Youngstown State sophomore left-hander Joe King pitched seven shutout innings to lead the Penguins to a doubleheader split at Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field.
King's effort helped the Penguins to a 5-2 victory in the opener, and the Crusaders rallied for a 4-3 win in game two for the split. The rubber match of the series will be Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Youngstown State built a 5-0 lead after seven innings to back King. Brent Gillespie singled and scored on a double play in the second, and the Penguins scored three runs in the fourth. Alex Larivee singled and scored from third on a double steal, and an error led to two more runs. Frank Califano's RBI single brought in Kevin Hix in the seventh to put YSU up by five.
King surrendered back-to-back two-out singles in the first inning, and he didn't allow another base hit until there was an out in the seventh. He sprinkled in just two walks, leadoff passes in the fourth in sixth innings when both runners were stranded at third.
Valpo's two runs came in the eighth on an RBI single by Jeff Edwards and a sacrifice fly by Daniel Delaney. The Crusaders had the tying run to the plate for two at bats in the ninth, but Ryan Krokos was able to preserve the win with back-to-back flyouts.
Gillespie had three hits in the opener, and Califano posted two. King had four strikeouts, one more than the number of hits he allowed, in throwing 109 pitches.
Valpo starter Dalton Lundeen allowed five runs, two of which were earned, on eight hits in seven innings.
Josh North, YSU's starter in game two, nearly matched King's effort and held a 2-1 lead after five innings.
Jason Shirley singled and scored on a double steal in the first inning to put YSU ahead 1-0, and Valparaiso tied the score in the bottom half. Spencer Mahoney hit an infield single, and Edwards followed with a bunt single. Those were the only hits North allowed until the sixth, but Valpo tied the score on another Delaney sacrifice fly.
YSU took the lead in the second inning when Matt Sullivan doubled with outs and scored on a Hix single. The Penguins had a chance to stretch the lead to two in the fifth when Califano singled, stole two bases and was thrown out at the plate on a fielder's choice.
After walking Lodden to load the bases in the first inning, North retired the next 17 batters he faced. Lodden ended the stretch with a two-out double in the sixth, and Valpo went on to score two runs in the inning. Delaney followed with a single to plate Lodden with the tying run, and Kyle Schneider hit a go-ahead single two batters later.
Valpo scored what turned out to be a crucial unearned run in the eighth inning to go ahead 4-2, and YSU was only able to get one run across in the ninth. Larivee led off with a double and scored on Sullivan's one-out single, and the Penguins ended up stranding two runners.
North allowed three runs on five hits and two walks in six innings, and Austin Lujano allowed the unearned run in two innings. Valpo starter Mario Losi pitched into the ninth inning in the victory, and Bryce Yoder came on to record his sixth save.