Doubleheader at Miller Park Begins Four-Game Weekend for Baseball

Kevin McCulloh
Kevin McCulloh

The Youngstown State baseball team begins a busy four-game weekend with a doubleheader against the Milwaukee Panthers at Miller Park, the home of the Milwaukee Brewers, on Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern. The Penguins are also slated for a doubleheader at Eastwood Field against UIC on Sunday at noon. Live stats will be available for all games, and Sunday's doubleheader will be streamed live on the Horizon League Network.

Both Milwaukee and UIC are ahead of YSU in the Horizon League standings, but a solid weekend could help the Penguins move into the top half. YSU is currently fifth in the standings with a league mark of 5-6. It trails fourth-place Milwaukee (7-5) by a game-and-a-half and third-place UIC (9-5) by three-and-a-half games.

YSU swept the Panthers in a doubleheader at Miller Park on May 15, 2008. The Penguins won the opener 8-6 and took the nightcap 5-4 when Eric Marzec singled in Erich Diedrich in the 13th inning.

On the Mound

Youngstown State will have to utilize four starting pitchers on the weekend for just the second time this year. Sophomore left-hander Blake Aquadro and sophomore righty Robert Switka will start Friday's games at Miller Park, and Phil Klein and Bill Turosky will pitch Sunday against UIC. Aquadro has started on the weekend twice and started four games total. He will be looking for his first win of the season as he enters the contest with an 0-6 mark and a 9.24 ERA in 37 innings. Switka is coming off the best start of his career when he held Cleveland State scoreless over seven innings. The sophomore righty has posted four straight quality starts and has a 2.15 ERA in 29.1 innings during April. Klein's hot stretch has been even longer than Switka's. The senior righty has allowed nine earned runs over his seven starts, which have spanned 46.1 innings. Because of the rainout against Cleveland State last weekend, Turosky hasn't pitched since making his first start of the season on April 15. For the year, he has a 5.31 ERA in 20.1 innings.

Recapping the Past Week

Youngstown State has been turned away by weather in three of the last four times it has tried to take the diamond. The Penguins were rained out against Cleveland State last Friday and Sunday, and Tuesday's game at Ohio was postponed. YSU was successful when it did play, sweeping a doubleheader from the Vikings on Saturday. The Penguins benefited from timely hitting, CSU errors and a strong outing from Robert Switka to win the opener 6-3. Armani Johnson's bases loaded walk in the ninth gave the Penguins a 3-2 win in game two. YSU was outhit 11-2 in the victory.

Scouting Milwaukee

Milwaukee, the defending tournament champion, is fourth in the Horizon League with a 7-5 conference record. The Panthers were swept at home against Wright State last weekend after starting the conference slate 7-2. Senior outfielder Doug Dekoning is a threat to win the Horizon League Triple Crown, ranking first in batting average and second in RBIs and home runs. Three other starters are hitting above .300. Chad Pierce is 3-3 with a 3.11 ERA in 10 starts as the top pitcher in the rotation. He will throw game one, and Eric Semmelhack (2-4, 4.80 ERA) is the probable for game two.

Scouting UIC

UIC has won five straight league games and seven of eight overall to move into third in the conference standings. The Flames have not lost a league game since being swept at Valparaiso on April 2-3. Infielder Andy Leonard is one of four players hitting over .290 at .317, and Jason Ganek has a Horizon League-high six home runs. UIC has not announced its starters for Sunday. The Flames' staff has a combined ERA of 4.47.

Klein, Iacobucci Climbing Career Charts

Youngstown State seniors Phil Klein and Joe Iacobucci are both climbing career charts as their tenures start to wind down. Klein ranks fifth in career strikeouts with 220, and and he needs just five more to slide into fourth place. He'll need to reach to 250 to move into the top three. Klein is also 35.1 innings out of the top five in career innings pitched. Aaron Swenson holds both records with 265 strikeouts and 347 innings. Iacobucci currently ranks fifth in total bases (319), sixth in hits, RBIs and doubles and ninth in runs. He needs two doubles to move into a tie for fourth and two RBIs to tie for fifth. He is 20 away from reaching the top five in hits and 15 shy of the top five in runs.

Line-Up is Unbalanced

Youngstown State has five players hitting above .270, but every other player is hitting under .235. Neil Schroth entered the week batting a team-high .306, and Joe Iacobucci (.294), Drew Dosch (.288), David Leon (.283) and Jeremy Banks (.271) joined him above .270. The other 10 batters who have stepped to the plate are hitting a combined .195. The quintent also has accounted for 58 percent of the Penguins' runs scored and 60 percent of their extra-base hits.

Quality Starts Are Key

Youngstown State has gotten a quality start - three earned runs or fewer in at least six innings - from its pitchers 14 times this season, and the Penguins are 10-4 in those games. YSU is 0-23 when it doesn't get a quality start. In the eight wins, YSU's starting pitchers have allowed 13 earned runs in 69.1 innings for an ERA of 1.69. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.19 to 1 (67 strikeouts and 16 walks). In the 27 losses, the starting pitchers have allowed 118 earned runs in 123.0 innings for an ERA of 8.63. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is 1.14 to 1 (83 strikeouts, 73 walks) in losses.

April Has Brought the Best Out of Switka, Klein

Robert Switka and Phil Klein, YSU's top two starting pitchers, have been extraordinary in April. Klein is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts, and Switka is 1-1 with a 2.15 ERA in his four starts and one relief appearance. Klein has struck out 29 batters in 26.1 innings, and Switka has fanned 17 hitters in 29.1 innings. They helped the Penguins to a team ERA of 5.14 for the month. The staff ERA was 8.26 through March.

McCulloh Excelling as Reliever

Sophomore Kevin McCulloh was shifted to the back-end of the bullpen three weeks ago, and he has helped solidify the late innings for YSU. In his seven relief appearances, McCulloh has allowed two runs over 12 innings for an ERA of 1.50. He has picked up two wins and earned a save while holding hitters to a .211 batting average.

Looking Ahead

The Penguins are scheduled for five games next week, four of which will be played at Eastwood Field. YSU will host Allegheny on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a game that will be recorded and broadcast on a tape-delay basis by Armstrong Cable. The Penguins will play at Ohio on Wednesday in a make-up of the game that was rained out this past Tuesday, and they'll play Milwaukee in a three-game set over the weekend.