The Youngstown State baseball team will conclude April with a three-game series against UIC this weekend at Eastwood Field. The Penguins and Flames are scheduled to play Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at noon. Live stats will be available through YSUsports.com, and live video will be available on the Horizon League Network. YSU will have just five home games remaining, three of which are Horizon League contests, after this weekend.
On the Mound
Youngstown State will have the same three starting pitchers for the second straight weekend. Freshman right-hander Russ Harless will try to build on the best start of his career as the game-one starter on Friday. Redshirt freshman righty Ryan Krokos will make his second career start against a conference opponent on Saturday, and junior left-hander Blake Aquadro will start the finale on Sunday.
- Harless provided YSU with arguably its best start of the season last weekend against Milwaukee. The righty allowed just one earned run in eight innings, which was the longest outing by a Penguin this season. He walked just two and did not allow a hit after the second inning. Harless boasts an outstanding 34-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he has a 4.80 ERA in 45 innings. He'll be making his sixth start on Friday.
- Krokos made his second career start and his first against a league team last weekend at Milwaukee. The redshirt freshman allowed six earned runs on eight hits in three innings against the Panthers. In his only other start, he held Akron scoreless through five innings on March 27. For the year, Krokos is 2-2 with a 6.44 ERA in 36.1 innings.
- Aquadro will be making his team-high 11th start of the season in the series finale on Sunday. The junior left-hander allowed five runs on 12 hits in five innings against Milwaukee in his last start. Prior to that, he held Valparaiso to two earned runs on six hits over 6 1-3 innings in a hard-luck loss on April 15. For the year, Aquadro is 0-8 with an 8.78 ERA in 54 1-3 innings.
UIC enters this weekend with a 16-22 overall record and a 9-9 mark in Horizon League play. The Flames are fourth in the conference standings, one game behind Milwaukee for third. UIC has won two of its last three games but dropped the three contests before that. The Flames lost two out of three to Wright State last weekend but held the Raiders to eight runs combined in the three-game series. UIC ranks last in the conference in on-base percentage and is in the middle of the rankings in most offensive categories. The Flames are fourth in ERA at 5.41 and pitch to contact, as evidenced by their league-low 158 strikeouts.Right-handers Joey Begel and Brian Evak will start the first two games, and lefty Tim Tarter will start the finale. Alex Grunenwald leads the Flames with a .349 average and 23 runs scored, and Ryan Boss has six of UIC's 18 home runs.
Earlier This Week
Youngstown State's game scheduled for Tuesday against Toledo was called early in the morning due to the threat of poor weather. Two of the Penguins' last three games scheduled on Tuesday have been cancelled, and next Tuesday's game at Ohio State has already been cancelled.
- Jeremy Banks continues to lead YSU in many hitting categories despite missing 14 games with a shoulder injury. He has hit .231 over seven games since his return but is still batting .372 for the season. He still ranks fourth in the Horizon League in doubles and home runs and seventh in RBIs. He does not have enough at bats to qualify for the top 10 in batting average, slugging or on-base percentage, but he would lead the conference in slugging while ranking second in OBP and average. Banks is seven hits away from becoming the 10th player in school history to reach 200.
- Drew Dosch hit .438 in four games last week and continues to show that he is one of the most improved players in the Horizon League. Dosch is batting .357 as a sophomore in 2012, which is 95 points higher than in 2011. His .500 slugging percentage this year is nearly double his .269 mark as a freshman. He has five home runs and seven doubles this season after managing just one double last year. He has reached base in 36 of YSU's 38 games in 2012. In addition to batting .357 overall, Dosch is hitting .351 in league play and .353 in April. The third baseman ranks fifth in the Horizon League in batting average while also ranking fourth in home runs, seventh in slugging percentage, eighth in on-base percentage and ninth in RBIs.
- David Leon posted three of YSU's four RBIs and was 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position over the weekend. He was 5-for-40 with runners in scoring position entering the week. Leon has 174 hits in his career.
- Jason Shirley has been steady at the plate in April, hitting .313 this month. Shirley's average is at .277, which is 200 points exactly better than it was at the start of March. His 22 runs rank second on the team.
- Padraic Williams has hit safely in four straight games and was 5-for-13 at the plate in four games last week.
- Josh North did not allow a run and surrendered just two hits in three innings last week. He struck out three batters in two innings at Milwaukee and had a scoreless inning against Ohio.
- Nic Manuppelli had two scoreless outings at Milwaukee last weekend, striking out four batters in two innings. He allowed two earned runs over his first 12 innings.
- Kevin McCulloh pitched in two games last week and has now appeared in 21 games this season. He has pitched in at least 20 games in all three of his seasons. McCulloh set a freshman record by pitching in 28 games in 2010. He ranks fifth in school history with 71 career appearances.
- Patrick O'Brien has not pitched since April 5 due to an injury. He started each of the first eight weekends of the season.
- YSU's game at Ohio State scheduled for Tuesday has been cancelled. The Buckeyes scheduled one game over the maximum allowed due to projected rainouts, but they've not had any games cancelled up to this point.
- After boasting the Horizon League's top defense through the end of the regular season last year, YSU ranks last in fielding percentage in 2012.
- The Penguins have turned 17 double plays this year in 38 games and are on pace for about 26. They've turned five in the last seven games. They turned 43 a year ago in 55 games.
- YSU will host its annual Senior Day on May 13 against Wright State.