The Youngstown State baseball team will begin its first season under coach Steve Gillispie this Friday when it takes on Samford to start the 2013 season. The Penguins and Bulldogs are scheduled for a four-game series across Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Joe Lee Griffin Field in Birmingham, Ala. The teams are set to play a doubleheader on Friday starting at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and single games on Saturday and Sunday starting at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Gillispie takes the reigns of the Penguins program after spending the last 11 seasons at Jacksonville State, located less than two hours from where he will make his Division I head coaching debut. Gillispie is the eighth head coach in school history, and he takes over after Rich Pasquale coached YSU for the last five years. He has put together a coaching staff with an impressive list of accomplishments and more than 70 years of combined experience in many capacities.
YSU returns five position starters and 85 percent of its innings pitched from last year's team that finished 11-44. While the regular season was below expectations, the Penguins won two games in the Horizon League Tournament and were a win from the championship round for the second consecutive year.
Highlighting the list of returners are juniors Drew Dosch and Nic Manuppelli. Dosch has been named the Preseason Horizon League Player of the Year by the league's coaches and Baseball America, and he is coming off a 2012 year where he was first-team all-conference and an all-star in the prestigious Cape Cod League during the summer. Dosch batted .353 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs last season, and he is Baseball America's top professional prospect in the Horizon League heading into 2013. Manuppelli is third on that list of top professional prospects after being an all-star in the New England League. The right hander was also voted the league's top closer heading into this year.
Following the four-game series at Samford, YSU will two games against both West Virginia and Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. next week.
Samford was picked to finish fourth in the 11-team Southern Conference in the coaches poll, and it was tabbed to finish third by the media. Junior outfielder Phillip Ervin was named the Preseason Player of the Year, and designated hitter C.K. Irby and second baseman Zeth Stone joined him in earning preseason honors. The Bulldogs finished 41-23 last season, winning the SoCon Tournament title and two games in the NCAA Regional. Only two pitchers who started a game last season return, and that pair combined for just eight starts.
YSU's Probable Rotation
- Game 1 – Blake Aquadro: The senior left-hander has been tabbed to start the Penguins' 2013 opener. He has 34 previous games in his career, including a school-record-tying 15 last year. Aquadro was 3-9 last year, but he won three of his final four decisions. Among those victories were a nine-inning shutout of UIC and a come-from-behind victory over Wright State in the Horizon League Tournament. For the year, Aquadro had a 7.33 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 33 walks in 86 innings.
- Game 2 – Pat Shedlock: Shedlock is a senior right-hander who was 0-6 while making 11 starts last year in his first season with YSU. He moved to the bullpen late in the season and had a 4.26 ERA in four relief sessions. Overall, he had a 9.11 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 35 walks in 55.1 innings.
- Game 3 – Robert Switka: Switka is a senior right-hander who will make his first start since 2011. He made 15 starts in 2011, posting a 2-8 record and a 6.13 ERA. He made five relief appearances in the first 10 games last season before missing the rest of the campaign with an injury.
- Game 4 – Patrick O'Brien: O'Brien is a junior right-hander who made 10 starts last year in his first season at YSU. He was 1-6 with a 5.59 ERA for the year, but he closed the campaign strong with a 3.08 ERA over his final six outings. He missed most of last April with an injury, and he also had to sit out the Horizon League Tournament. O'Brien had six saves pitching for Bowling Green as a freshman in 2010.
- Youngstown State is under first-year head coach Steve Gillispie. Gillispie was hired on July 10, 2012, to replace Rich Pasquale, who led the Penguins for five seasons from 2008-12. Gillispie is the eighth head coach in school history.
- Gillispie spent the last 11 seasons as the top assistant coach at Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley Conference. He also had stints as an assistant at Nebraska, Utah and UAB, and he was a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies. He is a Division I head coach for the first time.
- Gillispie and his coaching staff have more than 70 years of combined baseball experience across all levels.
Dosch is Baseball America's Preseason Player of the Year
- Junior third baseman Drew Dosch was named the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year by Baseball America.
- He was also a unanimous selection as the hitter Horizon League coaches least want to face in a poll conducted by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. Dosch was also selected as one of the three best pure hitters in the Horizon League, one of the three best power hitters and the player hardest to strike out.
- Dosch was a First-Team All-Horizon League selection last year as a sophomore when he batted .353 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs. He was also a Second-Team Academic All-American in 2012.
- Multiple scouts and cross-checkers have evaluated Dosch as a second or third-rounder in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft. Dosch was named the Horizon League's Top Professional Prospect by Baseball America.
- Dosch was an all-star at designated hitter this past summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
Manuppelli Also Recognized
- Junior right-handed pitcher Nic Manuppelli also earned some preseason recognition by Baseball America and in the CBI poll.
- Manuppelli was tabbed as the league's third-best professional prospect by Baseball America.
- Manuppelli was selected as the Horizon League's top closer in the poll conducted by CollegeBaseballInsider.com.
Returning Position Players
- Five starters – Dosch, Marcus Heath, Jason Shirley, Phil Lipari, and Craig Goubeaux – all return after starting at least 45 games last season. Dosch started all 55 games at third base; Heath started 52 (43 in right field, 9 at designated hitter); Shirley started 51 (34 in left field and 17 in center field); Lipari started 50 (31 at shortstop, 19 at second base); and Goubeaux started 45 (44 at catcher, 1 at designated hitter).
- Heath is moving from the outfield to first base, and several other players are also changing positions. Kevin Hix is switching from center field to the infield, and Neil Schroth, YSU's centerfielder in 2011 who missed last season with injury, is moving back to the infield. He played second base as a freshman.
- All four players who started at least 10 games last season return.
- Senior Blake Aquadro tied the school single-season record with 15 starts last season and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Aquadro is the only left-hander currently slated to be a contender for the rotation.
- Senior Pat Shedlock and sophomore Russ Harless both started 11 games last year. Harless was YSU's game-one starter toward the end of last year.
- Junior Patrick O'Brien started 10 games last year and has shown signs of being capable of being YSU's ace.
- Senior Robert Switka, who started 15 games in 2011, and sophomore Ryan Krokos are also starting contenders.
- Seven other returners figure to pitch out of the bullpen.
Quick Glance at Newcomers
- YSU has three junior transfers from Lackawanna College who look to contribute immediately. Mike Accardi is the likely opening day centerfielder and leadoff hitter, Kris Moules can play outfield or first base, and Josh White is a catcher.
- Devin Higgins is another JUCO transfer outfielder who should see plenty of playing time, and Nick DiNello is a junior infielder who played for Ohio Dominican in 2011.
- Freshman righty Lance Horner is another candidate for the rotation.