Youngstown State will open play at the 2011 Horizon League Baseball Championship on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Milwaukee at Wright State's Nischwitz Stadium. The Penguins will enter the double-elimination tournament as the No. 6 seed in the field while Milwaukee is the No. 3. YSU finished the regular season with a 12-39 overall record and a 7-16 mark in conference play. Two of those wins came against Milwaukee. If the Penguins beat the Panthers, they will play No. 1 Wright State at 7 p.m. on Thursday. If YSU falls to Milwaukee, it will play an elimination game against No. 4 Valparaiso or No. 5 Butler on Thursday at 11 a.m. All games at the tournament will have live video broadcast on the Horizon League Network.
On the Mound
Youngstown State veteran right-hander Phil Klein will take the mound in YSU's game against Milwaukee. He'll be followed by sophomore righty Robert Switka on Wednesday. Klein finished the regular season as the Horizon League's strikeout leader. The senior went 4-5 in 14 starts during the regular season, compiling a 3.74 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 84.1 innings. He allowed one run on four hits while striking out seven against Milwaukee earlier this year on May 7. Klein has allowed five earned runs in 6.2 innings in the postseason during his career. In his lone tournament start, he allowed five runs on six hits and four walks in three innings against Butler in 2009. Switka received votes for the all-newcomer team after posting a solid first season at YSU. He had a 6.03 ERA in 77.2 innings for the year, but his ERA since April is 3.53. Switka allowed two runs in 6.2 innings in his final start of the regular season on May 20.
Milwaukee, the 2010 tournament champion, completed the regular season by winning three of its last four games. The Panthers beat Valparaiso twice in 10 innings last weekend to clinch the No. 3 seed. Milwaukee has a trio of first-team all-league performers, including Horizon League Pitcher of the Year Chad Pierce. Pierce will pitch against YSU after going 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA during the regular season. Second baseman Cole Kraft and outfielder Doug Dekoning were also first-team honorees.
Scouting the Field
Top seeded Wright State picked up its second consecutive regular-season crown and will play Thursday at 7 p.m. The Raiders, who also finished runner-up in last year's tournament, will host the tournament at Nischwitz Stadium on campus. UIC is the No. 2 seed and owns at least a share of its tenth regular season title in the last 11 seasons. Milwaukee is the No. 3 by virtue of taking two of three games last week from Valparaiso, which is the fourth seed. Butler is the fifth seed.
This Year vs. Milwaukee
Youngstown State went 2-3 against Milwaukee during the regular season, winning the first and last meetings of the series. The Guins beat the Panthers 3-2 in 10 innings at Miller Park on April 29. They then won 12-9 in the series finale on May 7 at Eastwood Field. That was YSU's last victory. Milwaukee's three wins were 8-0 on April 29, 16-6 on May 6 and 3-2 in 10 innings on May 7. The Penguins hit .274 against the Panthers, and Neil Schroth hit .350 to lead all starters.
This Year vs. the League
YSU went 7-16 in Horizon League play during the regular season. The Guins started the league campaign off by winning three of their first six and six of their first 12, but they have gone 1-10 in their last 11 conference games. For the year, YSU went 1-2 vs. Wright State; 0-5 vs. No. 2 UIC; 2-3 vs. No. 3 Milwaukee; 0-3 vs. No. 4 Valparaiso; 2-3 vs. No. 5 Butler; and 2-0 against Cleveland State.
YSU's Tournament History at #6
Youngstown State is the sixth seed for the fourth time in the last five years and for the third straight season. YSU is 3-5 all-time as the No. 6 seed. The Penguins won their opening round game as No. 6 last year against No. 3 UIC. They lost 10-8 to top-seeded Wright State the following night and were eliminated by UIC on day three. YSU lost the play-in game as the No. 6 in 2009, and the Guins went 2-2 as the sixth seed in 2007.
Klein, Dosch Get League Honors
Youngstown State had two student-athletes honored by the Horizon League's coaches in the postseason awards voting. Senior pitcher Phil Klein earned second-team accolades, and freshman Drew Dosch was named to the all-newcomer team. Klein, who was a first-team pick in 2009, went 4-5 with a 3.74 ERA this year. He led the league with 95 strikeouts while also ranking fifth in innings. In conference play, he was 2-2 with a 2.61 ERA in eight games. He struck out 57 batters in 51.2 innings. Dosch missed 13 games with an injury but still made a good enough impression to earn all-newcomer honors. He hit .252 overall and .310 in Horizon League play as a third baseman.
