By Dan Hiner
It was a tale of two games over the weekend for the Youngstown State University baseball team.
The Penguins won the first game of a two-game series against the University of Illinois at Chicago 9-1, but fell apart in a 15-1 loss in the second game.
YSU had its best all-around game of the season on Friday. The Penguins scored a season-high nine runs on 15 hits against the Flames in the series opener.
The Penguins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. With runners on first and second, YSU second baseman Billy Salem attempted a sacrifice bunt, but UIC pitcher Ian Lewandowski threw the ball away. YSU’s Alex Larivee scored an unearned run from second and Lorenzo Arcuri made it all the way around from first base.
YSU kept the pressure on in the third inning. Penguins’ outfielder Kyle Benyo drove in Salem with an RBI single to left field to push the YSU lead to 3-0.
Penguins’ starting pitcher Joe King shut down the Flames’ offense. King allowed one run on six hits during his six innings pitched. The Penguins used Freshman Joel Hake and Jesse Slinger out of the bullpen. Hake and Slinger pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk.
The Penguins kept scoring in the second half of the game and came away with the win on Saturday afternoon.
Things didn’t go well for the Penguins in the second game of the day. The Flames jumped out to an early 6-0 lead in the top of the third inning.
YSU responded with its only run of the game in the bottom of the third after YSU second baseman Billy Salem hit an RBI single up the middle to drive in Trey Bridis.
Penguins’ starting pitcher Jeremy Quinlan labored throughout the outing. Quinlan allowed 11 hits and one walk in three innings pitched. Quinlan allowed three earned runs.
YSU went to the bullpen in the fourth inning, but it was the same story for the relievers. The bullpen allowed nine runs, eight earned, in the final five innings. They gave up 11 hits and three walks in the second game.
The Penguins’ pitching staff has struggled in recent weeks. Last Saturday, YSU lost the second game of a doubleheader against the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee 22-3.
Salem was the difference maker for the Penguins in the series. He combined to go 3-8 with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Larivee and YSU first baseman Andrew Kendrick contributed in the first game, but they struggled in the second game. Larivee went 4-10, 4-5 in the first game, and scored three runs and drove in one RBI. Kendrick went 4-6 with one run scored and one RBI. Kendrick finished the first game 3-5 and was limited to one at-bat in the second game.
The odd weather over the weekend played an unexpected role. The first game of the series was suspended in the bottom of the sixth inning after a thunderstorm on Friday night. The final game was cancelled due to snowfall and temperatures on Sunday afternoon.
The Penguins will host the University of Toledo on Wednesday. This will be the only meeting between the Rockets and the Penguins. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 at Eastwood Field.