Penguins Beat Valparaiso 7-3 in Horizon League Tournament

Phil Lipari (Photo by Ron Stevens)
Phil Lipari (Photo by Ron Stevens)

Mequon, Wis. -- Senior Phil Lipari homered and had three of the Youngstown State baseball team's 14 hits, and the Penguins beat Valparaiso 7-3 in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Kapco Park.

The sixth-seeded Penguins will advance to play No. 1 Wright State on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern while Valparaiso will play an elimination game against No. 5 Oakland at noon Eastern.

Five Penguins pitchers combined to hold the Crusaders to four hits as YSU held a 14-4 edge in the hits column. Starter Jared Wight allowed one run on three hits and three walks in four innings, and the bullpen shook off six walks to preserve the victory.

"I thought our guys were focused and just played loose today," YSU head coach Steve Gillispie said. "There isn't as much pressure on you when you're the underdog. We were able to get guys on base early in innings, and that allowed us to move runners and do some creative things. We also had some big hits that allowed us to extend the lead."

After leaving runners on in each of the first four innings, the Penguins scored the first two runs of the game in the fifth. Kevin Hix and Shane Willoughby led off the frame with back-to-back singles, and Lorenzo Arcuri moved them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. Lipari then lined a single to center to plate Hix, and Larivee followed with a double that one-hopped the wall in right to score Willoughby. Cole Webb was able to strike out Brent Gillespie and get Matt Sullivan to ground out with two runners in scoring position to keep the Crusaders within two.

Andy Burns led off the bottom of the fifth with a wind-assisted home run to right, and Jake Hanson walked to put a runner on for the top of the order. Anthony Konders took over for Wight and retired the next three Crusaders to allow YSU to keep the momentum.

Konders got a double play to work around a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, and the Penguins added to the lead in the top of the seventh. Arcuri ignited the offense with a double to right center, and Lipari's fifth home run of the season put the Penguins ahead 4-1. Larivee followed with a double to left, and Sullivan doubled him in two batters later to give YSU a four-run cushion.

Kurt Laver doubled in Josh White and Hix in the top of the eighth to put YSU up 7-1.

Valparaiso tightened things up by scoring two runs in the eighth, and it left two runners on base in each of the final two innings. Alex Frey allowed three straight base-runners with one out in the eighth, and Ryan Smith walked a batter and started the next hitter with two straight balls before handing the ball to closer Kevin Yarabinec. Yarabinec got out of the jam by allowing a sacrifice fly to Andrew Bynum and getting Kyle Schneider to fly out.

Yarabinec walked two batters in the ninth, but he got Grant Yoder to line out and Chris Manning to ground out to earn his fifth save of the season.

Wight, making the first postseason appearance of his career, had his second-longest start of the season, and he had his biggest pitch count since April 4.

"Jared did a good job of staying ahead of hitters and locating his fastball, and, when he does that, he can be very tough to hit," Gillispie said. "We've been working on refining some of his mechanics, and we held him out of some league games down the stretch so teams couldn't get a comprehensive scouting report on him."

Konders was awarded the victory as he faced the minimum in two innings of work. Webb was charged with five runs on 12 hits in 6.2 innings in the loss. He held YSU to five runs on nine hits over 11 innings during the regular season.

Lipari finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs, and Larivee, Sullivan and Hix had two hits apiece to lead Youngstown State. Manning had two of Valparaiso's hits.