By Robert Hayes
The Youngstown State University baseball team took to the road on Tuesday to play Penn State University and lost a heartbreaker by a score of 16-15, to have to come straight back and play a game Wednesday afternoon against the University of Toledo.
YSU came out to play as their offense continued their recent success, and stole nine bases to beat Toledo (10-19) by a score of 5-3.
Penguins coach Dan Bertolini sees his offensive clicking.
“I really think that we were very discipline at the plate. We didn’t chase a whole lot, we made them throw strikes,” Bertolini said. “We had some great at-bats, 10-12-14 pitch at-bats, and when we got on base we were able to steal extra bases.”
The Penguins (8-25, 4-8) did look like a group of bandits, as they stole nine bases, which tied an all-time school record that was set back in 1970 against Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Lucas Nasonti, who went 2-4 with three stolen bases, credits Assistant Coach Eric Smith for having the team prepared before games.
“A lot of it comes from scouting from Coach Smith, he picks up on a lot on the pitchers, and we just came in with a game plan and try to take advantage of it,” Smith said.
Bertolini also believes preparation helps YSU rack up the stolen bases.
“We just really work on it, it’s something that’s a point of emphasis every day in practice, and you can see that even when we’re not stealing, that we’re getting good reads and getting good jumps and it just puts pressure on pitchers and their defense,” Bertolini said.
Cameron Murray and Phillip Glasser both had two steals, while Blaze Glenn and Travis Perry each had a steal, as well. Additionally, Glenn had two RBIs and Glasser had one RBI.
This was all accomplished with YSU resting a few key players, which included Jeff Wehler and Drew Dickerson. Web Charles also didn’t play a majority of the game, until he came in as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.
Bertolini is pleased were his team is at offensively.
“I like the mentality that our guys have adopted here in the last couple of weeks, we’re starting to get our confidence,” he said.
Pitching was also strong last night, as four different YSU pitchers combined to only allow three runs on six base hits. Gary Clift Jr. saw his first action in a game since he pitched against Belmont University on Feb. 16, 2018, as he started the game last night and pitched one inning of scoreless work while recording two strikeouts.
Brandon Matthews pitched four innings of shutout baseball, then Aaron Williams and Zach Lopatka helped close the door, as Lopatka’s 3.1 innings pitched gave him is first save of the season.
Bertolini sees Clift taking an active role in the bullpen going forward.
“It was big for him [Clift], I’m really happy for him, he’s dealt with a lot of adversity and injuries, and for him to come out and pitch like he did in the 1st inning, that’s going to be a big spark to our bullpen.”
YSU has been hot at home lately as they’ve won four out of their last five home contests.
Nasonti credits that for making the game more enjoyable.
“I try to play hard every single time I get the opportunity, when things are going well like tonight, it’s just that much more fun, this team in general, just play as hard as we can has been the motto this year,” Nasonti said. “The last couple games we’ve been playing really good baseball, everyone is up, and everyone can’t wait to get to the field and play. It’s been really fun.”
The Penguins look to keep their bats hot, as they travel to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this weekend for a Horizon League matchup. YSU’s series against the Panthers (16-13, 5-6) starts on Friday afternoon with first pitch set for 2 p.m.