The Youngstown State baseball team will have its sights set on gaining separation in the Horizon League standings this weekend when it plays a three-game series against Wright State at Eastwood Field. The Penguins and Raiders will play a special day game for area students on Friday at 11 a.m., and the teams will play at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Live video of all three games will be streamed on the Horizon League Network, and 1390 WNIO will carry the games on Friday and Saturday live and Sunday's game on a delay.
Youngstown State was idle from conference play last weekend and ended up moving into a tie for second place due to the results of other games. Valparaiso swept Wright State, and Milwaukee swept UIC, which put YSU into a second-place tie with Valparaiso at 7-8 in the conference. Milwaukee leads the conference by four games, and Wright State is a game behind both Valpo and YSU in fifth place at 6-9. UIC, which is out of conference play this weekend, is a half game behind the Penguins at 8-10.
YSU will come into this weekend having lost four straight contests dating back to April 23. Two of the Penguins' losses in the last four games have been by one run, including Wednesday's 9-8 setback to Kent State. YSU led the Golden Flashes 8-3 through three innings and looked to be positioned to beat them for the second time in eight days. Kent State chipped away with three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth, and a two-run ninth gave it the 9-8 victory. Despite going cold after the third inning, YSU still managed to score at lead six runs for the eighth time in the last 10 games.
Senior left-hander Blake Aquadro (3-6, 5.13 ERA) will pitch game one of the series on Friday, and he'll be followed by right-hander Patrick O'Brien (3-4, 4.34 ERA) on Saturday. Wright State will counter with right-handers Casey Henn (3-6, 3.49 ERA) and Joey Hoelzel (3-3, 4.82 ERA). Neither team has announced its starter for Sunday.
The Penguins will break for finals next week before heading to Milwaukee for a three-game series against the Panthers.
Scouting Wright State: Wright State has lost four straight games overall and has not beaten a Division I team since April 17. The Raiders were swept at Valparaiso last weekend and lost 6-4 to Division II Urbana on Wednesday. Wright State leads the Horizon League in slugging percentage, doubles and home runs, but its staff ERA ranks fourth. Kieston Greene is third in the league with a .349 batting average, and he and teammate Garrett Gray are tied for third in the conference with four home runs.
Previously vs. Wright State: Youngstown State beat Wright State twice in a three-game series over Easter weekend at the end of March. Behind seven solid innings from starter Blake Aquadro and a six-run first inning, YSU won the opener 10-1. Wright State won game two 5-3 to even the series, but YSU's Marcus Heath hit two home runs in the Penguins' 7-4 victory in the finale. It was the first time YSU won a series against the Raiders since 2006.
Dosch Repeats as Academic All-District Honoree: YSU junior third baseman Drew Dosch has been voted Capital One Academic All-District for the second straight year for his combined performance on the baseball field and in the classroom. Dosch, an integrated social studies education major with a 3.96 grade-point average, is the lone Horizon League baseball player to earn Academic All-District accolades. Dosch leads the conference in runs scored, doubles, total bases and walks, and he ranks in the top 10 in almost every offensive category.
Senior Day on Sunday: Youngstown State will host its annual Senior Day festivities prior to Sunday's game. The Penguins will salute the careers of Blake Aquadro, Erik Okleson, Pat Shedlock and Padraic Williams in a special pre-game ceremony. Three other players – Joey Gajda, Jake Kucek and Robert Switka – listed as seniors on YSU's roster all have a chance for an extra year of eligibility due to injuries.
School Day Games: Youngstown State, in partnership with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, is hosting two special day games for area students. More than 1,200 area students are expected in attendance on Friday, and double that number are slated to come to YSU's morning game against Canisius on May 14. The Penguins are 0-2 in their previous two school day games, losing 5-2 to Pittsburgh last year and 9-2 to Akron in 2011.
Penguins Already Past 2012 Win Total: With at least 12 games remaining on the schedule, YSU has already surpassed its win total from all of last season with 13. The Penguins have also tied their Horizon League win total from each of the past two seasons with seven. Among other accomplishments this season, YSU beat a Big 12 team for the first time in school history (West Virginia), it won a series against Wright State for the first time since 2006, and it won at Kent State for the first time since 2005.
Bats Continue to Stay Hot: Over the last 17 games, Youngstown State has scored at least six runs 11 times and has registered double-digit hit totals in 11 games. In the first 28 games, YSU scored at least six runs just six times and had just eight games with at least 10 hits. Since April 6, the start of the 17-game stretch, YSU is batting .308 collectively and is averaging 6.9 runs per game. Heading into that contest, the Penguins were hitting .237 and were averaging 4.3 runs per game.