O’Brien Pitches Youngstown State to Program’s First NCAA Tournament Victory
Bloomington, Ind. -- Youngstown State fifth-year senior Patrick O'Brien pitched 6.1 strong innings, and the Penguins beat Indiana State 5-2 for the program's first victory in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon in the Bloomington Regional.
YSU (17-37) will advance to play at 1 p.m. on Sunday against the loser of Saturday night's game between Stanford and Indiana. Indiana State, which entered the tournament ranked 21st in the RPI, finishes the season 35-18.
O'Brien allowed a run in the first inning, and he escaped a jam in the fourth to preserve a 3-2 lead. The Penguins scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth to go up 5-2, and O'Brien, Josh North and Alex Frey maintained that lead the rest of the contest.
Josh White went 2-for-4 and was one of five Penguins with an RBI. Phil Lipari, the MVP of the Horizon League Tournament, singled, walked and scored twice. Three players had a pair of hits to lead Indiana State.
The upstart Penguins continued their late-season hot streak to knock off the Sycamores, who earned an at-large berth into the field of 64 out of the Missouri Valley Conference. Youngstown State went 4-0 to win the Horizon League Tournament as the No. 6 seed and has now won five of its six games in the postseason.
Curry doubled on O'Brien's first offering of the game, and he scored on a wild pitch with two outs to give the Sycamores a 1-0 lead. The fifth-year senior right-hander worked around a pair of two-out singles in the top of the second, and the Penguins offense started to click in the bottom half of the inning.
White led off with a single to right, and Kevin Hix replaced him on the bases with a fielder's choice and an error on a double play attempt. Hix was thrown out at the plate on a great throw by Curry in center on Shane Willoughby's single, but Arcuri followed with a single to right that scored Willoughby with the tying run.
The Penguins then took a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish with two runs in the third inning. Lipari walked to start the inning, and Larivee singled on a grounder to right when the hole opened due to Lipari running on the pitch. Lipari then came in on Gillespie's sacrifice fly, and Larivee scored four batters later when Willoughby was hit by a 1-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded.
Indiana State got a run back in the top of the fourth on three hits, one of which was an RBI single to right by Connor McClain, to make the score 3-2. The Sycamores had runners at the corners with one out, but O'Brien escaped with the lead intact by retiring the next two hitters out on a safety squeeze and a ground out to Willoughby at shortstop.
The Penguins capitalized on O'Brien's big outs and answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Kurt Laver led off with a walk, and he went to third on Lipari's single to right. Larivee plated Laver on a sacrifice fly to deep right, and Lipari scored on White's two-out single up the middle off reliever Kurt Kudrecki to put YSU up 5-2.
All five of YSU's runs were charged to Indiana State ace David Stagg, who had only allowed five runs in two of his first 14 starts of the season coming into the regional matchup. Stagg allowed six hits and walked three batters while striking out five in 3.2 innings.
O'Brien won his second straight postseason start, allowing two runs on eight hits and three walks in 6.1 innings of work. North came in with two runners on in the seventh and got back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning, and he worked around a leadoff single in the eighth. Frey earned his first career save by pitching a scoreless ninth.
STEVE GILLISPIE: Obviously we are very excited about what we just accomplished. Our kids played really a fantastic ballgame. We were clean defensively. We pitched very well from beginning to end, and that was the way that we had played in the last two to three weeks of the season.
So it was good to see that we had learned from the night before, the short term, and brought a quality level of play into today's game; that is the first Division I post‑season win in baseball for our program, and we just couldn't be more excited and glad that we have our fan base and all of the people back home that are with us supporting this year.
Q. Just kind of assess your performance today and what you were trying to do going into the game and then how you feel you did with that?
PATRICK O'BRIEN: You know, I just did a good job of keeping the ball low, mix it up. We worked the changeup early think in the game and it was working well, and in the middle of the game they were starting to get on to it, so started working the slider more. And I was keeping everything down and keeping their hitters off‑balance.
