Baseball Opens 2016 Season at Western Kentucky This Weekend

Joe King (photo by Kevin Davis)
Joe King (photo by Kevin Davis)
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The Youngstown State baseball team will begin its 2016 season this weekend with a three-game series at Western Kentucky's Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. The Penguins and Hilltoppers will open the campaign on Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern, and the teams will play at 2 p.m. Eastern on both Saturday and Sunday. Live stats will be available for all three games, and live video will be available for a fee through wkusports.com.

The Penguins, who are entering their fourth season under head coach Steve Gillispie, have a young group in 2016 with just four returning starters in the field and two members of the rotation back from last year's team that finished with a 16-34 record. There are 18 new players on YSU's roster of 33, and 16 of them are at the Division I level for the first time. Eight of the newcomers are preferred walkons, and Gerrad Rohan and Billy Salem are seniors who transferred from Akron.

While there will be plenty of new faces in the field and in the lineup for Youngstown State this weekend, the game one and game two starters are certainly familiar wearing the red and white. The opening day starter will be junior left-hander Joe King, and he'll be followed on Saturday by junior righty Jeremy Quinlan. They formed a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation last season, combining for 23 starts and 126.1 innings. Freshman left-hander Collin Floyd earned the start in the series finale.

Western Kentucky finished with a 24-28 record in 2015, and it was picked to finish ninth in the Conference USA preseason poll. Senior third basesman Danny Hudzina, who batted .327 with nine home runs last season, was voted preseason all-conference, and Steven DiPuglia was tabbed the league's Preseason Freshman of the Year by Baseball America. WKU, which is under first-year head coach John Pawlowski, will start left-hander Austin King on Friday, right-hander Cody Call on Saturday and lefty Ryan Thurston on Sunday.

Youngstown State will open the season with 17 consecutive road games. Next week, the Penguins will play a four-game series at Fresno State.

 Roster Composition

  • There are 33 student-athletes on Youngstown State's roster in 2016, and 18 — or 54.5 percent — are newcomers. Of the 18 newcomers, 12 are freshmen, two are sophomores, two are juniors and two are seniors. Eight of the newcomers are preferred walkons.
  • Only 15 of Youngstown State's 29 letterwinners from the 2015 team return for 2016.
  • The two seniors who are new to the team, Gerrad Rohan and Billy Salem, are both transfers from Akron. Akron dropped its program after the 2015 season. Rohan is a native of Youngstown suburb North Lima, and he's the cousin of YSU redshirt sophomore outfielder Anthony Rohan.
  • Rohan and Salem join returning seniors Jared Wight (LHP), the program's only four-year member, and Jonny Miller (catcher), who transferred in last year.

Who's Back from 2015

  • YSU returns just four position starters from last year's team — outfielders Lorenzo Arcuri and Alex Larivee, catcher Jonny Miller and shortstop Shane Willoughby. Larivee was the Penguins' leader in home runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, and Willoughby was the leader in RBIs.
  • There are also only four pitchers returning from last year's team, and Joe King and Jeremy Quinlan are the only returners who pitched more than 35 innings. Kevin Yarabinec will move back to his closer role after pitching in the rotation last year, and Willoughy could also pitch in relief for the first time at YSU.

Penguins Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll

  • Youngstown State was picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League this season, according to a preseason poll of the league's coaches. That was where the Penguins finished in the standings in 2015.
  • Wright State was chosen as the unanimous favorite with all possible six first-place votes, and UIC (27), Valparaiso (25) and Milwaukee (24) were all close in the second through fourth positions. YSU received 15 votes for fifth, league newcomer Northern Kentucky was picked sixth with 13 votes, and Oakland was picked seventh (7).

Larivee Named Preseason Second-Team All-Horizon League by CSM

  • YSU junior outfielder Alex Larivee has been named Preseason Second-Team All-Horizon League by College Sports Madness.
  • Larivee batted .325 last year and led the team with a .421 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage. He ranked eighth in the Horizon League in slugging percentage, OPS and stolen bases.

Benyo, Yarabinec Receive Praise from Baseball America

  • YSU's Kyle Benyo and Kevin Yarabinec were recognized by Baseball America in the publication's preview of the Horizon League. Benyo was predicted to be the conference's Freshman of the Year, and Yarabinec was slotted as the league's sixth-best prospect in the 2016 draft class.
  • Benyo is a Youngstown native who played at Austintown Fitch High School before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for his senior year. He batted .361 with three home runs and 15 RBIs at IMG Academy, and he was a first-team all-conference player as a junior at Fitch. Benyo is one of 12 freshmen on YSU's roster in 2016, and he's expected to see plenty of innings in the outfield.
  • Yarabinec is a right-handed pitcher from Sharpsville, Pa., who excelled as YSU's closer in 2014 before missing the majority of 2015 with an injury. He was voted to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team in 2014 when he finished with five saves, a 2-2 record and a 2.22 ERA in 20 appearances.

D1Baseball.com Notes Five Penguins in Horizon League Preview

  • Five YSU baseball players were named in D1Baseball.com's preview of the Horizon League.
  • The highlight was YSU left-handed pitcher Michael Semonsen being named the conference's top prospect in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft class. Semonsen is in his first season as a Penguin after transferring from Los Angeles Harbor College. He posted a 3.34 ERA as a freshman and a 4.85 ERA as a sophomore when he struck out 38 batters in just 39 innings.
  • RHP Jeremy Quinlan, a right-handed pitcher is D1Baseball.com's ninth-best Horizon League prospect in the 2017 draft, and sophomore first baseman Andrew Kendrick is listed 10th.
  • In the list of 2016 draft prospects, YSU junior Kevin Yarabinec was slotted eighth. Outfielder Kyle Benyo was listed among the Horizon League's top 10 impact freshmen.

Road-Heavy Schedule

  • YSU will play 17 road games before its scheduled home opener on March 24. The Penguins will have non-conference weekends at Western Kentucky, Fresno State, Belmont and Missouri before starting Horizon League play on March 18.
  • The Penguins are scheduled for 15 home games in April, and they will host Kids Day games on May 13 and May 17.
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