With favorable weather in the forecast, the Youngstown State baseball team is looking forward to finally getting the 2014 season underway with a three-game series at UAB this weekend. The Penguins and Blazers will play at 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday, and they'll play at 2 p.m. Eastern on both Saturday and Sunday. The three-game series will be the start of a Major League style eight-game road trip for YSU that spans three cities and lasts until March 2. Live stats and live video will be available throughout the weekend through UABsports.com.
With poor weather in the Northeast throughout the winter and four games being cancelled last week in Charlotte, N.C., the Penguins haven't had any organized baseball activity outdoors since the fall. They'll hand the ball to third-year starter and senior right-hander Patrick O'Brien to start game one on the mound, and second-year head coach Steve Gillispie expects that many of the team's 17 newcomers could see action alongside the rotation mainstay. Junior newcomer Brendon Shoemake is slated to start Saturday's contest, and senior Nic Manuppelli will anchor the talented group of right-handed starters on Sunday.
While the progress of the newcomers will be an ongoing key to the Penguins if they want to improve on last season's 14-43 record, Gillispie has plenty of veterans to rely on as well. YSU has a pair of seniors who are coming off Second-Team All-Horizon League seasons in second baseman Phil Lipari and catcher Josh White. Senior outfielder Nick DiNello was an all-newcomer team selection last season. In total, there are 10 seniors on the squad.
UAB already has five games under its belt and undoubtedly a large amount of practice time on the diamond. The Blazers swept UT-Martin last weekend to start the season, and they beat Alabama A&M twice this week. UAB will start junior right-hander Johnny Lieske on Friday, and it will follow with senior right-hander Chase Mallard on Saturday. Mallard earned national recognition last week for holding UT-Martin without a hit and posting 13 strikeouts over seven innings. Sunday's starter has not been announced. UAB, which finished with a 23-36 record in 2013, was picked to finish 11th in the preseason Conference USA coaches poll.
Following the weekend series at UAB, the Penguins will play a game on Tuesday and Wednesday at Alabama State. They will then play Appalachian State, Notre Dame and North Carolina State in Cary, N.C. next weekend.