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YSU coach talks about breakfast, team

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — If the Youngstown State baseball team’s annual First Pitch breakfast is less than two weeks away, that can only mean that the start of their baseball season is also around the corner.

Former Major League outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. will serve as guest speaker at this year’s 10th annual breakfast on Feb. 8 with head coach Dan Bertolini and his staff expecting over 500 to once again attend. The event will be at Waypoint 4180 in Canfield.

“Ken Griffey Sr. is a two-time World Series champion, three-time MLB all-star and is half of one of the greatest father-son duos ever to play the game,” Bertolini told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center. “Cleveland Indians play-by-play announcer Matt Underwood will also join Griffey, so it’s an all-baseball Saturday as we prepare for the start of the season.

“In addition to the speakers and an excellent buffet breakfast, there will also be live and silent auctions and a 50-50 raffle with your breakfast ticket automatically entering you in our pull raffle, which includes two grand prizes. The first grand prize is a 2020 team autographed bat and the second being four season tickets to all home games.

Bertolini heads into his fourth season at the helm, cautiously optimistic that this year’s unit can be the first to post a .500 mark or better since the 2005 Penguins went 29-27.

“The schedule is very challenging and while our first four series and 13 games are on the road, we expect to find out a lot about ourselves,” he added. “We open up Feb. 14-16 with a three-game series at the University of Houston, then head to the College of Charleston for a three-game set Feb. 21-23. Both have been top-40 programs over the past decade and we’re anxious to get started.”

The Penguins went 13-41 last season and were 7-20 in the Horizon League.

Bertolini said any team can win the league this season but several teams remain the cream of the crop.

“Wright State and UIC are still the two top teams in the conference with Wisconsin-Milwaukee right there as well,” he said. “Every team lost key players from last season, so to me, the league is all up for grabs.”

YSU batted .237 as a team last year, opponents hit .308 while the opposition scored 458 runs compared to 247 for the Penguins.

Bertolini expects those offensive numbers to improve with redshirt senior Nick Caruso, sophomore Dylan Swarmer (he was named to the Horizon League all-freshman team last season) and junior Dylan Carpenter all vying for the opening day catching assignment.

Starting pitching hopefuls include redshirt senior Collin Floyd and junior Colin Clark, with both sophomore Travis Perry and red-shirt sophomore Jon Snyder vying for the third slot.

The bullpen is a strength for the Penguins heading into the season with fifth-year senior Joel Hake returning after an injury-plagued season a year ago.

Also slated for duty are junior Chad Coles, junior Dalton Earich and redshirt senior Gary Clift, with the four twirlers floating between the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

The first and second base positions are yet to be decided with sophomore Steve D’Eusanio, redshirt sophomore Nick LaBrasca and Mercyhurst North East transfer Pad O’Shaughnessy (redshirt sophomore) eyeing time at first base, and junior Jeff Wehler, a two-time Horizon League selection, senior Cody Dennis and noteworthy freshman Braeden O’Shaughnessy (who plays second base, shortstop and third base) in a battle at the keystone sack.

Sophomore Phillip Glasser is the shortstop and senior third baseman Blaze Glenn round out the infield for Bertolini.

The outfield includes freshman Turner Grau and senior Cam Murray battling for the left field slot, junior Lucas Nasonti is in centerfield with junior Dom Bucco slated for rightfield duty.

Freshman Andre Good and any combination of first base hopefuls will serve as designated hitters.

Premium reserved tables for the First Pitch Breakfast, which guarantee priority seating the day of the event, are available for $350.

A general admission individual ticket is $25, reserved seats are $35 with a corporate-family table going for $550.

Doors open at 8 a.m. with the buffet set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Further information can be obtained by calling assistant coach Shane Davis at 330-207-4535, or by e-mail at ssdavis@ysu.edu.

Next Monday, YSU head softball coach Brian Campbell will serve as guest speaker.

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