Penguins Open Tournament Play Wednesday vs. Milwaukee

Russ Harless
Russ Harless

The Youngstown State baseball team will try to make a run with new life this week when it travels to the 2012 Horizon League Baseball Championship at UIC's Les Miller Field in Chicago. The Penguins, who are the tournament's sixth seed, will take on No. 3 Milwaukee on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern in the second game of the tournament. If YSU wins, it will go on to play top-seeded Valparaiso on Thursday at 9 p.m. Eastern. A loss to Milwaukee will put Youngstown State in an elimination game against either No. 4 UIC or No. 5 Butler. Wright State, last year's champion is the second seed. Live video and live stats will be available throughout the tournament on HorizonLeague.com.

A Quick Look Back

Youngstown State is the sixth seed in the tournament by finishing with a 9-42 overall record and a 7-23 mark in Horizon League play. YSU lost its first 12 contests and picked up its first win at VMI on March 11. Jeremy Banks, a first-team all-league pick at designated hitter, hit two home runs in the win, which gave him five in the first 13 games. The Penguins picked up their second win eight days later when Banks delivered a walk-off single in the 11th to beat Milwaukee. Banks was injured in the post-game celebration and went on to miss 14 games recovering from a separated shoulder. After beating Butler on March 31, the Guins dropped 13 straight contests from April 1 to April 22. YSU then won five of its next six contests, sweeping UIC at home and taking two of three at Butler. The Guins have not won since May 6 and have lost seven straight games entering the tournament.

On the Mound

True freshman Russ Harless will be handed the ball to start against Milwaukee on Wednesday, and he'll be followed in some order by Blake Aquadro, Patrick O'Brien and Pat Shedlock depending on YSU's matchup. Harless, a right-hander from Fairport Harbor, Ohio, finished the regular season with a 2-6 record and a 5.27 ERA. He moved into the weekend rotation on April 7 and posted a 5.22 ERA in 50 innings against conference opponents. In his only outing against Milwaukee this season, Harless allowed one earned run on four hits while striking out seven in eight innings. He did not allow a hit after the second inning in the hard-luck 3-2 loss.

The Report on Harless

Has made 20 appearances, nine of which have been starts… Has a 2-6 record and a 5.27 ERA in 70 innings… Ranks second on the team with 47 strikeouts, and his 47-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio is best on the team and 72nd-best in the nation… Is a fly ball pitcher who pounds the zone… Has induced 118 fly outs, three times more than his 39 ground outs… Made his first start at Akron on March 28, and his first conference start came at Wright State on April 7… Has been a weekend starter ever since and became the game-one starter in the series against Valparaiso on April 13… His two wins came on back-to-back starts against UIC and Butler… Allowed two earned runs on six hits while fanning four in YSU's 11-3 win over UIC on April 27… Surrendered three earned runs on six hits in six innings in a 12-4 win over Butler… His longest outing came at Milwaukee on April 21 when he pitched eight innings… Held the Panthers to four hits, all of which came in the first two innings… Struck out seven Milwaukee batters, which matched his previous career high of seven at Wright State on April 7… Has pitched at least 5.1 innings in each of his weekend starts… Had a 3.63 ERA out of the bullpen.

Scouting Milwaukee

Milwaukee is the No. 3 seed in the Horizon League Tournament with its 26-25 overall record and 18-11 ledger in conference games. The Panthers won their final eight conference games of the regular season, including sweeping previously first-place Wright State in the final weekend. UWM went 5-1 versus YSU during the regular season, with two of those victories coming by one run. Six Panthers starters are hitting at least .309, and Milwaukee leads the Horizon League with 52 stolen bases. Paul Hoenecke leads UWM with a .317 batting average, 40 runs and 38 RBIs. Eric Semmelhack will start against YSU after finishing the regular season with a 5-6 record and a 3.47 ERA. He struck out 65 batters while walking 26, and he held opponents to a .256 batting average. The junior right-hander went 2-0 and allowed six runs on 17 hits in 14 innings over two starts against YSU during the regular season.

