By Robert Hayes
On a sunny and brisk afternoon, the Youngstown State University baseball team held their home opener at Eastwood Field Saturday in a doubleheader against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies.
YSU scored six unanswered to claim a 6-5 victory in game one, but lost in extra innings by a final score of 7-5 in game two.
“Two close ballgames, one went our way, one didn’t,” coach Dan Bertolini said after the second game.
The Penguins (2-19, 1-4) fell behind early in game one, as Oakland held a 5-0 after the third inning.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning, Lucas Nasonti hit a grounder that led to a fielding error, which allowed Drew Dickerson and Steven D’Eusanio to score. A sacrifice fly by Phillip Glasser brought Web Charles in, and that was followed up by an RBI double from Jeff Wehler to make it a 5-4 ballgame.
YSU’s offense carried that momentum into the bottom of the sixth inning when Charles knocked an RBI single into left field that score Dickerson, which tied the ballgame.
Charles then stole second base, and an RBI single by Nasonti allowed YSU to take their first lead of the ballgame. This proved to be the difference in the ballgame as YSU held on to win by a final score of 6-5. This marked the first time since 2012 that YSU has won its home opener.
Colin Clark started the game for YSU. He went 5.1 innings and allowed five runs on ten hits, although three of those runs came unearned due to errors.
Some stellar pitching out of the Penguins bullpen by Kip DeShields, Brandon Matthews and Brett Souder would limit Oakland to only two hits over 3.2 innings. Souder recorded the first save of his career, and DeShields was credited with his first win of the season.
“At the end of the day, you just have to try and score more runs than the other team, and we did that,” Bertolini said. “I was proud of our guys, I thought Brett Souder did a really good job of coming in and we had some clutch hits. Our upperclassmen found ways, and our seniors led us in that game with some big hits.”
Scoring started early in game two when the Golden Grizzlies (1-18, 1-4) used a mix of walks, pass balls and wild pitches to take a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the top of the first inning. YSU starter Marco DeFalco got the Penguins out of a bases loaded jam to limit the damage.
The Penguins scored two in the bottom of the second inning with RBI singles from Dylan Swarmer and Nasonti to make the score 2-1.
DeFalco did not allow a hit until the top of the fifth inning when Mario Camilletti knocked a single into right field.
Drew Demumbrum blased a solo home run to right field to knot the game up at 2-2 in the top of the sixth inning. DeFalco exited the game after finishing the inning, and only allowed one earned run on three hits in six innings pitched.
Bertolini felt that DeFalco kept them in the game.
“[DeFalco] didn’t have his best command today early on, but found ways get in the groove and give us five great innings,” Bertolini said.
YSU retaliated in the bottom on the sixth on an RBI single by Dickerson to make it a 3-2 ballgame with YSU out in front.
Travis Perry came out of YSU’s bullpen in the top of the seventh. He walked two batters and gave up two hits, which allowed Oakland to plate three runs and take a 5-3 led.
The Penguins came right back and with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, Trevor Wiersma walked to cut the lead down to 5-4. Blaze Glenn followed up with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 5-5.
Both teams had opportunities to score late in the game, but Oakland finally broke the tie in the eleventh inning to take a 7-5 lead, which was end the final score.
Dalton Earich had a valiant effort out of the Penguins bullpen, as he only allowed two runs on four hits through 4.2 innings of relief work.
“I thought we battled. We had good at-bats, it was just a good baseball game,” Bertolini said after the second game. “[Oakland] just did a little bit more than we did to win and that’s really what it took.”
Bertolini is happy to be back at Eastwood Field and playing at home after playing the first 19 games on the road.
“It feels great, it felt awesome to be at home,” Bertolini said. “I thought the crowd was great and gave us some energy late after a long day in cold temperatures.”
YSU looks to win their first series of the season, as they take on Oakland in the final game of their three game series Sunday afternoon, with first pitch set for 1 p.m.