The Youngstown State baseball team will try to separate itself for a spot in the Horizon League Tournament this weekend when it hosts Cleveland State in a three-game series this weekend at Eastwood Field. The Penguins and Vikings will play a single game Friday at 3 p.m. and a doubleheader on Saturday starting at noon. All games will have live stats and live video. The top six teams in the conference standings qualify for the league tournament, and YSU leads Cleveland State by two-and-a-half games for the sixth spot. The Penguins are 3-6 in league play, and the Vikings are 1-11.
On the Mound
The Penguins will keep the same weekend rotation from last week with Bill Turosky throwing game one and Phil Klein and Robert Switka taking the hill on Saturday. Turosky made his first start of the season last weekend at Valparaiso and allowed eight runs (six earned) on six hits and four walks in five innings. Heavy wind was partly to blame, and he had a 3.52 ERA in seven relief appearances heading into the contest. Klein has twice been named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Week, and has posted a quality start for six straight weeks. He has a 1.58 ERA over his last 40 innings, and his 61 strikeouts lead all Horizon League pitchers. Switka has posted quality starts in four of his last five outings, and his ERA has dropped to 7.16. Aside from an 11-run hiccup on March 25, Switka has a 2.76 ERA dating back to March 18.
Over the Last Week
YSU has lost all five of its games since last Friday. The Penguins were swept in a three-game series at Valparaiso, falling 11-1 on Friday and 4-3 and 5-2 on Sunday. YSU led 3-2 in the top of the ninth in the 4-3 loss, and the Guins tied the score at 2-2 in the top of the eighth in the 5-2 setback. The Penguins then lost 7-2 in five innings at Pittsburgh on Tuesday and 11-3 at Canisius on Wednesday. Neil Schroth hit .412 over the five games while Jeremy Banks hit .375 and David Leon batted .333. Catchers Craig Goubeaux (5-for-9) and Jonathan Crist (2-for-6) combined to hit .438 while splitting time behind the plate.
Scouting Cleveland State
Cleveland State has dropped 12 of its last 13 contests in April. Its lone win came against Milwaukee on April 15, and that accounted for its only Horizon League win of the season as well. Junior outfielder Alex Johnson leads the Vikings with a .278 average and 19 RBIs. The Vikings have accumulated a league-leading 55 steals in 33 games, and they have been successful on 77 percent of their 71 attempts. Game-one starter Anthony Sambula has a 4.80 ERA and has struck out a team-high 41 batters. Nate Dick and Coty Bates are scheduled to throw on Saturday. Vikings pitchers have walked 168 batters and struck out 158. They are the only staff in the league with more walks than strikeouts.
Klein, Iacobucci Reach 200
Joe Iacobucci and Phil Klein have both joined a 200 Club this year as seniors. Iacobucci has 224 career hits, and Klein has 214 strikeouts. Iacobucci has the sixth-most hits in school history, and he is one of eight YSU players to record at least 200 hits. He needs to get to 246 to crack the top five, and Kendall Schlabach's 265 hits from 2001-04 are the school record. Klein is one of seven players to reach 200 career strikeouts, and he already ranks fifth in school history. The school record is 265, which is held by Aaron Swenson (2007-10). YSU had never had players reach both milestones in the same season.
Dosch Returned to Line-Up
Freshman third baseman Drew Dosch has played in three of the last four contests upon his return from injury. Dosch was leading the Penguins with a .301 batting average on March 26 when he went out with the injury. He returned on April 17 after a three-week rest period, and he has had five at bats at designated hitter. Padraic Williams and Dan Hurlimann have shared duties at the hot corner while Dosch was recovering.
Schroth Picking Up Offensively
Sophomore outfielder Neil Schroth has started to come on lately at the plate and has brought his average up to .317. Schroth has a hit in 13 of his last 17 games and is batting .378 since March 16. His average was at .148 on March 13. Schroth has had at least two hits in six of his last 11 games, including three of the last four. He's also posted two doubles and a triple in the last four games, and he has a team high eight 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 12 times this season, and the Penguins are 8-4 in those games. They were 8-2 before dropping both games of last Saturday's doubleheader at Valparaiso with quality starts. YSU is 0-23 when it doesn't get a quality start. In the eight wins, YSU's starting pitchers have allowed 11 earned runs in 56 innings for an ERA of 1.77. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.08 to 1 (53 strikeouts and 13 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.
Klein Riding Hot Streak
YSU's Phil Klein has been on an outstanding stretch dating back to his start at Tennessee Tech on March 13. Over his last six outings, Klein has a 1.58 ERA over 40 innings, allowing just seven earned runs and striking out 47 batters. After losing in his first three starts, Klein has gone 4-0 over his last five. For the year, he leads the Horizon League with 61 strikeouts, and strikeout rate of 10.4 per nine innings is the best of his career. Klein has twice been named the Horizon League Pitcher of the Week – on April 10 and March 21.
Switka Settling Into Role
Sophomore pitcher Robert Switka has become a solid option at the back end of the rotation over the past month. Dating back to his win over Toledo on March 18, Switka has gone at least seven innings and allowed three earned runs or fewer in four of his last five starts. Aside from allowing 10 earned runs in 3.2 innings at Wright State on March 25, Switka has a 2.76 ERA dating back to March 18. He's had more strikeouts than walks in each of those four quality starts.
Guins Have Small Pitching Staff
With one of the smaller pitching staffs in the country, YSU has had just 11 players throw off the pitching mound this season. Jonathan Crist, a catcher, threw Wednesday at Canisius in his first career appearance. The staff is getting smaller, too. Drew Dosch hasn't pitched since March 19, and Nic Manuppelli hasn't thrown since April 5. Additionally, the Penguins have three pitchers who are out for the year with injuries – Alex Frey, Jim Kinnick and Ryan Krokos. Erik Okleson and Padraic Williams have picked up some slack, throwing in 15 and 13 games, respectively. Both of them appeared in just one game in 2010.