Year in Review: Baseball Shows Promise in Bertolini's First Season

Joe King
Joe King

The Youngstown State baseball team showcased power at the plate and showed signs of growth in all faces in the first year under head coach Dan Bertolini. Below are accomplishments from the 2017 season.

Team Accomplishments

Record Improvement Points to Promising Future: Youngstown State finished the 2017 season with a 15-40 record. While Bertolini and the Penguins have higher sights set for 2018 and beyond, the 15 wins represented an increase from YSU's regular-season totals in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. Additionally, YSU's nine Horizon League wins tied for its most since 2009. Youngstown State had a hot streak over a 25-game stretch from March 24 through May 5 when it went 13-12.

Two Marquee Wins: Youngstown State earned a pair of road wins over ranked opponents during the season. The Penguins earned a 12-3 victory at No. 17 Georgia Tech on Feb. 26 in what was Bertolini's first victory at YSU. The Penguins then won 11-6 at No. 29 Kent State on April 4. Youngstown State also beat Kent State when it was No. 28 in 2016, giving the program three wins over ranked teams in the past two seasons. Prior to 2016, YSU had not topped a ranked opponent in 17 years.

Offense Makes a Big Jump: YSU was a vastly-improved offensive club in 2017. The Penguins averaged almost a full run more per game than in 2016, and they scored more runs per contest than in five of the previous six seasons. YSU batted 31 points higher and hit an eye-popping 38 more home runs than in 2016. Youngstown State had its best marks in batting average, runs per game and doubles since 2013, and it had its best slugging percentage and home run total since 2010. Defensively, YSU's .966 fielding percentage was its best in program history.

Going Yard: Youngstown State hit 50 home runs in 55 games in 2017. The Penguins hit more homers in a season just once in their history – 60 in 2010. YSU had not hit more than 20 dingers in a season since that record-setting campaign in 2010, and it averaged 14.2 homers over the previous six years. The Penguins hit 12 home runs in 2016. After the regular season, only three teams in the country had improved their home run total more than Youngstown State from 2016 (Eastern Illinois +57, Virginia Tech +50, Davidson +40). YSU had a 316 percent increase in home runs, which was the second-largest percentage increase in the country.

Dramatic Home Wins: Youngstown State had a stretch at the end of April where it won three home games in its last at bat over a 10-day period. Kyle Benyo hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Bowling Green 6-5 on April 19. It was the Penguins' first win on a walk-off home run since Eric Marzec beat UIC with a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning on April 11, 2008. YSU then took the lead in its final at bat in both games of a doubleheader sweep of Valparaiso on April 28. Alex Larivee hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth inning in game one, and he hit a two-run double in YSU's five-run eighth inning in game two.

Individual Accomplishments

National Players of the Week: YSU had two players be named a national player of the week during the season. Andrew Kendrick was recognized nationally by several media outlets after he hit five home runs and posted 11 RBIs during the opening weekend. Lorenzo Arcuri was a National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball on March 13 after he hit three home runs at Morehead State.

Kendrick Smashes Home Runs Record: Junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick obliterated Youngstown State's previous record for home runs in a season. Kendrick hit 17 homers in 2017, which was five more than any other player had hit. In fact, only six players in program history had hit at least 10 home runs since the program's inception in 1948. Kendrick hit five home runs in the opening weekend, and he homered in four straight games from March 21-April 1. He tied and broke the previous school record with a two-homer game, one of four multi-homer games of the season, against Wright State on April 9. Kendrick then ended the campaign by going deep in three of his last five games. At the end of the regular season, Kendrick ranked tied-for-14th in the nation with his 17 home runs.

Benyo, Bridis Make Big Power Strides: Andrew Kendrick wasn't the only Penguin who saw a big jump in home run power in 2017. Sophomore outfielder/designated hitter Kyle Benyo and junior outfielder Trey Bridis both hit eight balls over the fence. The eight home runs tied for the 14th-most by a Penguin in program history. Benyo and Bridis each hit just one home run in 2016. For Benyo, he joined an exclusive list of YSU sophomores who hit at least eight homers in a season. Erich Diedrich Penguins sophomore to hit more than eight home runs – he had nine in 2006. Drew Dosch, Andrew Clough and Jeff Stofko are the only other Penguins sophomores with eight homers.

Cardona Named to Horizon League All-Freshman Team: YSU catcher Lou Cardona was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team. He played in 43 of YSU's 55 games and made 23 starts in his first year for the Penguins. He batted .253 with 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs overall, and he hit .286 in Horizon League play. Cardona is the first YSU catcher to earn postseason conference accolades since Josh White was named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team and Second-Team in 2013.

Four Earn Academic All-League Accolades: Youngstown State tied for the most Academic All-Horizon League selections in the conference with four players being honored. Seniors Nico Padovan and Anthony Rohan joined junior Andrew Kendrick and sophomore Web Charles on the Academic All-League Team. The four selections were the most by a Penguins team since 2010.

Seniors Leave Mark in Record Book: The 2017 season saw the culmination of the careers of nine Penguins, eight of which were freshmen on the 2014 squad that captured the Horizon League Tournament title and won the program's first game in an NCAA Regional. Several members of the class finished their careers ranking among YSU's statistical career leaders:

  • Lorenzo Arcuri – 5th in sacrifice flies (10), 12th in stolen bases (31)
  • Joe King – T-9th in saves (7), T-13th in appearances (66), 17th in games started (29), 18th in innings pitched (200.2)
  • Alex Larivee – 12th in at bats (671), T-15th in stolen bases (26), 17th in games played (187), T-18th in hit by pitch (14), T-19th in doubles (33), 20th in hits (176)
  • Jeremy Quinlan – T-7th in games started (40), 15th in innings pitched (208.1), 18th in strikeouts (144)
  • Shane Willoughby – 2nd in assists (528), 5th in double plays (88), T-10th in walks (77), T-14th in at bats (636), T-15th in hit by pitch (16), 16th in games played (188)