The Youngstown State baseball team will head back to North Carolina for the second time in as many weeks to play four games this weekend against Long Island and Fairfield in Kannapolis, N.C. The Penguins are scheduled to play each team on Friday and Sunday. On Friday, YSU will play Long Island at noon and Fairfield and 3 p.m. It will then play Fairfield at 11 a.m. and Long Island at 2 p.m. on Sunday. As of Wednesday, no live coverage of the games will be available.
- YSU went 0-3 last weekend in the Tar Heel State, dropping contests to Canisius, North Carolina State and Monmouth.
- The Penguins have never played Fairfield, and they last played Long Island in 1991.
- Senior first baseman Jeremy Banks had a solid start to the season, posting at least two hits in every game last week. Four of his eight hits were doubles.
- Sophomore newcomer Marcus Heath reached base eight times in 13 plate appearances last week, registering four hits and four walks.
- There are 11 true freshmen, four junior college transfers and three more players coming off redshirt years on this season's roster.
- Of YSU's four projected starters this weekend, three of them have never pitched for YSU.
- YSU has just two seniors on the squad -- first baseman Jeremy Banks and infielder/designated hitter David Leon
- YSU is scheduled to play its first 15 games on the road leading up to its home opener on March 16.
Scouting Long Island
Long Island was swept in its season-opening three-game series at No. 21 UCF last weekend. The Blackbirds lost 13-7 on Feb. 17 and dropped two 9-1 contests in a doubleheader the next day. Outfielder Pete Leonello was the lone LIU player to hit above .300 last week at .385. He also had all three of the Blackbirds' doubles and accounted for all but one of LIU's extra-base hits. Senior catcher Tyler Jones, who hit .425 last season, was named the NEC Preseason Player of the Year by Baseball America. LIU has eight returning starters from last season's 28-23 team.
Fairfield was idle the first weekend of the college baseball season, and Friday's game against YSU is the first on its schedule. The Stags were picked to finish seventh in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in the preseason coaches poll. Fairfield is coming off of one of its best seasons in nearly a decade last season, going 22-25 overall and 13-11 in the MAAC. The Stags return five starting position players and nearly their entire starting rotation, including senior Brett Shulick, who was third in the league with a 2.85 ERA. Fairfield had a MAAC-best .977 fielding percentage last season. Tyler Wosleger, who batted .274 last season, is the top returning hitter.
Banks Picks Up From Last Season
Senior first baseman Jeremy Banks got off to a very solid start at the plate in the first week of the season. Banks was 8-for-14 while posting at least two hits and an RBI in each of YSU's three games last week. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles in the opener against Canisius, 2-for-5 with a double versus NC State and 3-for-5 with a double against Monmouth. Dating back to last season, Banks has 27 hits in his last 57 at bats.
Heath Impresses in Debut
Sophomore newcomer Marcus Heath joined Jeremy Banks as the only two Penguins to have a hit in all three games last weekend. The transfer from Sinclair Community College reached base at least twice in all three games and led the squad with a .615 on-base percentage. He was 1-for-4 with a walk versus Cansius, 1-for-2 with two walks at North Carolina State and 2-for-4 with a walk against Monmouth. Heath was the conference player of the year and a Second-Team All-America pick last season. He originally attended Cincinnati out of high school.
Krokos Tosses Three Shutout Innings
Redshirt freshman Ryan Krokos threw three scoreless innings of relief against Canisius in the season opener last Friday. He allowed just two hits, struck out one and did not walk a batter in his outing. Krokos missed all of last season with an arm injury.
Eleven Make YSU Debut
Six pitchers and five position players all made their first appearances as members of the YSU baseball program last week. Patrick O'Brien, Ryan Krokos, Nick BiBartolomeo, Russ Harless, Josh North and Pat Shedlock all made their first trips to the mound. In the field, Kevin Hix, Marcus Heath, Jack Graham, Jason Shirley and Jake Kucek all made their debuts. Hix, Heath and Graham started all three games.
Pasquale Hopes for Deeper, More Defined Bullpen
Head coach Rich Pasquale is hoping to have more defined roles for the bullpen this year than in 2011. While trying to find the right combination in the starting rotation - eight different players started on the mound and only three were exclusively relievers - Pasquale was forced to move people in and out of spots in the bullpen. Entering the season, right-handers Kevin McCulloh, Nic Manuppelli and Nick DiBartolomeo will work in the late innings. McCulloh has closed in the past and earned his first save last season, and Manuppelli allowed one run in his final 10 innings last year before a season-ending injury. DiBartoloemo, a freshman, is slated to open the year as the closer.
Dosch Hoping to Build on All-Newcomer Season
Sophomore Drew Dosch was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer team last year. The third baseman batted .262 and stole five bases last year despite missing 13 games with an injury. Dosch hit .615 during the final week in March to earn Horizon League Batter-of-the-Week accolades right before the injury. He picked up two hits in 11 at bats last weekend to start the season. This summer, he will be the first Penguin to ever play in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Looking for Big Things Offensively from Newcomers
YSU will be looking for early success at the plate from Youngstown-area natives Marcus Heath and Jake Kucek, who are both newcomers. Heath was the conference player of the year and a Second-Team All-America pick and hit .430 with nine home at Sinclair Community College last year. Kucek had the third-best batting average in the country last year at .481 with Cuyahoga Community College. He was also a Second -Team All-America selection.
Two New Assistants in the Dugout
YSU has two new assistant coaches for the 2012 season. Ed Marko has taken over as the recruiting coordinator and pitching coach, and Bobby Pizzuto is in his first season as well. Marko was most recently an associate scout with the Colorado Rockies. In his other stops, Marko has coached a national championship team at the junior college level while producing two NJCAA All-America pitchers, seven all-conference pitchers and four all-region pitchers. Forty-eight hurlers he has worked with have been drafted, including three in the first round. Pizzuto coached last season at Notre Dame Cathedral Latin after earning four letters at Buffalo.
YSU will play three games at the Austin Peay River View Inn Classic next week. YSU will open the week against the host Governors on Friday before playing Akron on Saturday and Iowa on Sunday.