Anticipation is high as the Youngstown State University softball team nears the start of its season.
The Penguins are looking to improve upon last year’s 29-21-1 record, which was good enough to earn them a fourth-place finish in the Horizon League.
Brian Campbell, head softball coach at YSU, said he just wants to get better.
“Every year is a new year, and this year, we are building on the foundation from the first four years,” he said.
Offensively, the Penguins performed well in the HL. YSU was first in batting average (.313), second in RBIs (244), second in runs (279) and second in hits (428).
Still, junior pitcher Casey Crozier said the team wants to hit the ball a lot more, score runs and help out the defense.
“I want us to have a better record than last year, and I’ll do as much as I can to help make that happen,” Crozier said. “We didn’t do as well in the fall as we would’ve liked to, but we worked very hard in spring to fix the things we were lacking in fall.”
During the past few seasons, the team has continuously improved its total wins.
In 2010, the team’s overall record was 13-37 and 6-17 in the HL, while in 2011, it finished with an overall record of 22-24 and an HL record of 5-16.
In 2012, the Penguins more than doubled their wins in the HL, with 12.
It’s a good amount of team chemistry that makes these improvements possible, said junior Samantha Snodgrass.
“We were close in previous years, but this year, we’re even closer,” she said.
“Everyone wants to be here and play and get better, and we all hang out outside of softball.”
Campbell said he expects his older, more experienced players to help lead by example, but the responsibility for success falls on the shoulders of all.
“Softball is a team sport; you build upon the 18 to 19 players together,” he said.
Snodgrass said the team’s balance from top to bottom will give the Penguins a better chance at winning the conference title.
“The freshmen came in and worked hard and were really impressive,” she said.
Being one of the top six teams at the end of the regular season and earning a spot in the HL tournament are always beginning goals, Campbell said. However, reaching these goals comes with making adjustments throughout the year.
“It’s all about how you take the next step to move forward,” Campbell said.
Campbell said that while having the opportunity to practice at the Watson and Tressel Training Site has been beneficial, he can sense that his players are ready to hit the diamond.
“You can feel the excitement,” he said. “The girls are itching to get on the dirt.” The players agreed that they are ready for play to begin.
“Everyone is extremely excited to move off of the turf and onto the dirt,” Crozier said.
The softball team will begin its season on Feb. 16 against Drexel University at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.