The Youngstown State baseball team starts the second half of Horizon League play this weekend with a three-game series against UIC that begins Friday at Eastwood Field. The Penguins and Flames are scheduled to play at 3 p.m. on Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Live audio will be available on 1390 WNIO and iHeart Radio, and live video will be streamed on the HLN.
Youngstown State and UIC are in a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings along with Wright State with a 6-6 mark. Milwaukee leads the pack at 8-4, with two of those losses coming against YSU, and Valparaiso is fifth at 4-8. UIC won two of three against YSU in Chicago during the first conference weekend on March 16-17.
The Penguins are coming off a split in their two most-recent midweek games, losing 11-9 at Pittsburgh and winning 13-4 at Toledo. YSU spotted Pitt a 7-1 head start after one inning on Tuesday but continued to battle and had the tying run at the plate in the seventh and ninth innings. The Penguins stayed hot at the plate on Wednesday and were the early aggressors against Toledo in building a 5-0 lead through five innings. A five-run sixth-inning blew the game open, and YSU beat the Rockets for the fifth straight time dating back to the 2008 season. Only once this season has YSU had more runs in back-to-back games than the 22 it scored in the two games this week.
Senior left-hander Blake Aquadro (2-5, 4.66 ERA) will pitch game one of the series on Friday, and he'll be followed by right-handers Patrick O'Brien (2-4, 3.79 ERA) and Lance Horner (0-1, 3.33 ERA). UIC will counter with right-handers Tomas Michelson (4-2, 1.82 ERA), Joey Begel (2-3, 3.40 ERA) and Ian Lewandowski (3-2, 1.93 ERA).
Next week, the Penguins will play at Kent State on Tuesday at 5 p.m. before hosting West Virginia on Wednesday at 6 p.m. YSU's lone game next weekend will be at Cene Park on Friday at 3 p.m. against Alderson-Broaddus, a Division II team from Philippi, W.Va.
Scouting UIC: UIC is 17-16 overall and 6-6 in Horizon League play entering this weekend's series. The Flames shut out Chicago State 6-0 on Tuesday to move above .500, and their game at Northern Illinois on Wednesday was rained out. UIC lost two of three at home to Wright State last weekend, winning game one 6-1 and losing both games of a Saturday doubleheader 6-4 and 11-6. Game one starter Tomas Michelson is the reigning Horizon League Pitcher of the Week for his performance versus the Raiders, and is 4-2 with a 1.82 ERA in 59.1 innings. UIC's staff ERA is 3.56, which ranks second in the conference to Valparaiso. The Flames are hitting .246 as a team with sophomore outfielder Tyler Detmer hitting a team-high .327. No other UIC player is hitting above .280.
Previously vs. UIC: YSU and UIC played the first weekend of the conference season on March 16-17, and the Flames won two of the three contests. Drew Dosch hit .455 in the series and drove in the go-ahead run for YSU in the top of the ninth inning in its 8-7 victory in the opener. UIC rebounded to break a 1-1 tie with three runs in the eighth inning in game two of the series, and the Flames built a 7-0 lead in their 8-1 victory in the finale. Joey Begel had a no-hitter through six innings in the 8-1 win.
Penguins Match 2012 Win Total: YSU's 13-4 victory over Toledo on Wednesday was its 11th win of the season. That matches the Penguins' win total from all of last season, and there is a month left in the regular season. A win this weekend against UIC will allow the Penguins to also match their Horizon League win total from each of the last two seasons with seven.
Bats Coming Around: Youngstown State has posted at least 10 hits in six of its last nine games and is hitting .317 as a team over those nine contests. The Penguins' team batting average currently sits at .257, its highest mark of the season. The average sat at .237 entering the previous nine games.
Individual Hot Streaks: Over the previous nine games, all but one Penguin with 20 at bats or more is hitting at least .320. Of those seven players with at least 20 at bats, Phil Lipari is leading the group with a .387 average and 11 RBIs. Drew Dosch (.353), Nick DiNello (.344), Neil Schroth (.333), Mike Accardi (.323) and Josh White (.320) are also on hot streaks. Devin Higgins is 7-for-12 over the previous nine games, and Jason Shirley has seven hits in his last 14 at bats dating back to last Friday.