The Youngstown State University baseball team has a new feel and look under second-year head coach Steve Gillispie. Since adding 16 new players to the team, junior Kevin Hix, senior Phil Lipari and company have a newfound confidence.
“It’s definitely different. I feel like I am a freshman again trying to learn everyone’s names,” Lipari said. “It’s fun, though. I love all of them, and they will help out in their own way.”
Even though there will be plenty of position changes this season, Gillispie remains confident.
“The newness and that transition period are over for us,” Gillispie said. “There is much uncertainty about who’s going to play where and who’s going to play what, but I’m not worried. We have a lot of options.”
The Penguins have 13 seniors returning to the team, and Lipari understands this is a big deal for them. The Penguins have leadership coming back to a team with plenty of new faces.
“We have a lot of senior leadership on this team; that’s big for the newer kids. They have something to mold their game off of,” Lipari said.
Gillispie said he thinks that his personnel fits very well for the system that he is trying to implement.
“We recruited to what we wanted to do with the new sixteen faces coming in and with the players already here. It’s their second year in the system, so they feel comfortable in it,” Gillispie said.
YSU’s baseball team hasn’t had much success in the past few seasons. Gillispie is looking to write a new chapter for the team this upcoming season.
Gillispie said he wants to keep his eyes planted on the team’s pitch counts and wants the defense to start out well.
Last season, the Penguins’ compiled a 6.53 ERA; they had no shutouts and finished 14-43 (8-16). Even though those aren’t the most impressive numbers, they are an improvement from the 2012 season, when the team finished 11-44 with a 7.33 ERA.
The beginning of the schedule may be a struggle for the Penguins, as they start off in a tournament with teams who were in the College World Series. YSU then faces five teams who were at the regionals and four teams who are defending conference champions.
“It’s a challenging schedule. We just have to keep plugging away and keep focus on the goal at the end — the Horizon League Championship,” Gillispie said. “To accomplish the goal we want, we have to play well in the league and the tournament.”
The Penguins start off the season against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Virginia Tech in the first tournament of the year on February 14, 2014. The team has their first home game against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on March 21, 2014.
“Every new season is exciting because you don’t know. Everything is always different regardless of how last year was,” Gillispie said. “Obviously, we have a ways to go when you look at the wins and losses, but the excitement is definitely there.”
Coach Gillispie isn’t the only one excited to see what this year’s team can do.
“My ideal ending to my career is to go out with a ring,” Lipari said. “We’re going to try to win the Horizon League and go on to regionals.”