This Year vs. Milwaukee

Youngstown State went 1-5 against Milwaukee during the regular season. Three of the games were decided by one run, and one of those was YSU's 4-3 win in 11 innings on March 18.

March 16 – Milwaukee 5, YSU 4: YSU stranded 11 runners and got hurt by hit batsmen and errors in a 5-4 loss... Penguins pitchers beaned five hitters, and three of them came in to score... UWM scored a run on two errors in the seventh to break a 4-4 tie.

March 17 – Milwaukee 7, YSU 2: Milwaukee starter Cale Tassi held YSU to two unearned runs on three hits in 7 1-3 innings... Five of Milwaukee's runs scored on three home runs, and YSU's pitchers walked eight.

March 18 – YSU 4, Milwaukee 3 (11 Innings): Marcus Heath tied the game with an RBI single in the ninth, and Jeremy Banks hit a walk-off single in the 11th to lift YSU to a 4-3 win... Milwaukee led 3-0 through three innings... Heath hit a two-run double in the fifth and a two-out RBI single in the ninth to tie it... Banks' game-winner came with two outs in the 11th... Dosch was 5-for-6.

April 21 – Milwaukee 3, YSU 2: YSU starter Russ Harless allowed three first-inning runs but did not surrender a hit after the second... Only one of UWM's runs was earned... Eric Semmelhack struck out 11 for Milwaukee... Dosch homered and doubled but had two errors in the first inning.

April 21 – Milwaukee 8, YSU 1: Milwaukee scored seven runs in the first three innings off starter Ryan Krokos... Paul Hoenecke hit a two-run homer as part of a three-run first... Cale Tassi allowed one unearned run and struck out 10 in seven innings.

April 22 – Milwaukee 5, YSU 2: Milwaukee scored all five of its runs in the first four innings and held on to beat YSU 5-2... Jonathan Capasso hit a two-run double as part of UWM's three-run second... Milwaukee starter Mike Schneider faced the minimum through six innings... Both of YSU's runs came in the ninth, and the Guins had the tying run at the plate.

Recent Success at #6

Youngstown State is the sixth seed in the Horizon League Tournament for the fifth time in the last six years and for the fourth straight season. The Penguins have had some moderate success in the past two tournaments, winning at least one game each year. Last season as the No. 6 seed, YSU beat Milwaukee in the opening round and UIC in an elimination game. The Penguins eventually fell to Valparaiso in the losers' bracket final and bowed out in third place. In 2011, they beat UIC in the opening round. YSU was also 2-2 as the No. 6 seed when the tournament as at Les Miller Field in 2007. All-time, YSU is 5-7 in the league tournament as the sixth seed.

  • YSU has been victorious in the No. 6 vs. No. 3 first-round game in each of the past two tournaments.

Recapping Last Weekend

YSU ended the regular season by getting swept at Valparaiso last weekend. Valpo jumped out to a 6-0 lead in each of the first two games and won game one 8-3. YSU, though, rallied with two runs in the sixth, three in the seventh and two in the ninth to force extra innings in game two. The Guins eventually lost 8-7 on a two-out error in the 11th inning. Valpo scored the final 13 runs after being held without a hit in the first four innings in the series finale to win 13-2.

Banks, Dosch Named All-Horizon League

Youngstown State's Jeremy Banks and Drew Dosch have been voted First-Team All-Horizon League by the league's coaches for their standout performances during the 2012 season.

Banks owns the Horizon League's top batting average (.386), slugging percentage (.586) and on-base percentage (.471) among players with more than one at bat. He was limited to 145 at bats and 37 games due to an injury, which keeps him out of the league leaders rankings. Banks still ranks tied-for-sixth in the league with 14 doubles, and his 42 RBIs and five homers rank seventh.

Dosch was perhaps the Horizon League's most-improved player in 2012. On the league-leaders list, Dosch ranks second in home runs (8) and third in batting average (.362), total bases (111) and slugging percentage (.536). He also ranks fourth in hits (75), sixth in on-base percentage (.420) and ninth in RBIs (38).

