Sara Zilles is in her fifth season with the Youngstown State softball program and her first as associate head coach.
Over the last four seasons, the Penguins have accumlated a 111-104 overall record and have won 59 games in Horizon League play, the most in school history over a four-year span.
Last season, Zilles helped the Penguins to 25 wins for the fourth consecutive season, which is a first in school history. Youngstown State also won 13 games in Horizon League play and finished in the top three for the fourth consecutive season.
From March 20 through April 3, the Penguins set a school record with 11 consecutive wins, breaking the old mark of 10 set in 2004.
Senior Lexi Zappitelli was named to the All-Horizon League Second-Team after posting a .309 overall batting average and a .329 average in league play, and ended her career with a .342 batting average, which ranked sixth on the YSU career list.
Junior Elizabeth Birkbeck was named to the 2019 Horizon League All-Tournament Team after batting .500 with a pair of home runs, two runs scored and three RBIs in the postseason. Birkbeck tied for the team lead with six home runs and had a team-best .505 slugging percentage.
From April 13 to April 28, 2018, the Penguins won nine straight games, which is tied for the second-longest winning streak in school history.
Zappitelli was named All-Horizon League First-Team after batting .413 with 13 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 22 RBIs. Zappitelli, who became just the eighth player in school history to back above .400, ranks sixth on the YSU single-season batting average list. She ranked in the top 10 in seven different Horizon League statistical categories. Yazmine Romero was named to the All-Horizon League Second-Team and All-Freshman Team after batting .393 with 10 stolen bases. Maddi Lusk also earned second-team all-league honors after batting .315 overall and .338 in league play.
In 2017, Youngstown State posted an overall record of 31-28 and marked the first time in school history the program recorded consecutive 30-win seasons. YSU won 30 games in 2016. During the season, the Penguins won nine straight games between March 22 and April 1, which tied for the second longest streak in school history.
YSU finished second in the Horizon League with a record of 17-7 and set a school mark for most wins in league play. The Penguins also won their final 12 games against league foes and advanced to the Horizon League Championship game for the second time in five seasons.
Hannah Lucas was named All-Horizon League First-Team after leading the team with a .339 overall batting average and a .416 average against Horizon League foes. Freshman Maddi Lusk was named the Horizon League Co-Freshman of the Year and All-Horizon League Second-Team after picking up 17 wins and batting .281.
Cali Mikovich and Brittney Moffatt were also named to the All-Horizon League Second-Team. Mikovich and Lusk were also named to the all-tournament team.
Sarah Dowd, an all-tournament team selection and an academic all-district choice, finished her career as YSU's all-time home run and runs batted in league with 37 and 130, respectively.
In Zilles' first year with the Penguins, they had one of the best offensive performances in school history. YSU set records for highest team batting average (.318), most runs (318), hits (456), doubles (79), home runs (51), grand slams (7) and runs batted in (285).
Miranda Castiglione posted one of the best single seasons in school history. She batted .450 with 58 runs, 17 doubles, 12 home runs, 49 RBIs, a .828 slugging percentage, an on-base percentage of .549, and 25 stolen bases. Mikovich was named All-Horizon League First-Team after batting .398 with 10 doubles, 13 home runs and 41 runs batted in. She led the team with 70 hits and set the YSU single-season home run record.
Zilles spent the 2015 season at Ursuline College and worked as the Assistant Director of Softball at Pinnacle Sports for seven years. While at Pinnacle, Zilles implemented and organized instructional classes while giving private hitting and fielding lessons.
She also served as an assistant coach at Copley High School, where she helped the Indians reach the district final for the first time in program history from 2008-10.
Zilles is a former University of Akron standout who spent time as a professional player for the Akron Racers.
She played for the Zips from 2003-06 and was named the team's Most Valuable Player as a senior in 2006, the same year she was named to the All-Mid-American Conference Second-Team.
In each of her first three seasons (2003-05), Zilles was honored as the team's Defensive Player of the Year. When her eligibility expired, she ranked in the top-10 in program history in stolen bases, at-bats and walks.
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Studies, Zilles spent 2007 as a utility player for the Racers, the National Pro Fastpitch League champions.
Zilles is also pursuing a master's degree educational administration from Ursuline College.