By Brian Yauger
It’s been a rocky start for the Youngstown State University baseball team, but the team is showing signs of a turnaround after two wins in its last four games.
The first win for the Penguins came in a walk-off single from Phillip Glasser in the bottom of the 10th inning to beat the University of Pittsburgh 3-2. Two of YSU’s four wins so far have come against the Panthers.
YSU then opened a three-game series against fellow Horizon League school, Wright State University. YSU got one win in the series, taking down the second-place Raiders 10-8, a season high in runs for the team.
Eight different Penguins had a hit in that game with Jeff Wehler, Steven D’Eusanio and Dylan Swarmer each getting two. Wehler stole a career-high four bases and Glasser drove in two runners.
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak against the Raiders.
They dropped the other two games by a combined 16 runs, falling 7-1 and 18-8.
“This is a game that doesn’t let you feel too sorry for yourself for too long,” Penguins coach John Bertolini said after the loss to Oakland University. “You have to get back out and play.”
Wehler’s on pace for history if he keeps stealing bases at this rate. The sophomore outfielder is seventh all-time in stolen bases and with his next, will be the seventh player in school history to reach 40 career stolen bases.
Wehler is also ranked second in the Horizon League and 36th nationally in stolen bases.
One of the steadiest pitchers for the Penguins as of late is senior and Beloit native, Kip DeShields. DeShields has made contributions to the last two wins, pitching a perfect 10th inning to help set up the walk-off against Pitt. DeShields also registered the final out of the eighth inning against their win against Wright State.
In his 12 appearances on the season, DeShields has struck out 10 batters.
Another pitcher making waves for the Penguins is freshman LHP Marco DeFalco. Over his last seven appearances, the Niles McKinley High School graduate has allowed only five earned runs on 13 hits over 18 innings registering a 2.41 ERA. He entered in the eighth inning at Pitt on March 13 and allowed no runs on two hits over two innings to earn his first career save.
Up next for the Penguins is a three-game series with the University of Illinois-Chicago. The Flames lead the Horizon League with a 6-2 conference record and 10-11 overall.
The Flames have some strong hitters as freshman catcher Ryan Hampe leads the Horizon League with a .429 batting average and ranks second with a .500 on-base percentage.
Senior outfielder Scott Ota, who was named Horizon League Batter of the Week on Monday, ranks in the top 10 of the league in seven different categories. Ota is batting .342 and slugging .633 with a conference-best six home runs and team-best 15 RBIs.
YSU and UIC split the 2018 season series with each team sweeping a three-game series on its home field. In doing so, the Penguins swept a Horizon League opponent for the first time since 2012.
The schedule may not be getting any easier, but if the Penguins can keep the improvement going, there’s still a shot for YSU to make some noise in the season.
Note: At the time of publication, YSU will have played Kent State University, it’s omitted from the story.