Baseball Travels to Pitt, Plays Two Big League Doubleheaders This Weekend

Kyle Benyo (Photo by Kevin Davis)
Kyle Benyo (Photo by Kevin Davis)

The Youngstown State baseball team will play at Pittsburgh on Wednesday before battling for a spot in the Horizon League Tournament with a pair of conference doubleheaders over the weekend. YSU will host two games against Northern Kentucky at Eastwood Field on Saturday at 1 p.m., and it will play a doubleheader at Oakland on Sunday at noon. Sunday's contests will conclude YSU's Horizon League schedule, and the Penguins need wins to climb back into the tournament field. Wednesday's game at Pitt will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.

Recapping Last Week: Youngstown State went 1-3 in four games last week, splitting a doubleheader at Valparaiso and suffering a doubleheader sweep at Wright State. The Penguins rallied to score once in the eighth and twice on a two-out triple by Lorenzo Arcuri in the ninth to earn their win over the Crusaders. YSU had chances in both games against the league-leading Raiders, losing on a walk-off error in game one and holding a 6-4 lead after five innings in game two. Arcuri hit .429 for the week, and five starters batted at least .313. Joe King pitched 6-2/3 innings out of the bullpen and recorded his sixth save of the season. The Penguins did not play any midweek games as they focused on final exams.

Horizon League Standings Update: Youngstown State has dropped to seventh in the Horizon League standings after going 1-3 over the weekend and having other games be decided unfavorably. The Penguins are 9-17 in conference play, while Valparaiso, Milwaukee and Oakland are all tied for fourth at 9-14. YSU will play a doubleheader against third-place Northern Kentucky on Saturday at Eastwood Field, and it will play two impactful games at Oakland on Sunday. Youngstown State has four games remaining in conference play while the other six teams in the league have seven. The top six teams in the regular season advance to play in the conference tournament.

18-5 -- UIC / Wright State
10-13 -- Northern Kentucky
9-14 -- Milwaukee / Oakland / Valparaiso
9-17 -- Youngstown State

Holding On To Leads: Youngstown State has done a solid job holding on to leads once it attains them this season. The Penguins are 10-0 when leading after the sixth, seventh and eighth innings this season, and they were 10-0 when leading after five before letting a 6-4 lead slip away at Wright State on Saturday. YSU is 9-3 in games decided by two runs or fewer this season and 12-5 when holding teams to five runs or fewer.

Notes Around The Diamond:

  1. Youngstown State has already surpassed its overall win total and won four more Horizon League games than in 2016. There are nine games left on the regular-season schedule, four of which are conference contests. YSU is one win shy of reaching 10 conference victories for the first time since 2009.
  2. Since starting the season 2-14, YSU is 13-17 over its last 30 games. That stretch began with a doubleheader sweep of Oakland on March 25. That was one week after Jeremy Quinlan came back from an injury that kept him out the first four weeks of the season. Joe King became YSU's closer that same week.
  3. Jeremy Quinlan made his season debut on March 19, and he is 3-0 with a 3.76 ERA in his seven starts, all of which have come against conference opponents. He went the distance in two of those three victories, beating Wright State on April 9 and Milwaukee on April 22.
  4. Since moving to the bullpen on a full-time basis on March 19, Joe King has a 2.00 ERA in 36 innings, which have spanned 17 appearances. He has three wins and six saves as a reliever. King had pitched 13-2/3 consecutive scoreless innings before allowing two runs against Valparaiso on April 30. King is one of just four players in program history to have at least six saves in a season, and he is tied for ninth in career saves with seven.
  5. Youngstown State has hit 44 home runs in 46 games this season. The Penguins have hit more homers in a season just once in their history – 60 in 2010. YSU had not hit more than 20 dingers in a season since that record-setting campaign in 2010.
  6. Junior first baseman Andrew Kendrick has hit a school-record 14 home runs this season. He ranks 26th in the country in home runs, and he is 15th nationally with 0.33 home runs per game.
  7. While Kendrick has 14 round-trippers, sophomore outfielder/DH Kyle Benyo has hit eight homers. That is tied for the 14th-most by a Penguin in program history. Erich Diedrich is the only YSU sophomore to hit more than eight home runs – he had nine in 2006. Drew Dosch, Andrew Clough and Jeff Stofko are the only other Penguins sophomores with eight homers. Trey Bridis has six homers, including a grand slam in game two at Wright State on Saturday.
  8. YSU is an improving offensive club in 2017. The Penguins are batting 29 points higher collectively than in 2016, and they are averaging more than 1.2 more runs per game this season. A big boost in the offense has come from home runs as the Penguins have hit an impressive 32 more round-trippers than in 2016. 2017: .255 AVG / 5 runs per game / 66 doubles / 44 home runs / .396 SLG / .324 OBP.  2016: .226 AVG / 3.8 runs per game / 64 doubles / 12 home runs / .288 SLG / .320 OBP.
  9. Youngstown State is under the direction of first-year head coach Dan Bertolini. The 31-year-old from the Youngstown area spent the previous eight seasons at Mercyhurst North East. The Saints averaged 29 wins in his tenure and were particularly strong on offense, setting school records for hits, doubles, home runs, runs and RBIs in his final season.

Scouting Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is 21-24 overall this season and 8-16 in Atlantic Coast Conference contests. The Panthers were swept over the weekend at Georgia Tech after playing nine straight home games. Alex Amos leads Pitt with a .291 batting average, and Caleb Parry is close behind with a .286 mark and a team-high 39 RBIs. Youngstown State's last win over Pittsburgh was in 2014, and the Panthers have won the last four meetings.

Scouting Northern Kentucky: Northern Kentucky enters this week with a 17-30 overall record and a 10-13 mark in Horizon League play, which ranks the Norse third in the conference. NKU will host a doubleheader against Oakland on Friday at noon before coming to Youngstown State on Saturday. The Norse lead the Horizon League with 54 home runs, a total that ranks 25th in the country, and it ranks among the top two in the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, RBIs and doubles. Individually, Trey Ganns is batting .343 with 12 home runs and a league-high 43 RBIs. Northern Kentucky won two out of three games against YSU at NKU when the teams played March 31 through April 2.

Scouting Oakland: Oakland begins this week with a 12-33 overall record and a 9-14 mark in Horizon League games. The Golden Grizzlies will host Western Michigan on Wednesday and travel for a doubleheader at Oakland on Friday before hosting Youngstown State on Sunday. The Golden Grizzlies have played just three home games all season, and their final five league games will all be at the Oakland Baseball Field. Oakland went 2-2 last week, splitting doubleheaders at UIC and at Valparaiso. Conor Bowers is the reigning Horizon League Pitcher of the Week after holding Valparaiso to one hit over eight innings on Sunday. YSU took two of three from the Golden Grizzlies when the teams played at Eastwood Field on March 24-25.

Next Week: Next week is the final week of the regular season for the Penguins. Youngstown State will play at Kent State on May 16, and YSU will host a three-game series against Rider on May 18-20. The game on May 19 will begin at 11 a.m. as the Penguins and Mahoning Valley Scrappers host the annual Kids Day Game at Eastwood Field.