Q. Phil, being a local kid, what can you ‑‑ can you kind of put in perspective what this means for the school?
PHIL LIPARI: I think it gives us a little more credibility than we've had in the past. It's an awesome feeling. And me and Pat are both local kids. It's great to be part of a very exciting time and hopefully we'll be able to read some more positive things going on social media. It's just an awesome time.
Q. How did you guys feel the energy level was this morning, and what was kind of the attitude after last night's loss? Did you guys still feel like you were in a good place mentally?
JOSH NORTH: Yeah, you know, Coach does a really good job of getting us to focus as soon as we get to the field. So, you know, pitch one during BP is to make sure you're focused, and knowing what ‑‑ you're going to try to take the same approach from BP to the game.
Yesterday's loss was a tough loss to take, but we know Indiana is a good team. So we didn't want to read too much into. We just wanted to bounce back today and try to get a win, and we were able to do that.
Q. Patrick, Indiana State I believe was 2‑of‑11 with runners in scoring position. Anything in your plan or anything you noticed that created that circumstance?
PATRICK O'BRIEN: You know, I think I was just locked in. Really, I wasn't too familiar with this team. So I didn't know who I was facing; if it was the 1‑hitter or the 4‑hitter or where they were in their lineup at all. So I was locked in and I was throwing strikes.
Q. When you took this job two years ago, did you think you were going to be able to get the team this far? Has this team exceeded expectations?
STEVE GILLISPIE: I think that it happened this quickly, we're probably ahead of the time frame.
I felt we could turn things around in a short period of time. Now, this obviously kind of redefines turning things around. We were hoping to have a better regular season.
But with what was available and what the athletic department and what the university wanted to do with the program as far as facilities resources and things like that, I really felt that we could become competitive on a regional level and to an extent, a national level, fairly quickly.
But this is just fantastic for these kids. It was a rough, rough regular season in a lot, a lot of ways. So I would say this is really probably more than what we had expected to accomplish, especially this year.
Q. You're playing Indiana or Stanford; who do you throw or will it be the same guy either way?
STEVE GILLISPIE: No, it will be Ryan Krokos. He's been the guy that's kind of been that fourth starter, a little mid‑week stuff here or there. In the conference tournament, he started the championship game against Wright State, and really didn't give up much at all in the time he was out there.
So we're going to try to stay with that. I mean, that's kind of the guys that are experienced in that starting role, and I think like I had said either yesterday or the day before, we wanted to keep our bullpen intact. We'll stick with that and see how the matchups kind of unfold early in the game, maybe make a move and see what happens.
Q. I believe it was in the fourth inning when you had runners in scoring position and O'Brien was able to get out of a jam. How crucial was that point in the game when you guys had the lead but they were threatening?
STEVE GILLISPIE: I think the game kind of teeters back and forth, and momentum goes and it ebbs and it flows. The game of baseball is such a game that is influenced by confidence.
I think getting out of that without anything coming across really boosted our confidence, and allowed Pat to maybe get a little deeper into the game obviously and safe our bullpen a little bit.
So any time you can get out of those kind of situations, it's a switch in momentum, and we were able to take advantage of that. And again, credit to our kids.
Q. Obviously this is an emotional high for a first win, they are going to go in there and celebrate but how will you get your team ready for another big game tomorrow afternoon?
STEVE GILLISPIE: I think it's not going to be much different than what we have done going back to the conference tournament, and that's to focus.
And you've heard it all week from several of the teams that are here: You have to be able do what you do and just stay committed to the things that you do well. And if they can beat us at the things we do well, well, they are probably going to win the game. And if we can take something away from them that they do well and win small victories here or there, that's what we need to do.
So we just have to come back ready to play and try to win pitch by pitch, at‑bat by at‑bat, inning‑by‑inning and then add it up at the end of nine and see where we are.
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