BEAVER TOWNSHIP. The YSU baseball team kicks off their 68th intercollegiate season on February 18 when they head to Bethune-Cookman for a three-game weekend streak with the Wildcats.
Head coach Dan Bertolini, who is heading into his sixth season, is cautiously optimistic that his Penguins team can repeat last season’s success.
Under Bertolini last year, YSU went 32–24, had its first winning campaign since 2005 (7–7 in 2020 before the pandemic forced the season to be cancelled), and held the record for most wins since 1995 with a 37–17 record. .
Bertolini told Curbstone Coaches coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting that it’s been a process, but the expectations for winning and playing in 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 brought everything to a national halt and we had to wait until 2021 to regain our success.” he said to the group gathered at the Avion banquet center.
“This year could be our breakthrough. Fortunately, last year many players returned for the fifth and sixth seasons.
“Right now, everything is set to sustain this success and we are ready to meet those expectations. Our recruitment has been excellent and we are excited for the ’22 season to begin.”
Bertolini’s roster includes 13 seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores, and 12 freshmen.
“The key to our success will be the absence of injuries during the season. Bertolini added.
“Offensively we won .298 points as a team and had a great year defensively, so we hope to continue this trend. We have a few question marks on the mound, but the good news is that we are deep and we have a lot of good weapons, we just lack the experience we have been blessed with in the last few campaigns.
“We lost three of our starting lineup in the infield, but our entire outfield is back and we’re happy about that. Dylan Swarmer, John Ritter of Springfield Local, freshmen Ian Francis of Cardinal Mooney and Jack Johnson make up our catcher squad and they’ll be fighting for game time at the plate. We have to be consistent on the hill.”
Third baseman Blaze Glenn, who led the team in hitting .360 last year, graduated, but returning players to watch include outfielder Dom Buko (.344, team-leading 10 home runs) and pitcher John Snider (6-2, 2.76 avg earned), each named to an All-Horizon League team and receiving All-Region honors.
Other players expected to have breakout seasons include first baseman Pad O’Shaughnessy (.268, five home runs) from Poland High, center fielder Lukas Nasonti (.253), a fifth year player at Champions High School, pitcher Lane Rhodes from Salem, a real freshman who Bertolini thinks could get into the rotation or at least become a midweek starter, and Braden O’Shaughnessy (.297), also a Polish High School alumnus and Pad’s younger brother , who is a prime candidate to replace Glenn in the hot corner. .
Transfer Alumnus Austin Earle of Salem University (West Virginia), a left fielder who batted .302 with 15 trips last year for the Tigers, is expected to move easily to the Penguins’ outfield, while pitcher Chad Coles Bertolini, who is leaving, is also counting on a minor knee operation and Turner Grau, who led the triple (seven) season back and underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason.
Waypoint in Canfield will host the 11th annual First Pitch Breakfast on Feb. 5, which is expected to draw over 500 fans and leave everyone thinking about the season, includes silent auctions, Penguins baseball gear and Major League Baseball memorabilia.
This year’s event features former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Kendall and former YSU twirler Collin Floyd.
“It’s a big event every year, the support from the community is fantastic and it’s our biggest fundraiser of the year” Bertolini said. “Jason Kendall is a great guy who loves baseball and with Collin Floyd there is no better representative for EHU and our baseball program. Both will do a great job.”
Next Monday, Rebecca Fink, EHU Senior Assistant Sports Director and Senior Women’s Administrator, will be the guest speaker.