By Kyle Wills
The Youngstown State University Penguins opened up Horizon League play this past weekend at Purdue University Fort Wayne. The Penguins battled the weather but came out with a 2-1 series victory.
On Friday, March 18, the Penguins shut out the Mastodons 4-0 on a brilliant pitching performance by redshirt senior Jon Snyder. He picked up his first victory of the season, pitching 6.1 innings, allowing one hit and striking out 10 batters.
Sophomore infielder Seth Lucero had a career-high three hits and two RBIs to guide the offense. Ian Francis stole home to account for the team’s second run of the afternoon while junior infielder Braeden O’Shaughnessy drove in the other RBI in the ninth.
The Penguins were scheduled to play on Saturday afternoon, but the rain canceled the game at Fort Wayne. The two teams had to move to Defiance High School to finish out the series in a doubleheader Sunday, March 20.
In game one, Youngstown State and Purdue Fort Wayne went back and forth, but the Mastodons walked off the Penguins in the bottom of the ninth to take the game 8-7.
Four different players had multiple hits for Youngstown State in the ballgame. Senior outfielder Lucas Nasonti had three RBIs while junior outfielder Andre Good was clutch at the plate, hitting two home runs and tallying three RBIs as well.
Pitching would falter late, however, with four earned runs in the eighth inning and the winning run in the ninth.
The Penguins had a short memory in the nightcap, bouncing back to beat up on the Mastodons following an offensive outburst 12-6. The team had 13 hits, with Braeden O’Shaughnessy tying his career-highs with four hits and three RBIs.
Braeden O’Shaughnessy’s brother, Padraig O’Shaughnessy, added two hits and three RBIs to the offensive performance. Lucero and Nasanti had the remaining two multi-hit showings as Lucero had three and Nasanti had two.
The men then traveled to Penn State University on Tuesday, March 22, to take on the Nittany Lions. Youngstown State took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, where the score remained final.
The win over Penn State marks the first win against a Big Ten opponent since the 1996 season and the first against the Nittany Lions since 1991.
Sophomore Nick Perez took the ball for the club for his first start of the season, pitching 4.2 innings. In those innings of work, he allowed a lone run on five hits while striking out one.
Redshirt sophomore Kenny Misik, senior Brandon Matthews and redshirt junior Alex Cardona allowed a combined two hits in three innings, and junior Nathan Ball came on the bump in the last inning to record his fifth save.
Youngstown State pitching managed to strand nine runners on base.
Both of the Penguins’ runs scored off mishaps as their tying-run in the sixth scored via a fielding error while the winning run scored on a wild pitch.
Head coach Dan Bertolini said he enjoyed the atmosphere of the matchup and was impressed with the defensive showing from the team.
“That was a great baseball game. I thought we did a great job defensively,” Bertolini said. “We made some spectacular plays, Eli Brown had a great play in left field, Braeden O’Shaughnessy diving down the third base line, Jake Ellowitz with a great diving play. We can go top to bottom with just the amount of great plays we made.”
After making the adjustment to the bullpen this season after a solid freshman campaign, Bertolini said he was impressed by Perez’s first start of the year.
“He commanded his arm, he made some pitches and we made some good plays behind him. He’s really pitched well for us this year,” Bertolini said.
The baseball team will close March out on the road as it travels to West Virginia University tomorrow, March 25, for a three-game series before making a stop at Michigan State University for a matchup against the Spartans on Wednesday, March 30.