Kevin Hix's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning lifted the Youngstown State baseball team to a 9-8 victory over UIC on Friday afternoon at Eastwood Field in front of more than 3,600 fans from area schools and organizations.
The Penguins have now won five of their last seven home games, and Hix delivered the second walk-off victory in the last four contests at Eastwood Field. Brent Gillespie started the ninth with a leadoff double, and Hix's sacrifice fly plated pinch-runner Kurt Laver.
Gillespie had three of Youngstown State's 12 hits while also scoring twice and driving in two runs. Phil Lipari also had three hits, and Hix and Jake Ross had two apiece. Tyler Detmer had three of UIC's 13 hits.
UIC took a 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly in the first inning, but the Penguins jumped on Flames starter Tomas Michelson for five runs in the bottom of the inning. After Michelson struck out Alex Larivee, the next seven Penguins batters reached. Five different players had RBIs in the inning, and the Penguins got some help on Michelson's errant throw to second base on a bunt. Starting with Shane Willoughby's sacrifice fly that plated the fifth run of the inning, Michelson retired 11 straight batters to allow his team to climb back into the game.
The Flames started to chip away with a run in the second and third innings and another in the fifth to trail just 5-4. Lipari stopped Michelson's run of 11 straight outs with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the fifth, and Matt Sullivan followed with an RBI double to right center. Gillespie singled in Sullivan, and Ross plated Gillespie with a two-out infield single to give YSU an 8-4 lead.
UIC got right back in the game two innings later when a walk and three extra-base hits led to three runs. The Flames eventually tied the game at 8-8 in the ninth after Kevin Yarabinec struck out the first two batters of the inning. Detmer hit a bad-hop single to short, and he advanced to second when Willoughby's rushed throw was wide. Conor Philbin then singled him in with a roller into right field.
Gillespie doubled to left center to start the bottom of the ninth, and David Saluga came in to bunt him over to third. Hix then hit a 1-2 pitch to right center that was deep enough for Laver to come in with the winning run.
YSU starter Jared Wight allowed three runs in 2.2 innings before handing the ball off to Jeremy Quinlan, who was in line for the victory until the Flames rallied in the ninth. Yarabinec ended up with the win, which was the first of his career. Michelson allowed eight runs, six of which were earned on nine hits in six innings in a no decision. The loss was charged to Mitchell Schulewitz, who allowed the run in the ninth.
The Penguins and Flames will play game two of their three-game series on Saturday at 2 p.m.