Guins Are Top Defensive Team
Youngstown State leads the Horizon League in fielding percentage at .9654. UIC is in an extremely close second at .9649, and Wright State is fourth at .9641. In conference play, YSU's .966 fielding percentage ranked second to UIC. The Penguins' previous best percentage since 2000 was .957 in 2010, 2008 and 2004.
Offensive Drop from 2010
Although offense is down largely across the country in 2011, the Penguins have been hit particularly hard by a dropoff at the plate. YSU is hitting .236 and averaging 3.10 runs, 7.59 hits and 0.14 home runs per game in 2011. Last year's squad was arguably the best offensive team in school history. The 2010 team hit .305 and averaged 7.45 runs, 10.88 hits and 1.07 home runs per contest.
Finally a Power Boost?
After hitting two home runs in its first 41 games, YSU hit five home runs in four contests from May 4-7. Jeremy Banks hit three of those round-trippers – his first three of the season – and David Leon and Joe Iacobucci each hit one. YSU hit 60 home runs last year and has seven in 2011. It slugged .460 in 2010, and that is down to .288 this season.
Small Pitching Staff
Youngstown State entered the year with a small pitching staff, and injuries have made it one of the smallest groups in the country. YSU has had just 11 players throw off the mound this season. Of those 11, six threw in one game or fewer for the Penguins in 2010. The Penguins had 13 pitchers on their preseason roster, and five of those are now done pitching for the year.
Boys of Summer Showers
Youngstown State has already had 14 games postponed, cancelled or shortened because of poor weather. Seven home games were cancelled. Five road games were postponed, and two games were called early due to the weather.
Klein, Iacobucci Climbing Career Charts
YSU seniors Phil Klein and Joe Iacobucci are both climbing career charts as their tenures wind down. Klein ranks fourth in school history in career strikeouts with 248 and eighth in career innings. He'll need four more strikeouts to reach No. 2. Iacobucci currently ranks fourth in total bases (334), fifth in RBIs (124), sixth in hits (236) and doubles (44) and seventh in (124) runs. He needs one more double, nine more hits and seven more runs to reach the top five in those categories.
Line-Up is Unbalanced
YSU has four players hitting at least .270, but only three other players are hitting over .220. Neil Schroth is hitting a team-high .297, and Jeremy Banks (.293), David Leon (.276) and Joe Iacobucci (.271) are all hitting .270 or higher. Aside from the top four hitters, the other 11 players who have stepped to the plate are hitting a combined .200. In fact, Schroth, Banks, Leon and Iacobucci have 200 hits in 703 at bats. The other 11 batters have 187 hits in 934 at bats.
Quality Starts Are Key
YSU has gotten a quality start - three earned runs or fewer in at least six innings - from its pitchers 19 times this season, and the Guins are 11-10 in those games. YSU is 1-29 when it doesn't get a quality start. In YSU's 12 wins, its starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.20 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.88 to 1 (78 strikeouts and 16 walks). In the 39 losses, the starters have a 7.49 ERA and a K-to-BB ratio is 1.32 to 1 (128 strikeouts, 97 walks) in losses.
Other Notable Keys to Winning
- YSU is 11-14 when scoring at least three runs but 1-25 when scoring two or fewer.
- YSU is batting .304 and averaging 10.75 hits in its 12 wins. It is batting .213 and averaging 6.62 hits in its 39 losses.
- YSU has scored 64 runs in its 12 wins (5.3/game) and 94 runs in its 39 losses (2.4/game).
- The bullpen has a 1.64 ERA in wins and a 9.12 ERA in losses.
Four Weekly Honors for YSU
Three YSU players have combined to win four Horizon League weekly awards this season. Drew Dosch earned the lone Batter-of-the-Week award on March 28. Phil Klein was the Pitcher of the Week on March 21 and April 11, and Kevin McCulloh was Pitcher of the Week on Feb. 21.