The Youngstown State baseball team will begin its 2018 season with a three-game series at Belmont Feb.16-18. The Penguins will play their first 15 games away from home before their home and Horizon League opener against Milwaukee on March 16. In total, YSU will play three-neutral site affairs, 33 road contests and 20 home games at Eastwood Field in 2018.
This year's new-look team will feature 23 newcomers in the form of 13 freshmen and 10 transfers. Head Coach Dan Bertolini will enter his second season at the helm of the program with much improved depth and versatility. Bertolini's squad showed vast improvement with tremendous offensive firepower in 2017 and will be looking to build upon that this season. The Penguins showcased significant power at the plate last season with 50 home runs in 55 games.
YSU's 15 wins in 2017 represented an increase from their regular-season totals in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. The team's nine Horizon League wins tied for its most since 2009.
Kendrick Projected as Horizon League Player of the Year
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has projected Youngstown State senior first baseman Andrew Kendrick to be the Horizon League Player of the Year in its 2018 preview edition. Kendrick set a new YSU single-season record with 17 home runs while adding career highs of 43 RBIs, 36 runs scored, a .273 batting average and a .583 slugging percentage in 2017. He shattered the previous single-season home run record by five, and he had the most homers by a Horizon League player since 2006.
Only two returning players in the entire country, Morehead State's Niko Hulsizer and Missouri State's Jeremy Fierman, averaged more home runs per game than Kendrick last season. Kendrick caught national attention last season with his hot start. He was named the National Hitter of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and a National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball after the opening weekend of the season.
In addition to Kendrick, the Penguins return a number of other key position players from last year's squad. Key returners include outfielder Trey Bridis, infielder Web Charles, outfielder Kyle Benyo as well as catchers Lou Cardona and Anthony Santoro. Bridis and Benyo both hit eight home runs in 2017 to tie for second on the team behind Kendrick and were second and third, respectively, in RBIs and slugging percentage.
Charles posted the team's third-best batting average at .276 and tied for the team-lead with 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. He stole eight bases in conference play, which was good for fifth in the league. Cardona was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team at the conclusion of last season. He played in 43 of YSU's 55 games and made 23 starts in his first year for the Penguins. Cardona was the first YSU catcher to earn postseason conference accolades since 2013. Senior catcher Anthony Santoro, one of four seniors on the roster, also returns after making 23 starts last season.
Collegiate Baseball noted Bridis and Benyo as well as starting pitcher Collin Floyd as Top Players To Watch in the conference in 2018. Floyd, a junior lefty, led the team with 65.2 innings pitched, struck out at least 50 batters for the second consecutive season and earned a win at No. 17 Georgia Tech in 2017. Versatile right-handers Alex Bellardini, Joel Hake and Zack Minney also return after each appearing in least 20 games last spring.
Large Group of Newcomers
A number of the 23 newcomers are expected to be impact players and contribute right away. This includes freshman pitcher, Andrew Shivak, who was named one of the top freshmen in the Horizon League by Perfect Game USA this past fall. The right-hander is a native of Naples, Fla. and was a standout at Gulf Coast High School. He was rated a top 500 player in the country by Perfect Game with a 1.75 ERA in 16 innings of work during his junior season. Infielder Jeff Wehler and catcher/pitcher Austin Trace are also expected to see playing time as true freshmen. Wehler was named as one of the top-five impact freshmen in the Horizon League by D1Baseball.com.
A number of transfers made strong impressions during fall practice and are expected to play major roles this season. Blaze Glenn, a transfer from Sinclair Community College, is expected to be a major contributor in the infield. He batted .393 with 10 home runs and 69 RBIs as a freshman last season. Other transfers who are expected to see significant action include Austin Butler, Nick Caruso, Cody Dennis, Kip DeShields, Drew Dickerson, Greg Dunham and Zach Lopatka. Glenn and Dunham were named as two of the top-five 2019 draft prospects in the Horizon League by D1Baseball.com.
The group of talented transfers and freshmen will help add depth and versatility to complement the core of experienced returners. Coach Bertolini and his team will be looking to make a big jump up in the Horizon League standings in 2018.
For news and updates throughout the season, follow the YSU baseball program on Twitter @YSUBaseball