to be a long day for the first-place Penguins. On the contrary. YSU had its character tested and found a way to battle back to force extra innings before earning a walk-off win in the ninth inning, 7-6.

And the Penguins followed that up by routing Oakland, 11-3, in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Howell, who came into a difficult situation against the third-place team in the league, kept Oakland (16-12, 15-9) off the board through the final five innings. The freshman provided her team with a gutsy performance, fanning six hitters and earning her third win of the campaign.

“All I was thinking of was trying to get my team out of that situation and try to do the best I can,” Howell said. “Oakland is a very good team, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy going in there, but I just told myself, just try to hit your corners and try and do the best you can.

“Having Elle (Buffenbarger) and Maddi (Lusk) as two older pitchers is so nice. They’re both so supportive of me, and we always have each other’s backs. It’s nice to know that we all care about each other, and we all want to see each other succeed.”

The Penguins kept chipping away at Oakland’s lead, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Lusk scored on a fielding error before Nikki Saibene knocked a single down the right field line to score Sydney Payne to tie the contest at 6.

An Alex DeLeon single over the infielders in the ninth inning set up Jillian Jakse’s huge moment. On a 2-2 count, the freshman barely missed hitting a home run, with the ball hitting the bottom of the center field fence for a walk-off double.

Jakse found herself being mobbed by her teammates, as a sea of Penguins donning upside down rally hats and leis came out to greet their first basemen with joyous celebration.

“When we were down by so much, we all knew that we had to do our jobs every time we went up to the plate,” Jakse said. “We all know that if there’s a runner on third, we have to get that run in because every run counted in that aspect.

“As a team, we really came together to do what we needed to do to get the win.”

Down 1-0 early in game two, the Penguins put an 11 spot on the board during the bottom of the third. An absolute no-doubter home run halfway up the centerfield bleachers by Saibene plated three runs and was one of the several offensive highlights from the inning.

Following Saturday’s contests, Saibene now carries a 14-game hitting streak, the longest held by a Penguin since Cali Mikovich’s 15-game streak toward the end of the 2016 season.

She’s also currently leading YSU with a .376 batting average, including a .564 average during the month of April.

“We focus a lot on hitting, and just kind of going up there with full confidence,” Saibene said “No matter what your last at bat was, forget it, and we do a really great job with that.”

Their tropical-themed props were just about having fun, in what was one of the biggest weekends of the year for YSU.

“I think it worked, we kind of got Oakland a little bit rattled there, and I think it really helped us.” Saibene said with a laugh.

Jakse, batting .343, had a two-run shot herself during the same inning to left-center, along with RBI knocks by Avery Schumacher, Conchetta Rinaldi (Cardinal Mooney), Lusk and DeLeon.

Buffenbarger recorded her 13th win of the campaign, allowing three runs on seven hits with a pair of punchouts.

The Penguins (27-9, 20-4) remain in first place following the weekend with a two game-lead over Illinois-Chicago. The regular season champ has the privilege of hosting the league tournament in mid-May.

For coach Brian Campbell and his staff, they can feel the excitement surrounding a team that’s just enjoying the sport they love.

“When you’re having fun, you’ll do well,” he said. “That’s just the characters that we have on this team all around, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everything was taken away from them last year, and by that being taken away from them I think it’s come to a realization of how much they love this game.

“For them to come out and just be a joy to be around each other, and us coaches enjoy being around them, it’s just one of those things that’s just fun.”

Comeback part of another YSU sweep

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU pitcher Sophie Howell, from Champion, reacts after a strikeout to end the ninth inning in YSU’s 7-6 extra-inning win over Oakland.

YOUNGSTOWN — If opportunity arose to provide Youngstown State’s softball team with a gut check, it was Saturday in the first game of another doubleheader against Oakland.

YSU trailed 4-0 early in game one, with the Golden Grizzlies looking for revenge after being swept Friday evening by the Penguins. YSU got a pair of runs back, then freshman pitcher Sophie Howell (Champion) came in to relieve senior Maddi Lusk in the top of the fourth. Oakland got the two runs back during the inning and led 6-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth.

It appeared, on the surface, that it was going to be a long day for the first-place Penguins. On the contrary. YSU had its character tested and found a way to battle back to force extra innings before earning a walk-off win in the ninth inning, 7-6.

And the Penguins followed that up by routing Oakland, 11-3, in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader.

Howell, who came into a difficult situation against the third-place team in the league, kept Oakland (16-12, 15-9) off the board through the final five innings. The freshman provided her team with a gutsy performance, fanning six hitters and earning her third win of the campaign.

“All I was thinking of was trying to get my team out of that situation and try to do the best I can,” Howell said. “Oakland is a very good team, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy going in there, but I just told myself, just try to hit your corners and try and do the best you can.

“Having Elle (Buffenbarger) and Maddi (Lusk) as two older pitchers is so nice. They’re both so supportive of me, and we always have each other’s backs. It’s nice to know that we all care about each other, and we all want to see each other succeed.”

The Penguins kept chipping away at Oakland’s lead, and with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Lusk scored on a fielding error before Nikki Saibene knocked a single down the right field line to score Sydney Payne to tie the contest at 6.

An Alex DeLeon single over the infielders in the ninth inning set up Jillian Jakse’s huge moment. On a 2-2 count, the freshman barely missed hitting a home run, with the ball hitting the bottom of the center field fence for a walk-off double.

Jakse found herself being mobbed by her teammates, as a sea of Penguins donning upside down rally hats and leis came out to greet their first basemen with joyous celebration.

“When we were down by so much, we all knew that we had to do our jobs every time we went up to the plate,” Jakse said. “We all know that if there’s a runner on third, we have to get that run in because every run counted in that aspect.

“As a team, we really came together to do what we needed to do to get the win.”

Down 1-0 early in game two, the Penguins put an 11 spot on the board during the bottom of the third. An absolute no-doubter home run halfway up the centerfield bleachers by Saibene plated three runs and was one of the several offensive highlights from the inning.

Following Saturday’s contests, Saibene now carries a 14-game hitting streak, the longest held by a Penguin since Cali Mikovich’s 15-game streak toward the end of the 2016 season.

She’s also currently leading YSU with a .376 batting average, including a .564 average during the month of April.

“We focus a lot on hitting, and just kind of going up there with full confidence,” Saibene said “No matter what your last at bat was, forget it, and we do a really great job with that.”

Their tropical-themed props were just about having fun, in what was one of the biggest weekends of the year for YSU.

“I think it worked, we kind of got Oakland a little bit rattled there, and I think it really helped us.” Saibene said with a laugh.

Jakse, batting .343, had a two-run shot herself during the same inning to left-center, along with RBI knocks by Avery Schumacher, Conchetta Rinaldi (Cardinal Mooney), Lusk and DeLeon.

Buffenbarger recorded her 13th win of the campaign, allowing three runs on seven hits with a pair of punchouts.

The Penguins (27-9, 20-4) remain in first place following the weekend with a two game-lead over Illinois-Chicago. The regular season champ has the privilege of hosting the league tournament in mid-May.

For coach Brian Campbell and his staff, they can feel the excitement surrounding a team that’s just enjoying the sport they love.

“When you’re having fun, you’ll do well,” he said. “That’s just the characters that we have on this team all around, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everything was taken away from them last year, and by that being taken away from them I think it’s come to a realization of how much they love this game.

“For them to come out and just be a joy to be around each other, and us coaches enjoy being around them, it’s just one of those things that’s just fun.”

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