Shirley A Top Freshman

Youngstown State freshman Jason Shirley had an admirable first season, despite not being named to the league's all-newcomer team. Shirley batted .297 with 31 runs, six doubles, 13 RBIs and a team-high nine steals in 49 games. He batted .314 in conference play, and five of his doubles came against league foes. Shirley led all Horizon League freshmen with 54 hits and was second in runs, steals and doubles.

Horizon Players of the Week

Jeremy Banks

• March 5 – Batted .462 and named all-tournament at Austin Peay... Reached base seven times and had six RBIs in 10-inning game vs. Iowa.

• March 12 – Batted .545 with three homers, two doubles and eight RBIs in three games at VMI... OBP of .667 and a 1.545 slugging percentage.

• April 30 – Batted .636 (7-for-11) and reached base at least twice in all three games of a sweep of UIC.... Recorded 200th career hit.

Blake Aquadro

• April 30 – Pitched YSU's first nine-inning shutout since 2004 against UIC... Scattered eight hits and struck out three while throwing 144 pitches.

The Six-Game Hot Stretch

YSU had a stretch from the last week of April and the first in May where it won five of six games, sweeping UIC and taking two of three at Butler. The Penguins hit .340 in that six-game stretch and averaged 8.67 runs. They had 34 two-out RBIs in those six games and hit .378 with runners in scoring position. Their pitching staff had a 4.92 ERA. In YSU's other 45 games, it hit .245, averaged 3.73 runs, had 66 two-out RBIs and batted .204 with runners in scoring position. The team ERA in the other 45 games is 7.67.

Banks, Others Have Good Track Records in Tourney

Senior Jeremy Banks has hit very well in his previous three Horizon League Tournaments. He is batting .424 and slugging .515 in eight career games in the postseason. He went 4-for-5 in one game in 2009, 4-for-13 in three games in 2010 and 6-for-15 last season in four contests.

Drew Dosch hit .357 (5-for-14), and Craig Goubeaux hit .308 (4-for-13) last season in their first conference tournaments.

Blake Aquadro was one of the top pitchers in the entire tournament last season. He allowed just one earned run on eight hits in 9 1-3 innings while posting a win and a save. He has a career 1.50 ERA in 12 innings during the tournament. Reliever Kevin McCulloh allowed one earned run in 3 2-3 innings in 2010. He missed last year's tournament with an injury.

Dosch Earns Academic All-District Honors

Drew Dosch was named Capital One First-Team Academic All-District on May 3. As a 4.0 education major, Dosch is batting .362 with eight home runs, 12 doubles, 34 runs and 38 RBIs. He was the first YSU baseball player to earn Academic All-District accolades since Josh Page in 2008.

Rough Times at "The Mill"

Youngstown State went 2-2 in the 2007 Horizon League Tournament that was held at Les Miller Field. However, those are the only pleasant memories in recent years for YSU at UIC's home park. The Penguins have lost 20 consecutive games to the Flames at "The Mill". Its last win regular season win at UIC came on April 10, 1993.

Banks, Leon on Career Chart

YSU has two seniors on its roster, and both are listed several times in the school's career records. Jeremy Banks ranks third in school history in career RBIs (135), sixth in total bases (309), seventh in homers (170), ninth in hits (214) and 10th in at bats (663). David Leon is seventh in games played (201), eighth in at bats (706) and 13th in hits (187).

Relief Pitcher Notes

  • Kevin McCulloh ranks seventh in the Horizon League with 49 strikeouts despite not starting a game. He ranks second in the league to only Milwaukee's Kaleb Engelke in appearances with 29. McCulloh had a 2.45 ERA in 19 league appearances, and seven of the 16 runs against him were unearned.
  • Nic Manuppelli has allowed one earned run over his last six innings. He was limited early with a nagging shoulder injury but allowed two earned runs over his first 12 innings of the season. Manuppelli has allowed two extra-base hits in last nine appearances. He matched his season high with three innings at Valpo on May 18.
  • Ryan Krokos has started four games and pitched in 20 out of the bullpen. Three of those starts were against league teams. He has allowed nine earned runs in his last 5 2-3 innings.