Baseball Travels South for Three-Game Series at No. 17 Georgia Tech

Kyle Benyo
Kyle Benyo

The Youngstown State baseball team will begin a three-game series at No. 17 Georgia Tech on Friday as the 2017 season enters its second weekend. The Penguins and Yellow Jackets will play at 4 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.

All three games will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra and WatchESPN, and live stats links will be available on Plus, fans can follow @YSUBaseball on Twitter for live updates.

Youngstown State will head to Atlanta looking for its first win of the season and under first-year head coach Dan Bertolini. The Penguins played opened the Bertolini era with three games at the Riverview Inn Governors Challenge hosted by Austin Peay last weekend and lost 9-2 to the Governors, 14-4 to Indiana State and 13-7 to Illinois State. Bertolini was encouraged by the team's improvement over the weekend, especially at the plate, despite the results. YSU concluded opening weekend with 13 hits in the loss to the Redbirds, which was more than it had combined in the first two games.

Junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick captured national headlines with his opening weekend by hitting five home runs and registering 11 RBIs in the three games. He was named a National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball, the National Hitter of the Week by the National College Baseball Writers Association and the Horizon League Batter of the Week by the conference office. Kendrick hit a solo homer in all three games, and he added a three-run shot in the game against Indiana State and a grand slam versus Illinois State. All five of his hits over the weekend went over the fence, and he drove in 11 of the 13 runs that the Penguins scored.

Kendrick is one of 19 returning letterwinners from last year's team on the squad, and the starting lineup largely remains the same from 2016. Only two position players who weren't on last year's roster saw action in the opening weekend, and they were catchers Anthony Santoro and Lou Cardona. Contrastingly, five newcomers made appearances on the mound out of the bullpen, and Joel Hake made his first career start on Saturday.

Senior left-hander Joe King will start the series opener on Friday, and sophomore southpaw Collin Floyd will get the ball on Sunday. Saturday's starter will be announced as the Penguins wait for the return of four-year starter Jeremy Quinlan, who is out for several weeks with an injury. King is YSU's Friday starter for the second straight year, and he led the Penguins with 72.1 innings pitched in 2016. He allowed four runs on eight hits in four innings against Austin Peay in the season opener. Floyd surrendered six runs in 1.2 innings against Illinois State on Sunday.

Youngstown State will play eight road games in a 10-day stretch starting next Friday at Eastern Kentucky. The Penguins will play three games against EKU, two at Morehead State and three at Richmond.

Scouting Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is 4-0 this season with home wins over BYU, Marshall and Western Michigan and a road victory at Georgia Southern. The Yellow Jackets are ranked 17th in the country by Baseball America and have allowed three runs in each of their four games. The Yellow Jackets finished 38-25 last season and were picked to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal Division in the conference preseason poll. Georgia Tech will start three right-handers against the Penguins: Xzavion Curry, Jonathan Hughes and Keyton Gibson.

Power Surge: Andrew Kendrick hit five home runs in the first three games of the season, and he is one of three players in the country to have five round-trippers. Georgia Tech's Kel Johnson is another. Shane Willoughby also homered for Youngstown State last weekend, giving the Penguins six for the year. YSU hit just 12 home runs as a team last year in 52 games, and only one Penguin had hit at least five home runs in any of the past four years.

Kendrick Among National Leaders: Junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick's memorable first weekend at the plate has him ranking about the nation's leaders in several hitting categories. He leads country with 1.67 home runs per game, and he is tied for the top spot in RBIs per game and total home runs. His 1.667 slugging percentage is the second-highest mark in the country, and his 11 total RBIs rank sixth.

Native Son Bertolini Takes Over Program as Head Coach: Youngstown native Dan Bertolini is in his first season as YSU's head coach after leading Mercyhurst North East (NJCAA) for the previous eight seasons. At age 31, he is one of the youngest head coaches in Division I. Mercyhurst North East averaged more than 29 wins over his eight seasons and won at least 30 games in four of his final five seasons. The Saints won regional titles in 2012 and 2014 and were ranked in the top 20 nationally from 2012-15. His success was largely based on recruiting the Youngstown area.

Schedule Notes: YSU is in the midst of playing its first 19 games of the season on the road, the final of which will be at Ohio State on March 21. The Penguins' home opener at Eastwood Field is slated for March 24 against Oakland. YSU is scheduled for 21 home games in 2017, including Kids Day games at 11 a.m. on April 28 and March 19.

Roster Composition: There are 32 student-athletes on Youngstown State's roster in 2017, and 21 of them were on last year's roster. There are nine seniors, eight juniors, 10 sophomores and five freshmen. The returners are expected to play big roles all across the diamond. The main three starting pitchers are all back from 2016, and the only new position players to see time so far have been catchers.

Yarabinec Earns Preseason Praise from Youngstown State senior right-hander Kevin Yarabinec was named the Horizon League's seventh best Major League Baseball Draft prospect in the 2017 class by Yarabinec is in his third season as YSU's closer, a role he also held as a freshman and a junior. He was a member of the weekend rotation as a sophomore while battling injuries. Yarabinec ranks sixth in program history with eight career saves. Last year, Yarabinec became the sixth Penguin to lead the club in both wins (5) and saves (3) in the same season. He joined Glenn Head in 1981, John Nurczyk in 1992, Kyle Sobecki in 2000, Ryan Sellman in 2006 and Russ Harless in 2012.

Penguins Picked Seventh in Preseason Poll: Youngstown State was picked to finish seventh in a preseason poll of the Horizon League's seven coaches. Wright State was tabbed as the preseason favorite and received six out of a possible seven first-place votes and 47 of a possible 49 points. The Raiders were followed by UIC (40), Milwaukee (36), Valparaiso (27), Northern Kentucky (22), Oakland (16) and YSU (8). Bertolini is one of four first-year head coaches in the conference (Oakland has co-managers). placed the Penguins fifth in its preseason poll, ahead of Northern Kentucky and Oakland.