YSU Baseball Concludes Regular Season with Four Home Games This Week

2014 YSU Baseball
2014 YSU Baseball

The Youngstown State baseball team will try to ride its recent hot streak at home into the Horizon League Tournament as it plays four contests at Eastwood Field this week. The Penguins will play host to Toledo on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and they'll start a three-game series with Valparaiso on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Friday's game against the Crusaders will also start at 5:30 p.m., and Saturday's regular-season finale will begin at 2 p.m. YSU's 10 seniors will be recognized prior to first pitch on Saturday.

The Penguins won their second straight home Horizon League series this past weekend, taking one-run games on Friday and Saturday against UIC before losing 8-2 in Sunday's finale. The Penguins jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first inning on Friday and ultimately won 9-8 on Kevin Hix's walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth after UIC tied the score in the top of the inning. Matt Sullivan hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning to back solid pitching in Saturday's 2-1 victory. YSU then trailed 3-2 after seven innings before UIC scored three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to win 8-2 on Sunday. Brent Gillespie led YSU with a .455 batting average while having hits in all three games over the weekend, and Phil Lipari and Hix both hit .333. Last weekend also saw the return of starting catcher Josh White, who had missed 13 games with an injury. Freshman reliever Kevin Yarabinec earned the victory on Friday and got a save on Saturday.

Freshman outfielder Alex Larivee leads the Penguins with a .307 batting average, and David Saluga is close behind with a .305 mark in 59 at bats. Sullivan has hit all four of his team-high four home runs in the last 11 games, and he's jumped into the team lead in RBIs with 28. Larivee leads YSU with seven steals.

Freshman right-hander Jeremy Quinlan is slated to start Tuesday's game against Toledo. It would be his first start since taking the ball at Akron on April 22. Ryan Krokos, who pitched five shutout innings against UIC on Saturday, is the probable starter for Thursday's series opener against Valparaiso. He'll be followed by Patrick O'Brien, who struck out a season-high six batters last Saturday. The starter for the series finale is TBA.

Scouting Toledo

Toledo is 20-30 overall and 11-14 in Mid-American Conference contests after losing two of three at home to Western Michigan over the weekend. The Rockets are fifth in the conference in ERA and strikeouts. Deion Tansel is batting a team-high .305, and Tyler Grogg ranks fourth in the MAC with 25 stolen bases. Toledo will start right-hander Kyle Slack (3-6, 6.17 ERA) on Tuesday.

Scouting Valparaiso

Valparaiso is 20-26 overall and is tied for third place in the Horizon League standings with a 9-12 mark. The Crusaders dropped two of three at league-leading Wright State over the weekend, winning 11-1 on Friday before losing 6-4 on Saturday and 1-0 in 12 innings on Sunday. Valpo ranks last in the conference in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, but the Crusaders possess the top ERA in the league at 4.12. Michael Morman leads the team with a .302 batting average and 17 steals, and Karch Kowalczyk is the top power threat with team highs of five home runs and 31 RBIs. Kowalczyk also anchors a strong bullpen with eight saves and a 1.77 ERA. Valpo will start Cole Webb (6-3, 4.15 ERA), Dalton Lundeen (3-6, 2.16 ERA) and Ellis Foreman (2-6, 5.70 ERA).

Using Many Different Lineups

  • The Penguins have done plenty of shifting in their lineup throughout the season. In the first 44 games, no player has been in the same spot in the batting order in more than 50 percent of games. Shane Willoughby has been the No. 9 hitter 22 times, which is the spot with the most consistency. No player has started at least 10 games in the seventh or eighth spots.
  • The most consistent starting spot in the field has been shortstop with Willoughby starting 37 times. Phil Lipari has made 32 starts at second base and Matt Sullivan has started at third 30 times.
  • YSU has not used the same batting order in more than one game this season.

Penguins Showing Power Potential

  • Youngstown State has been on a real power streak over the past four weeks. The Penguins have blasted 10 home runs in the 11 games since April 23. The team had five home runs combined in the first 33 games of the season. Matt Sullivan has nearly matched that over the past four weeks with four round trippers on his own.
  • In addition to Sullivan's four blasts – he had zero before April 23 – Brent Gillespie and Jake Fryman have two apiece over the last 11 games. David Saluga and Kevin Hix have the other two homers in the hot streak. Hix and Sullivan both hit grand slams.
  • Youngstown State had 13 home runs as a team in 57 games last season, and eight of those came from players who are not on this year's roster.

Solid Arms in Bullpen's Back end

  • Youngstown State has some strong arms at the back end of its bullpen, led by freshman Kevin Yarabinec. Yarabinec has a 2.12 ERA with four saves in 16 appearances. The right-hander has 20 strikeouts against eight walks in 17 innings.
  • Senior Alex Frey, the primary lefty out of the bullpen, is having the best season of his career with a 3.69 ERA and 26 strikeouts in a team-high 22 appearances. Junior right-hander Josh North has a 5.87 ERA and boasts a 3-0 record, and junior righty Anthony Konders has a 5.40 ERA in his 14 relief appearances.

Happy to be Home

  • The Youngstown State baseball team is finishing the regular season with seven straight games at Eastwood Field. The Penguins played just eight of their first 41 games at home due to weather cancellations and the back-heavy schedule. YSU had its home series against Milwaukee from March 21-23 cancelled, and the finale against Wright State on March 30 was snowed out. Youngstown State's game against Akron on April 29 was also rained out.
  • The Penguins are 6-5 overall at home and have won six of their last nine contests at Eastwood Field. Two of those wins came against Pittsburgh and Kent State, the Penguins took two of three games against Oakland and UIC.