By Robert Hayes
“Just being able to step out onto the field and say that I play for YSU is really big.”
There’s no shortage of school spirit in Grace Cea, the left fielder out from Canton, Ohio, who has stepped up to be one of the most productive members of the Youngstown State University softball team in her freshman season.
“I’m very proud about that, and I’m proud to wear YSU across my chest and tell people that I go here,” Cea said.
Cea has made an immediate impact for the Penguins, as she leads the team with 29 RBI, while being one of YSU’s better power hitters with five home runs and being third in the batter order for most of the season.
Penguins coach Brian Campbell sees Cea growing as an individual.
“Sometimes you have a little bit of an adjustment period when you come in. The speed of the game at this level is a lot faster, and pitchers might have a lot more movement and a little bit more speed,” Campbell said. “Those are things that you really like to see the younger players be able to come in and make those adjustments.”
For Cea, she’s just doing her job.
“Anytime I get up to bat or I get on the field, I honestly just focus on what I have to do and my job for the team,” she said. “It’s basically just me putting myself in other people’s shoes and trying to do the best I can for everyone else, and trying to make the team better everytime we play.”
A graduate of North Canton Hoover High School, Cea had a solid high school career, as she was named all-conference twice and was selected Second Team All Northeast Ohio during her senior season.
As a nursing major, Cea tries to balance her work on and off the field.
“In high school, you had a little break in between athletics and school, and it wasn’t just a full-time thing,” she said. “Athletics have become like a full-time job since I got here. And just figuring it out my first semester it was a little tough at first. But now you figure out how to juggle it and how to really enjoy it at the same time.”
Cea said she has always had an interest in the Penguins; she made a visit to YSU as far back as her freshman year in high school.
“I really enjoyed the campus and the people here because everyone is just so nice,” Cea said. “It’s very easy to talk to people and make new friends, which is very big for me because I’m very social, and I like to meet new people and have more friends. The atmosphere that comes with YSU is what I really liked, so that’s what made me come here.”
She said she also enjoys the friend group she made on the field.
“I couldn’t ask for a better freshman year,” Cea said. “I just think that getting to know all the people on the team and becoming really close with all of them is one of the things that I’m most happy about. It’s very important to me to have good group chemistry with my teammates.”
Campbell believes Cea’s approach at the plate is what has allowed her to have the success she’s been able to have.
“I think that when she goes after the first few pitches that’s in the zone there. She’s a lot better hitter compared to taking the count a little bit deeper and she’s probably the first one to say that,” Campbell said. “I think that one thing that started out and turned is that she became a very aggressive hitter in the box. What I mean by aggressive is not swinging at everything, but swinging in that little box or that strike zone that she has.”
Cea said she has bigger goals going forward.
“I want to produce in every opportunity that I get on the field and off the field and to just make the most out of the years that I have left here,” she said.
The Penguins (22-27, 10-9) conclude their regular season with a three-game series against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (12-26, 7-14) at the Circle Tap in Wisconsin. The series isn’t being played on Green Bay’s campus due to ongoing renovations to their field. First pitch of game one is set for 5 p.m on Friday.