|Youngstown State at Belmont|
|Friday - 5 p.m. ET||at Belmont - Live Stats | Audio|
|Saturday - 5 p.m. ET||at Belmont - Live Stats|
|Sunday - 2 p.m. ET||at Belmont - Live Stats | Audio|
|Live Tweets||@YSUBaseball | @BelmontBaseball | #HLBase|
|Mobile App||YSU Front Row|
The Youngstown State baseball team will begin the 64th season in program history this weekend with a three-game series against Belmont at E.S. Rose Park in Nashville, Tenn. The Penguins and Bruins will play at 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday in the opener, and the teams will play at 2 p.m. ET on both Saturday and Sunday.
Live stats will be available throughout the weekend through links on YSUsports.com. Live audio will also be available for the games on Friday and Sunday. Fans can also follow @YSUBaseball on Twitter for live updates.
There are 35 student-athletes on Youngstown State's roster in 2018, but only 12 of them were on last year's roster. There are 11 returning letterwinners, four seniors, 12 juniors, six sophomores and 13 freshmen. Head Coach Dan Bertolini has brought a group of 23 newcomers into the program this season. The group includes 10 transfers and 13 freshmen. A number of the newcomers are expected to contribute right away, one of which is sophomore pitcher Greg Dunham. The Buffalo transfer and Salem, Ohio, native is currently slated to start the opener on Friday.
The Bruins posted an overall record of 31-29 in 2017, finishing the regular season in third place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. The team also made its first ever appearance in the OVC Tournament Championship Game. The program is under the direction of Dave Jarvis, who is entering his 21st season as head coach. Belmont returns a total of nine starters, including sophomore outfielder Matt Cogen, who hit .332 with four home runs and 32 RBIs last season. Junior pitcher Dylan King also returns after finishing 2017 with a 3-5 record, a 4.07 ERA and a team-high 108 strikeouts in 14 starts. King was named the OVC Preseason Pitcher of the Year last week. In addition to King, the Belmont rotation will also feature senior Connor Etheridge and junior Casey Queener. The Bruins were 16-14 at E.S. Rose Park last season.
Kendrick Named Preseason Horizon League Player of the Year
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has projected Youngstown State senior infielder 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.
YSU opens the 2018 season this Friday at Belmont as part of a three-game series. The Penguins will proceed to play their first 15 games of the season on the road, the final of which will be at Pittsburgh on March 13. The Penguins' home opener at Eastwood Field is slated for March 16 against Milwaukee. YSU is scheduled for 20 home games in 2018, including Kids Day games at 11 a.m. on May 4 and May 15.
Bertolini Brings Promise
Last season, the YSU baseball team showcased power at the plate and showed signs of growth in all facets under first-year Head Coach Dan Bertolini. While Bertolini and the Penguins have higher sights set for 2018 and beyond, their 15 wins in 2017 represented an increase from YSU's regular-season totals in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. 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.
Offense Makes Big Jump in 2017
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. Dan Bertolini's team also performed extremely well defensively in 2017. YSU's .966 fielding percentage was its best in program history.
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 just 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.
Floyd Fans Fifty Again
Junior lefty Collin Floyd has registered at least 50 strikeouts in each of the past two seasons. Floyd led YSU with 50 K's in 2017, sitting down at least three batters in each of his 18 appearances. Collegiate Baseball noted Floyd as a Top Player To Watch in the Horizon League in its 2018 preview edition. He led YSU with 65.2 innings pitched and earned a win at No. 17 Georgia Tech in 2017.
Bridis Bolsters Lineup
Senior outfielder Trey Bridis has been a key figure in the YSU lineup over the past few seasons. Bridis started 47 games in 2017, batting .272 and leading the team in doubles with 12. Bridis ranked second among starters last year with eight home runs, 30 RBIs, 90 total bases and a .489 slugging percentage. His eight home runs tied for the 14th-most in program history. Collegiate Baseball noted Bridis as a Top Player To Watch in the Horizon League in its 2018 preview edition.
Benyo Brings Power
Junior outfielder Kyle Benyo demonstrated the ability to provide power for the Penguins last season. He finished tied for second on the team with eight home runs and was third with 28 RBIs in 2017. He became just the fifth YSU sophomore to hit at least eight homers in a season. Erich Diedrich was the only Penguins sophomore to hit more than eight home runs – he had nine in 2006. Benyo, who was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team in 2016, was also noted as a Top Player to Watch in the Horizon League by Collegiate Baseball in its 2018 preview edition.
Cardona Returns After All-Freshman Season
Sophomore catcher Lou Cardona was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team in 2017. He played 43 of YSU's 55 games and made 23 starts in his first season with the Penguins. Cardona batted .253 with 10 runs scored and 10 RBIs while hitting .286 in Horizon League play. He was 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.
Senior infielder Web Charles was one of two YSU players to play in all 55 games last season. He started 53 games – 38 at second base and 15 at shortstop. Charles recorded the third-best batting average on the team at .276 in 2017. He also tied for the team lead with 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. His eight steals in conference play were good for fifth in the Horizon League last season.
Versatile Arms Returning
YSU has three versatile and experienced right-handers returning from last year's roster: Senior Alex Bellardini, junior Joel Hake and junior Zack Minney. Bellardini pitched in 24 games out of the bullpen and made three starts in 47 innings of work last season. Hake made 22 appearances and three starts in 39.2 innings while Minney appeared in 20 contests, earned the starting nod four times and threw 44 innings in 2017.
Newcomers Recognized by D1Baseball.com
Sophomore infielder Blaze Glenn and sophomore pitcher Greg Dunham were recently named as two of the top-five 2019 draft prospects in the Horizon League by D1Baseball.com. In addition, freshman infielder Jeff Wehler was named as one of the top-five impact freshmen in the conference by the website. Glenn transferred to Youngstown State from Sinclair Community College while Dunham previously played at Buffalo. Wehler was a standout at St. Marys Area High School in Pennsylvania.
Shivak Named Top Freshman
Freshman pitcher Andrew Shivak was named as one of the top freshmen in the Horizon League this fall by Perfect Game USA, one of the top scouting services in the country. Shivak is a native of Naples, Fla., who was a standout at Gulf Coast High School. He was rated a top-500 player in the country by Perfect Game during his high school career. The right-hander is one of 23 newcomers and 13 freshmen on the roster this season. Shivak is expected to be an early contributor for the Penguins in 2018.
The Penguins will continue their non-conference road slate next week Feb. 23-25 with a three game series against Louisville. The Cardinals are ranked 13th in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll after going 53-12 and making an appearance in the College World Series last season. First pitch at Jim Patterson Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Friday and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.