The Youngstown State baseball team dropped a pair of close Horizon League contests to Northern Kentucky on Saturday, falling 4-3 and 5-3 to the Norse at Eastwood Field.
The Penguins drop to 15-34 overall and 9-19 in Horizon League play, and Northern Kentucky improves to 21-30 and 14-13.
In game one, the score was tied at 2-2 for five innings before NKU's two runs in the seventh ended up being the difference.
Northern Kentucky scored twice in the top of the first when Will Haueter doubled in T.J. Alas and crossed the plate later in the inning on a Chad Roberts single.
Youngstown State loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the inning, and Andrew Kendrick tied the score with a two-run double to right. YSU had a chance to take the lead with runners on second and third with nobody out, but NKU starter Brody Basilone worked out of the jam to keep the game tied.
YSU had back-to-back singles to start the fifth but was turned away empty, and NKU had the leadoff runners on in the fifth and sixth before finally ending the scoreless stretch in the seventh. Kyle Colletta hit a leadoff single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and Jake Richmond's single put runners at the corners with one out. Alas singled in Colletta with the tying run, and Haueter's sacrifice fly brought in a big insurance run that made the score 4-2.
Double plays hurt the Penguins in the seventh and eighth innings, but a defensive mistake set them up in the ninth. Lou Cardona led off with a single, and two errors on Evan Cheng's grounder to first gave YSU runners at second and third with nobody out. NKU reliever Cameron Ross got a foul out for the first out, and pinch-runner DarShawn Armstrong scored on a ground out to make the score 4-3. Lorenzo Arcuri was called out on strikes to end the game, and YSU head coach Dan Bertolini argued against the game-ending ruling.
Anthony Rohan, Kendrick and Cardona each had two hits for Youngstown State in the opener.
Zack Minney pitched into the seventh inning and was the hard-luck loser. He surrendered just six hits and two walks in 6-1/3 innings, and he left with Colletta on second and the score tied in the seventh.
In game two, seven of the eight runs in the contest were scored in the first three innings. YSU starting pitcher Jeremy Quinlan was hurt trying to field a bunt by Alas, and Alex Bellardini came in after just five pitches. Alas scored from second base on a sacrifice fly that sent Arcuri to the wall in right center, and Roberts scored on a two-out infield single by Dominic Mercurio.
Youngstown State's only scoring in the game came in the second inning when it posted four of its five hits. Consecutive singles by Kendrick, Nico Padovan and Trey Bridis started the inning, and Web Charles walked to force in a run. Cardona plated Padovan with the tying run on a sacrifice fly, and an infield single by Rohan brought in Bridis and gave the Penguins their only lead of the day at 3-2.
NKU answered with two runs in the top of the third on a seeing-eye single by Trey Ganns and a two-out single by Brad Bohlen. The only other run in the game came in the sixth when Bohlen drew a leadoff walk and scored on a two-out single by Zach Heming.
Rohan had two more hits in the nightcap to lead YSU's offense.
Bellardini was charged with the loss, surrendering four runs on five hits over five innings.
Youngstown State will play another doubleheader at Oakland on Sunday beginning at noon. The Penguins will have to earn at least a split against the Golden Grizzlies to keep their hopes alive for a berth in the Horizon League Tournament.