By Robert Hayes
A strong pitching performance out of Travis Perry helped push the Youngstown State University Penguins baseball team past the University of Illinois Chicago Flames by a final score of 6-5 on Saturday afternoon to give the Penguins the series, as they plan to fan the flames later today.
Perry pitched 7.2 innings, and allowed four runs on eight hits, while recording three strikeouts. The freshman earned his first career win as well.
YSU coach Dan Bertolini was pleased with Perry’s performance.
“Travis (Perry) did a fantastic job, and that’s the start we really needed, and we thought that what he was capable of,” Bertolini said. “It’s so important when your starting pitching gets you into the beginning of the eighth inning, it takes a lot of pressure off of our bullpen.”
Perry was happy to add a “W” into the win column.
“I was a little nervous coming in. They hit Colin (Clark) pretty well yesterday and they’re just a good team overall,” Perry said. “You try to get that first win, a little nerves kicked in, and I got the first three batters in the 1st inning, and I just felt really good and let my defense work.”
The bats also heated up over the last few games, as the Penguins are now on a three-game win streak. Bertolini sees his team turning in the right direction.
“I’m just glad we’re starting to play some good baseball, that’s what we’re happy about,” Bertolini said. “It was another game with double-digit hits, and we’re finding ways to score runs.”
YSU began the scoring early, when Drew Dickerson hit a shot to left center on the first pitch of the at-bat, to score Trevor Wiersma, which gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
The hit parade continued into the bottom of the third when Wiersma drove Blaze Glenn, on an RBI single to make it 2-0 YSU.
Wiersma, who ended the game 3-4 with an RBI and a run scored talked about the team has changed its approach at the plate.
“As a team we just want to be selectively aggressive,” Wiersma said. “We want to make them work, but at the same time, when we get our pitch in our hot zone, we got to be ready to go, so that’s what we’ve been doing and we’re starting to play we all thought we had here.”
UIC (11-13, 6-4) would score in the top of the fourth to make the score 2-1, but YSU would retaliate in the bottom of the fifth, when Jeff Wehler brought Cameron Murray to make the score 3-1.
Wehler also sees the hitting improving.
“Hitting is contagious and its nice that the bats are coming along and the guys just want to hit, they want to be up there,” Wehler said. “We’re looking for the right stuff, so other than we’re just going to keep playing our game and keep banging the ball around.”
Dickerson did more damage in the bottom of the seventh, as he drilled a ball down the right field line for a double, which allowed Phillip Glasser to score. Web Charles immediately followed that up with an RBI double his own to score Dickerson and Wehler, which gave YSU a 6-1 lead.
Trouble began brewing in the top of the eighth, as Scott Ota of UIC knocked a two-run home run which cut the YSU lead in half. Perry would then be pulled and replaced by Dalton Earich. The Flames tacked on two more runs, and YSU carried a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
Brett Souder came in to close the game for YSU in the top of the ninth inning, and UIC did manage to get two runners on base, but crisis was averted, and Souder picked up his second save of the season to secure victory for the Penguins.
Bertolini wanted his team to just make contact.
“You can see the confidence starting to build in our hitters,” Bertolini said. “It’s contagious, when you’re not hitting, you’re not hitting, when you’re hitting, you’re hitting. It’s big that the middle of our order is really swinging the bats really well.”
The Penguins also wore their new pink breast cancer awareness uniforms, with a white uniform base and pink lettering and trim. They also wore a pink and white cap featuring the Pete the Penguin logo. Brookfield native Terry Yendrek, a breast cancer survivor tossed the honorary first pitch before the ballgame.
YSU looks to sweep the Flames on Sunday afternoon at Eastwood Field with first pitch set for 12 p.m.