Baseball Returns Home for Weekend Series vs. Milwaukee

Armani Johnson
Armani Johnson

The Youngstown State baseball team will look to take the season series from Milwaukee when it welcomes the Panthers to Eastwood Field for a three-game series this weekend. The teams will play a single game Friday at 3 p.m. and a doubleheader on Saturday starting at noon. All games will have live video coverage on the Horizon League Network and live stats on The Penguins and Panthers split a doubleheader at Miller Park just last Friday. UWM leads YSU in the conference standings by 2-½ games.

On the Mound

Youngstown State will send the same trio to the mound with Robert Switka pitching in Friday's opener and Phil Klein and Bill Turosky throwing in Saturday's doubleheader. Switka pitched against the Panthers last week and turned in another solid start. After allowing three hits, including a two-run homer, in the first inning, the sophomore right-hander went on to retire the final 19 batters he faced. Switka was 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his five starts and one relief appearance during April. Klein has been dominant over his last eight starts, going 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA in 52.2 innings. He ranks second in the Horizon League with 70 strikeouts, and he is one of only two starters averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Turosky has pitched in the weekend rotation each of the past two weeks and has a 9.28 ERA in those two starts. He had a 3.52 ERA in 15.1 innings out of the bullpen leading up to the two starts.

Looking Ahead

Youngstown State will break for finals week before playing four league games next weekend. The Penguins will play a doubleheader at Butler on Friday, and they'll welcome Wright State to Eastwood Field on Sunday. The Penguins' five seniors – Cody Dearth, Greg Dissinger, Joe Iacobucci, Armani Johnson and Phil Klein – will be honored on Sunday as they play in their final home league games.

Scouting Milwaukee

Milwaukee is 20-22 overall and 9-7 in Horizon League play. The defending league tournament champions have won three straight overall, but the Panthers have gone 2-5 in their last seven conference games to slide down to fourth place in the standings. Outfielder Doug Dekoning is among the top three in the Horizon League in many offensive categories, including the triple crown categories of batting average (.378), RBIs (40) and homers (7).

Last Week vs. Milwaukee

Youngstown State split a doubleheader with Milwaukee on April 29 at Miller Park, winning game one 3-2 in 10 innings and falling 8-0 in game two. Robert Switka retired the final 19 batters he faced in a no-decision in game one against the Panthers. Game one went three extra innings, and the Penguins prevailed in the 10th when Drew Dosch brought in David Leon on a sacrifice fly. YSU was down to its last strike in the top of the seventh before tying the game and sending it to extra frames. Milwaukee won the nightcap 8-0 behind a one-hit shutout from Chad Pierce.

Recapping YSU at Ohio

Jeremy Banks hit two of Youngstown State's three solo home runs and added an RBI double, but the Penguins' bullpen couldn't hold two one-run leads in a 5-4 loss at Ohio in 13 innings on Wednesday. Banks' homer in the eighth gave YSU a 3-2 lead, and his RBI double in the 10th put the Guins up 4-3. Ohio tied the score in the bottom of each inning, and the Bobcats won with an unearned run in the 13th inning. Banks had three of YSU's seven hits. Starter Blake Aquadro allowed two runs on six hits and one walk in six innings.

Hopeful for a Power Boost

YSU is hoping that Wednesday's game at Ohio signalled an upcoming power surge. The Penguins hit three home runs and added a double against the Bobcats. YSU had just two home runs through its first 41 games heading into the game versus Ohio. Jeremy Banks hit his first two round-trippers of the year, and David Leon hit his third. Last year, the Penguins set school records with 60 home runs, 115 doubles and a .560 slugging percentage. This year, YSU has five homers, 42 doubles and a .282 slugging percentage in the first 51 games.

Guins Have Top Defense in Horizon League

Youngstown State boasts the best fielding percentage in the Horizon League. The Penguins have a .969 percentage, which leads Wright State by three points. In conference play, YSU's .976 percentage is six points higher than second-place UIC. The Guins have been particularly solid in the infield. First baseman Jeremy Banks has one error in 352 chances for a .997 fielding percentage. Second baseman Phil Lipari has a .964, shortstop David Leon has a .950 and third baseman Drew Dosch has a .927. The Penguins previous best percentage since 2000 was .957 in 2010, 2008 and 2004.

Klein, Iacobucci Climbing Career Charts

YSU seniors Phil Klein and Joe Iacobucci are both climbing career charts as their tenures start to wind down. Klein ranks fifth in career strikeouts with 220, and he needs just two more to slide into fourth place. He'll need to reach to 250 to move into the top three. Klein is also 29 innings out of the top five in career innings pitched. Iacobucci currently ranks fifth in total bases (320), sixth in hits, RBIs and doubles and ninth in runs. He needs two doubles to move into a tie for fourth and two RBIs to tie for fifth. He is 19 away from reaching the top five in hits and 15 shy of the top five in runs.

Line-Up is Unbalanced

Youngstown State has five players hitting higher than .265, but only one other player is hitting above .211. Neil Schroth is hitting a team-high .297, and Jeremy Banks (.280), Drew Dosch (.273), David Leon (.272) and Joe Iacobucci (.266) join him at above the .265 mark. Jonathan Crist is hitting .235 in 68 at bats. The other nine batters who have stepped to the plate are hitting a combined .187.

Quality Starts Are Key

Youngstown State has gotten a quality start - three earned runs or fewer in at least six innings - from its pitchers 17 times this season, and the Penguins are 11-6 in those games. YSU is 0-25 when it doesn't get a quality start. In the 11 wins, YSU's starting pitchers have allowed 15 earned runs in 76.1 innings for an ERA of 1.77. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.56 to 1 (73 strikeouts and 16 walks). In the 31 losses, the starting pitchers have allowed 135 earned runs in 145.1 innings for an ERA of 8.36. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is 1.11 to 1 (91 strikeouts, 82 walks) in losses.

Switka, Klein Solid in April

YSU starting pitchers Robert Switka and Phil Klein were extraordinary in April. Klein went 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four starts, and Switka was 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his five starts and one relief appearance. Klein struck out 29 batters in 26.1 innings, and Switka fanned 23 hitters in 36.1 innings. They helped the Penguins to a team ERA of 5.13 for the month. The staff ERA was 8.26 through March.