By Dan Hiner
The Youngstown State University baseball team snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday. The Penguins picked up a 5-1 win against Bowling Green State University.
With the win, YSU’s record improved to 11-24 and 4-24 in the Horizon League. Bowling Green’s record falls to 14-21 (7-8).
The Falcons took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Falcons designated hitter Trey Keegan hit into a double play with runners on first and third and no outs. The Penguins turned the double play, but the runner from third scored.
The Penguins took the lead in the bottom of the second inning after shortstop Shane Willoughby doubled down the leftfield line drove home first baseman Brent Gillespie and designated hitter Josh Fitch.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, center fielder Frank Califano hit a two-out triple to right field. Then left fielder Jason Shirley hit a double down the right field line — driving in Califano. Shirley advanced to third base after a wild pitch and scored on a pass ball — giving the Penguins a 4-1 lead.
YSU drove in its final run in the bottom of the sixth inning after Willoughby hit a RBI single to left. Gillespie scored and the Penguins extended their lead to 5-1.
YSU starting pitcher Josh North threw four innings — allowing two hits, four walks and one earned run. The bullpen — a combination of Austin Lujano, Ryan Krokos and Anthony Konders — pitched five innings and allowed four hits and one walk.
“Obviously when you pitch as well as we did, we gave up a run in the first — we weren’t real sharp the first couple hitters and that led to a run,” head coach Steve Gillispie said. “When you throw up eight ‘zeros,’ it takes a lot of pressure off the team to perform offensively. We had some timely hitting.”
Willoughby finished 2-4 with double and tied a career-high with three RBIs. Gillispie said Willoughby’s double in the first inning was key to the Penguins’ win.
“It was early in the game when teams are trying to feel each other out, and we were able to overcome the deficit,” Gillispie said. “We were able to take the lead right there with the double that knocked in two. We had given up an out and sacrificed the runners over, hoping to get at least a fly ball or ground ball and get one. He came up with the big hit and gives us the opportunity to add after taking the lead. So it was huge because it changed a little of the momentum of the game. It ended up being the difference after throwing up ‘zeros’ the rest of the way out.”
Gillispie said the upcoming schedule could play in the team’s favor. The Penguins will play their next seven games at home, including six conference games. Gillispie said the current home stand could help the players’ mentality heading into the end of the semester.
“With the awful spring we had to move two home series on to the road just to get to play them,” he said. “We had a ton of road games early. It seemed like we were getting on the bus everyday. So I think it’s good for that, especially as we wind down to the end of the semester with classes it’s good. Maybe it will take a little bit of pressure off them — making sure they’re studying on the road and that kind of thing. Now they can go to class and go through the flow of school, and maybe take some of that pressure and stress off as well.”
Gillispie said the team potentially learned from its mistakes in the team’s previous series against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“We played fairly well in Milwaukee. We had a couple of lapses in there that ended up costing us and we didn’t knock in runs when we had opportunities to, and we lost two one-run ballgames,” he said. “I think it solidifies the emphasis on playing clean defensively — quality pitching and getting the game under control — and taking advantage of opportunities. Which is kind of how we approached things all year, but it solidifies that when we haven’t done that, we haven’t won and when we’ve done that we won. So hopefully, it’s being reinforced that it’s the way we want to play.”
The Penguins’ next game will take place on April 24 against Wright State University. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Eastwood Field.