By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University softball team has seen a dramatic improvement to its pitching over the past two weeks.
The Penguins’ pitchers were a key to YSU sweeping Robert Morris University on Tuesday and extended its winning streak to eight games.
YSU (15-11, 3-0 in the Horizon League) won the first game of the doubleheader 8-0 on Tuesday afternoon. YSU won after a wild pitch that allowed Cali Mikovich to score, putting the “mercy rule” into effect and ending the game in the sixth inning.
Robert Morris (7-24) scored its first run of the doubleheader in the top of the second inning of the second game snapping YSU’s 27 scoreless inning streak. Caitlyn Minney, Paige Geanangel and Lexi Zappitelli have combined for a 2.43 ERA during the Penguins’ win streak.
“They have been doing great. They have been working very hard,” YSU catcher Maria Lacatena said. “We have been pitching a lot more this year — doing drills and working at-bats during practice. They’ve been doing awesome. I couldn’t be happier. They’ve been doing a hell of a job.”
With the Penguins down 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Lacatena stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded.
Lacatena gave the Penguins a 5-2 lead with a grand slam to straight away centerfield. Lacatena finished the day 3-6 with four RBIs.
“You can’t do too much, because when you do too much, it hurts you … it really does hurt you,” Lacatena said. “Going in there with a simple mind of moving the runner one base at a time, it really helps you out.”
The Penguins added three additional runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings and won the second game of the night, 8-2.
Minney started the second game for the Penguins, and Geanangel came in relief in the top of the fourth inning. Geanangel pitched 11 shutout innings during the doubleheader.
“She’s done a great job, but if you look at the stats, she’s getting the defense behind her,” YSU head coach Brian Campbell said. “I think the other day, I remember, she pitched, and there was only one ball that went into centerfield for a single, and the rest of the balls were in the infield — we were able to make the plays.
“She’s done a good job of keeping the batters off balance and getting groundballs and popups in the infield. Again the defense has worked really hard behind her.”
Campbell said the offense is looking to go “60 feet.” The Penguins’ offense is focused on getting on base and moving the base runners to get into scoring position.
YSU second baseman Brittney Moffatt hasn’t gotten off to a fast start this season, but she epitomized the small ball mentality the Penguins have executed in recent weeks. She combined to go 4-5 with three runs scored.
“I just came in feeling like it needed to do something, finally, and I just felt confident throughout the whole day,” Moffatt said. “I felt like I needed to do some more work before the game. So I did that, and I think it really helped me.”
The Penguins will go on the road for a three-game series against Oakland University on Friday.