Baseball Begins Final Stretch With DH's at Butler, vs. Wright State

Phil Klein
Phil Klein

With final exams in the rear-view mirror, the Youngstown State baseball team begins its final stretch of the regular season with four games this weekend. The Penguins will play a big doubleheader at Butler on Friday, and they'll return home to Eastwood Field for two games on Sunday against Wright State. Both doubleheaders are scheduled to start at noon, and the Guins will celebrate "Senior Day" prior to Sunday's contests. YSU is in fifth place in the Horizon League standings by a half game over Butler. In previous meetings this year, YSU went 2-1 against the Bulldogs and 1-2 against Wright State.

On the Mound

Youngstown State will send its top two starters to the mound on Friday at Butler to try and seal fifth place in the Horizon League standings. Senior righty Phil Klein will take the ball in game one, and sophomore right-hander Robert Switka is slated to start game two. Klein is having one of the best seasons of any Horizon League starter. He leads the conference with 77 strikeouts to go along with his 4-4 record and 3.73 ERA. In league games, he is 2-1 with a 2.27 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. Switka went 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA in April, but he allowed six earned runs in three innings last weekend against Milwaukee. Overall, he is 2-6 with a 6.41 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 66 innings. Bill Turosky is slated to start game one on Sunday against Wright State, and game two's starter has not been announced. Turosky is 1-2 with a 6.25 ERA in 10 total appearances. The sophomore lefty has started each of the past three weekends and has assembled an ERA of 8.82 in those three starts. He had a 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings out of the bullpen leading up to his promotion to the rotation.

Looking Ahead

YSU will play five games in four days next week in the final week of the regular season. The Penguins will welcome Pittsburgh on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Akron on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Through a partnership with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and Akron Children's Hospital, around 2,000 students from local schools are expected to attend Wednesday's contest. YSU will then head back on the road for three games at UIC. The teams will play a game Thursday at 7:05 p.m. and two on Friday starting at 1:05 p.m.

Scouting Butler

Butler has gone 4-4 over its last eight games overall, but the Bulldogs have gone 3-9 in their last 12 Horizon League contests. They lost two of three at home against Cleveland State last weekend. Butler ranks second in the league in batting average, slugging and runs, trailing Wright State in all three categories. Catcher Michael Letzter leads the team in average (.364), homers (5) and RBIs (34). Right-handers Dom Silvestri and Jared Wagoner will take the mound against YSU.

Scouting Wright State

Wright State is first in the Horizon League standings by a half game, and the Raiders rank at the top of almost every offensive category. They are hitting .318, 32 points higher than second-place Butler, and they have 71 more hits than second-place Milwaukee. Wright State is third in team ERA at 4.25. Junior first baseman leads the circuit in batting average, RBIs, doubles and homers. The Raiders have won nine of their last 11 Horizon League games. They play a doubleheader at Cleveland State on Saturday.

This Year vs. Butler

After losing game one of the series 15-1 on April 8, the Penguins rebounded by sweeping a doubleheader a day later to win the series against Butler. All four pitchers that appeared for YSU in game one gave up at least three runs, and Butler's Dom Silvestri allowed one run in eight innings. The Bulldogs had 18 hits in the game, but they had 12 combined the next day. Phil Klein allowed just four runs and struck out 10 in seven innings to lead YSU to a 5-1 win in game one, and Phil Lipari delivered a walk-off single in the ninth in game two's 4-3 win.

This Year vs. Wright State

YSU rebounded from two lopsided losses to win game three of the series at Wright State on March 25-26. The Raiders won the first two games 13-1 and 8-2, but the Penguins won the finale 8-2. Phil Klein allowed two earned runs in seven innings to earn the win, and YSU had 13 hits as a team. Drew Dosch went 4-for-5, and three other players had two hits apiece. Dosch was 8-for-13 in the series and was named the Horizon League Batter of the Week for his efforts.

Finally a Power Boost?

