Niles’ DeFalco signs with Penguins baseball

YOUNGSTOWN — There was no line of hats to choose from for Marco DeFalco.

He didn’t leave everyone hanging with some last-minute Twitter announcement. DeFalco didn’t care for the signing day suspense.

The Niles left-hander has wanted to play baseball at Youngstown State University for some time, and he made his commitment official Wednesday.

“It was pretty much YSU from the get-go,” DeFalco said. “It was a pretty easy decision. I’ve wanted to go there for a while.”

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound pitcher is coming off a superb junior year.

DeFalco, who throws in the mid-to-upper 80s, tossed two consecutive no-hitters (and was one out away from a third straight). He had three no-nos overall as a junior, finishing 8-0 with a 0.38 ERA, 95 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 55 innings.

YSU actually started showing interest in DeFalco, now a senior at Niles, prior to his incredible run.

“It was more toward the beginning of the season last year,” he sad. “I got a text from one of the recruiting coordinators, and it went from there. Then they came to watch me against Lakeview. We played at their home field, Eastwood Field, so they stayed there and watched me, and I just kept talking to them after that, and I’m here now.”

DeFalco said he knew a few scouts were watching that day after seeing them behind the backstop with radar guns, and that “added a little bit more pressure for me to pitch good.” He thrived in a situation that used to cause him anxiety, tossing one of his three no-hitters against the Bulldogs.

“I used to not look forward to situations like that,” DeFalco said, “but I just embraced it this past year.”

The official signing period for baseball is in April, so YSU baseball coach Dan Bertolini couldn’t comment on DeFalco, but there’s no doubt he’ll be joining the Penguins.

DeFalco said there were a few brief inquiries from Eastern Michigan and Marietta, but he was always partial to YSU.

“It’s close to home, and it just felt right there,” he said. “I’ve been to a couple other schools, and it never felt like home. I’ve always wanted to stay close to home, so it was just a perfect fit.”

DeFalco said he expects to be a preferred walk-on to start, but he also could earn an athletic scholarship based on his performance. He said he expects to be well-compensated either way because of several academic grants and scholarships stemming from his 3.5 GPA.

He anticipates majoring in education and eventually pursuing a coaching career.

“I just want to be around baseball as long as I can,” he said. “I started playing tee-ball in Niles when I was around 4 years old. I played there up until I was 10, and then I moved over to travel ball, and that’s when I realized I had a future in baseball. … I really realized it when I was a kid outside with my friends, just playing (baseball) all day. I fell in love with it.”