By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University softball team will play in one of the most important series of the season. The Penguins will host Oakland University on April 1.
YSU is currently first in the Horizon League with a record of 10-12, 3-0 in conference play. Oakland is second in the Horizon League standings — 11-14 and 2-1 in the conference.
The Penguins were swept by Kent State University during YSU’s last series on March 25. YSU lost both games of a double header against the Golden Flashes. The Penguins lost the first game 3-1. The Penguins cut the Kent State lead to 2-1 after a one-out walk by shortstop Katie Smallcomb was driven in by two hits from catcher Maria Lacatena and left fielder Sarah Dowd.
YSU lost the second game 5-1. The Penguins took a 1-0 lead during the second inning because of a triple by first baseman Miranda Castiglione. She was driven in after a groundout by freshman third baseman Stevie Taylor. Even after scoring first, the Penguins were unable to hold on to it. The Golden Flashes had a five-run third inning and the game was out of reach.
Statistically, the Penguins and the Grizzlies are almost exactly the same. Both teams have one of the top offenses in the conferences and both teams have pitchers who will play a big role in their team’s success tomorrow.
Grizzlies’ pitcher Erin Kownacki is the leader of one of the top pitching staffs in the conference. Kownacki is first in the Horizon League with a 7-6 record. Her nine complete games ranks second in the conference. She is also tied for fifth in the Horizon League in strikeouts and earned run average.
The Penguins’ pitching staff has been a team effort this season. The pitchers have a combined ERA of 5.13. Freshman pitcher Ashley Koziol has started nine games. She leads the team with four wins. Caitlyn Minney has been the best pitcher for the Penguins this season. She leads the team with a 4.64 ERA and 3-5 record with four complete games in six starts.
YSU has scored the second most runs in the conference: 119. The Penguins are also third in the Horizon League with 105 RBIs.
The Penguins’ offense will have to consistently score against Oakland. YSU’s Castiglione leads the Penguins offense — .353 batting average and 17 RBIs. Taylor is hitting .297 with 15 RBIs, and has been one of the most successful newcomers in the conference.
The game was originally scheduled for March 28 and 29, but was rescheduled for March 31 due to cold weather. The game was pushed back again on Monday.
First pitch is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on April 1 at the YSU Softball Complex.