After hitting two home runs in its first 41 games, Youngstown State hit five home runs in four contests last week. Jeremy Banks hit three of those round-trippers – his first three of the season – and David Leon and Joe Iacobucci each hit one. Iacobucci hit 10 homers last year and had 15 in his first three seasons combined. Last year, the Penguins set school records with 60 home runs, 115 doubles and a .560 slugging percentage. This year, YSU has five homers, 42 doubles and a .282 slugging percentage in the first 51 games.

Magic Number is One

The Youngstown State baseball team needs one win or one Cleveland State loss to clinch a spot in the Horizon League Baseball Tournament. YSU is 7-11 in conference play, and Cleveland State is 4-17. The Penguins hold the tiebreaker with CSU by virtue of winning both games against the Vikings on April 23. The top six teams in the league standings qualify for the tournament, which will be held May 25-28 at Wright State.

Guins Among League's Top Defensive Teams

Youngstown State ranks second in the Horizon League in fielding percentage at .966. The Penguins owned the top spot before committing a season-high five errors against Milwaukee on May 7. Wright State is the top fielding team with a percentage of .967. The Penguins previous best percentage since 2000 was .957 in 2010, 2008 and 2004.

Klein, Iacobucci Climbing Career Charts

YSU seniors Phil Klein and Joe Iacobucci are both climbing career charts as their tenures start to wind down. Klein ranks fourth in career strikeouts with 230 and eighth in career innings. He'll need 20 more strikeouts to reach No. 3, and he is 22 innings shy of the top five. Iacobucci currently ranks fourth in total bases (328), fifth in RBIs (124), sixth in hits (231), doubles (43) and ninth in (121) runs. He needs two doubles, 14 more hits and 10 more runs to reach the top five in those categories.

Line-Up is Unbalanced

Youngstown State has five players hitting at least .279, but only two other players are hitting above .220. Neil Schroth is hitting a team-high .300, and Jeremy Banks (.280), Drew Dosch, David Leon and Joe Iacobucci are all hitting .279. The other two hitting above .220 are Jonathan Crist (.231) and Phil Lipari (.221). Aside from the top five hitters, the other 10 players who have stepped to the plate are hitting a combined .193.

Quality Starts Are Key

YSU has gotten a quality start - three earned runs or fewer in at least six innings - from its pitchers 18 times this season, and the Guins are 11-7 in those games. YSU is 1-26 when it doesn't get a quality start. In YSU's 12 wins, YSU's starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.20 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.88 to 1 (78 strikeouts and 16 walks). In the 33 losses, the starters have an 8.23 ERA and a K-to-BB ratio is 1.16 to 1 (100 strikeouts, 86 walks) in losses.

Other Notable Keys to Winning

  • YSU is 11-12 when scoring at least three runs but 1-21 when scoring two or fewer.
  • YSU is batting .304 and averaging 10.75 hits in its 12 wins. It is batting .211 and averaging 6.58 hits in its 33 losses.
  • YSU has scored 64 runs in its 12 wins and 76 wins in its 33 losses.

Switka, Klein Solid in April

YSU starting pitchers Robert Switka and Phil Klein were extraordinary in April. Klein went 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts, and Switka was 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his five starts and one relief appearance. Klein struck out 29 batters in 26.1 innings, and Switka fanned 23 hitters in 36.1 innings. They helped the Penguins to a team ERA of 5.13 for the month. The staff ERA was 8.26 through March.

McCulloh Excelling as Reliever

Since sophomore Kevin McCulloh was shifted to the back-end of the bullpen on April 9, he has helped solidify the late innings for YSU. In his 12 relief appearances, McCulloh has allowed five earned runs over 24.1 innings for an ERA of 1.85. He has picked up three wins and earned a save while holding hitters to a .228 batting average.

Manuppelli Strong Since Return

Since returning from an injury on April 29, right-hander Nic Manuppelli has not allowed a run in five innings of relief work. He has allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out two. Since the end of March, Manuppelli has allowed one earned run in his last 10 innings.

Four Weekly Honors for YSU

Three YSU players have combined to win four Horizon League weekly awards this season. Drew Dosch earned the lone Batter-of-the-Week award on March 28. Phil Klein was the Pitcher of the Week on March 21 and April 11, and Kevin McCulloh was Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 21.