Youngstown -- The Youngstown State baseball team is scheduled to play its home and Horizon League openers this week as the schedule starts to pick up in pace.
The Penguins are slated to play host to Division III Penn State Behrend at Eastwood Field on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in their home opener. They will then play their conference opener at Wright State on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Live stats will be available for all four games, and the weekend series at Wright State will have live video on the Horizon League Network.
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YSU enters the "week of openers" coming off an encouraging stint at the Panther Classic last weekend. The Penguins defeated Toledo twice, beating the Rockets 4-3 on Friday and 7-1 on Sunday. They got strong starting pitching in the wins from Robert Switka and Phil Klein. Switka allowed two earned runs in seven innings, and Klein allowed one run on three hits while striking out 13 in eight innings. Klein was named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Week for his efforts. Switka and Klein will join Kevin McCulloh in the weekend rotation. Wednesday's starter versus Penn State Behrend has not been announced.
Offensively, David Leon hit .438 in the four games and went 5-for-5 in the first win over Toledo. Joe Iacobucci hit .429 and scored four times, and Neil Schroth and Drew Dosch bot hit .308. For the year, freshman Phil Lipari is batting a team-best .263 with nine RBIs, and Jeremy Banks is close behind with a .262 average.
Scouting Penn State Behrend
Penn State Behrend enters this week with a 7-3 record and winners of six of its last seven games. Youngstown State is the only Division I opponent on its schedule. The Lions are hitting .286 as a team, and six players are hitting at least .310. Sophomore outfielder Ryan Kragnes is hitting a team-best .440 and has scored a team-high seven runs. The Lions have swiped 21 bases in their first 10 games.
Scouting Wright State
Wright State has the Horizon League's best record at 10-7 as conference play is set to begin this weekend. The Raiders lead the league with a .297 batting average as well as a 4.61 ERA. Junior Jake Hibberd is the reigning Horizon League Batter of the Week and is hitting a team-best .357. Seven other starters are hitting at least .298. Michael Schum is 5-1 with three saves and a 1.47 ERA in nine appearances out of the bullpen. The Raiders have scored the winning run in the ninth inning six times in their 10 wins.
Klein Coming On Strong
YSU senior Phil Klein is the reigning Horizon League Pitcher of the Week. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and did not allow a base-runner until the fifth in leading YSU to a 7-1 victory over Toledo last Sunday. Klein struck out a career-high 13 of the 29 batters he faced in eight innings of work. He allowed one earned run on three hits and one walk. Klein earned the weekly honor for the first time in his career. Over his last two starts, Klein has a 1.38 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings. For the year, Klein has struck out 32 batters and walked just 12 in 25.2 innings. Opponents are hitting .257 against him, which is the lowest mark on the staff. He needs 15 more strikeouts to become the seventh player in school history to strike out at least 200 hitters.
Switka's Best Start
Robert Switka is also coming off his best start of the season against Toledo. The sophomore right-hander held the Rockets to three runs (two earned) on eight hits and one walk over seven innings in the Penguins' 4-3 victory on Friday. Switka matched his season low for issued walks, and gave up a season-low one extra-base hit to earn his first collegiate victory.
Iacobucci Coming Around
Youngstown State senior Joe Iacobucci appears to have rediscovered the swing that has made him one of the Horizon League's top hitters. Iacobucci has a hit in six of the last seven games and is batting .391 over that span. He has nine hit in 23 at bats, and he's posted team highs with six runs, a .522 slugging percentage and a .563 on-base percentage. Iacobucci is hitting .333 for his career and has 197 hits. With three more hits, he'll become the eighth player in school history to reach the 200 milestone. Iacobucci recorded 65 hits as a redshirt freshman in 2008, 41 in 2009 and 79 in 2010. Other players in school history to record 200 career hits are: Kendall Schlabach 265 (2001-04), Erich Diedrich 252 (2005-08), Justin Banks 249 (2003-06), Brandon Caipen 247 (2003-06), John Koehnlein 245 (2006-09), Charles Schultz 219 (2003-06) and Todd Santore 202 (1998-2001).
Leon Goes 5-for-5 vs. Toledo
YSU junior infielder David Leon had the best offensive game of his career against Toledo on Friday with five hits in five at bats. He had three singles, a triple and a home run in leading the Penguins to a 4-3 win. Leon became the 11th player in school history to record at least five hits in a game. He has hit YSU's only two home runs this season, and he is batting .246.
Lipari Coming Through in Clutch
Youngstown State freshman Phil Lipari has provided a spark in the Penguins' line-up. Lipari is batting .263 with a team-high nine RBIs in 15 games. He has driven in a run in six of the last seven games, and he has struck out just six times in 38 at bats. Lipari is hitting a team-best.385 with runners in scoring position.
Youngstown State has been performing better at the plate over the last eight games. The Penguins are hitting .253 and averaging 4.75 runs dating back to March 12 at Tennessee Tech. Prior to that, YSU had been shut out five times in the first nine games of the season and was hitting .156 as a squad. Over the last eight games, four starters have hit over .300. YSU's on-base percentage is .377 over the past eight games, which is a drastic improvement from .232 over the first nine contests.
Quality Starts are Key
Youngstown State has gotten a quality start - three earned runs or fewer in at least six innings - from its pitchers five times this season, and the Penguins are 3-2 in those games. In YSU's three wins, its starters have allowed a combined four earned runs in 21 innings. Kevin McCulloh allowed one run in six innings at Cincinnati on March 6, Robert Switka allowed two earned runs in seven innings against Toledo on March 18, and Phil Klein yielded one run in eight innings. The two losses with quality starts were 1-0 at East Carolina on Feb. 19 and 7-0 at Pittsburgh on March 19.