Buckeyes to Eastwood
Champion grad Nasonti is key cog for host Penguins
For only the second time the Youngstown State University baseball team is going to play host to Ohio State. The Penguins and Buckeyes are scheduled to meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Eastwood Field.
Lucas Nasonti, leadoff hitter and centerfielder for the Penguins, is excited for the matchup against Ohio State.
“Any game I get to play here at Eastwood Field in front of my friends and family means the world to me, let alone it being against the Ohio State Buckeyes,” he said. “It makes it a little bit more special.”
Nasonti is no stranger to playing at Eastwood, as his team played there occasionally during his time at Champion High School. He helped push the Golden Flashes to a Division III state championship during his senior year in high school, a year in which he hit .458 and stole 37 bases, the latter of which ist a single-season record.
He enjoys being able to play so close to home.
“It’s a dream come true, it’s something you look forward to growing up, and I actually got the opportunity to,” Nasonti said. “I don’t take it for granted, and I try to make the most of it.”
YSU coach Dan Bertolini has high praise for the sophomore.
“He is the rock of our team, his defense is second to none, I would put him up there with anybody in our league as far as defensively in centerfield. He got off to a little bit of a slow start, but he has played great.
“The kid works his tail off, he plays as hard as humanly possible. Effort is never a problem with him, and he’s really done a great job for us.” Bertolini said.
Nasonti is also one of the key players in the YSU lineup, as he currently sits at a batting average of .260, with 12 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. He’s helped YSU accumulate 102 stolen bases, one off the school record of 103 steals set in 1970.
Bertolini thinks Nasonti has some characteristics that make him stand out.
“His heart, his effort, just the way he carries himself every day,” he said. “He’s going full-out on every ball and getting great reads, and that’s why he’s become such a great outfielder.”
Nasonti also has the opportunity to play with one of his high school teammates at YSU. Aaron Williams graduated in the same class as Nasonti at Champion, and is a relief pitcher for the Penguins.
Williams enjoys being able to play with Nasonti at the collegiate level.
“It’s awesome, you go four years playing with one of your best friends in high school. We didn’t have a lot of people in high school, so we knew each other well,” Williams said. “We have great chemistry, and it’s just fun. We have inside jokes from high school, it’s really enjoyable.”
Williams also believes playing near his hometown is important.
“You look up into the stands, and you’re in the dugout, and you’re hitting, or you’re pitching, you look up and you see your family, you see people you see your whole life, and it’s awesome.”
It hasn’t been the season the Penguins wanted as they currently sit at 12-37 (6-18 Horizon League), but YSU has been competitive, and has been swinging the bat better lately. They’ve scored five or more runs in seven of their last nine games at home.
The Penguins also have the ability to defend their home field, as they currently own a mark of 10-8 at Eastwood.
YSU has made an effort to schedule quality opponents as they’ve played Mississippi State, Florida State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Pitt as some of their non-conference matchups this season.
The last time the Penguins defeated the Buckeyes was an 11-9 victory at Ohio State in 1996. Previously, YSU hosted Ohio State one other time at Eastwood Field back in 2015.
Bringing in a program like Ohio State (27-23) to Eastwood Field is important to Bertolini.
“It’s big for our players to play against the best of the best, and we’re excited to have Ohio State come to town.” he said. “Being the in-state rival carries a lot of clout in the state of Ohio. I think it’s be an exciting day for our players, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I know it’ll be a great crowd so it should be a really fun day.”
Meanwhile, Nasonti has one goal during the rest of his tenure at YSU.
“Win a Horizon League championship, and I don’t think anybody is thinking any different.”