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YSU softball has ‘We over me’ mindset

YOUNGSTOWN — “We over me.” That is the slogan for the Youngstown State softball team as they begin their 2020 campaign on Friday.

“What we were looking for with ‘We over me,’ is if a young lady comes up, Maddi (Lusk) is one of our best hitters and she needs to get the bunt down and move the runner, that’s what we were talking about with ‘We over me,'” YSU coach Brian Campbell said. “Just doing things that you’re capable of doing, moving a runner, sacrificing yourself to move someone 60 feet on the base paths.

“Going through the fall (season) and being able to sacrifice and move runners over and kind of count on each other defensively, we kind of carried that into the spring and I think that’s really been something the kids are starting to understand and have done a great job coming back.”

Last spring didn’t go as well as YSU hoped, as the Penguins recorded a record of 25-29 for their second consecutive losing season after finishing above .500 in 2016 and 2017. YSU looks to improve after only hitting .236 as a team in 2019.

Tatum Christy, a graduate of Akron Manchester, is one of three seniors for the Penguins.

“I think that I have a big role when it comes to the infield and I just want to make sure that I’m a role model when it comes to being on the field and off the field,” Christy said. “I’m excited to play with each and every player on our team whether it’s a freshman or a senior.

“I just hope that I have a good interaction with them on the field or off the field, so I’m excited to play with everyone.”

After primarily playing first base for the past few seasons, Lusk will play a big role in the Penguins’ pitching rotation as a senior. She won 17 games as a pitcher in her freshman season, but an injury during her sophomore year limited her time in the circle since then.

During the offseason, freshman phenom and Mathews graduate Addy Jarvis transferred to the University of Illinois of the Big Ten. Jarvis set several YSU records and was named the Horizon League Freshman of the Year in 2019.

Junior Elle Buffenbarger goes into the 2020 season with 249 strikeouts, which is sixth all-time in school history. Sophomore Kayla Rutherford, a Cardinal Mooney graduate, will see more playing time after only appearing in four games last year as a pitcher.

Campbell said that the trio of pitchers all bring something different to the circle.

“All three bring different aspects as far as different looks, so I think that is one of the biggest things where you could have one of them throw for a little bit and be able to mix in with another one that has different tools or different pitches,” he said.

With an injury to senior catcher Liz Birkbeck, senior Demi Ann Patonis will see time behind the plate, along with freshman Conchetta Rinaldi.

Rinaldi also graduated from Cardinal Mooney, and is excited to help contribute to her team.

“I’m willing to do anything for my team,” Rinaldi said, “I think although we’ve had ups and downs with the injuries, I think it’s all about who are out and ready to be there.”

“I’m really excited, I think we have a really good shot of being Horizon League champions.”

YSU will play its first 22 games on the road, and Rinaldi is ready for the start of the season.

“I’ve just had to look up to my teammates, especially because they’ve been through it, it’s something I’ve never personally experienced,” she said. “Upperclassmen especially, they’ve been super helpful throughout my freshman year journey so far.”

For Christy, the grind of having road games for a month and a half is nothing new after a long offseason.

“I don’t think that being a senior has made it any different,” she said. “Just working hard throughout every practice and every day that we have, working hard has made it a good time.”

YSU begins its season in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, against Maryland-Eastern Shore as part of an early-season tournament. The Penguins are scheduled to play their first home game in a Horizon League doubleheader against Northern Kentucky on March 24.

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