The Youngstown State baseball team took the lead in its last at bat in both games of a doubleheader sweep of Valparaiso, 6-5 and 9-7, on Friday evening at Eastwood Field.
Alex Larivee hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth inning, and he hit a two-run double in YSU's five-run eighth inning in game two. Joe King also played a big role in both games, earning the victory in game one and the save in game two.
With the sweep, the Penguins improved to 8-13 in Horizon League play and jumped the Crusaders (6-12) in the conference standings.
Larivee's winning hit in game one came after the Penguins tied the score on Trey Bridis' sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth. King worked out of a jam in the top of the ninth to keep the game deadlocked, and Larivee doubled in pinch-runner DarShawn Armstrong from second base with nobody out in the ninth.
Youngstown State led 4-0 after three innings before Valparaiso rallied to take the lead. In the second, Nico Padovan led off with a single and scored on Lou Cardona's sacrifice fly. Kyle Benyo followed with his eighth home run of the season with Lorenzo Arcuri on board to make the score 3-0. Bridis singled in Andrew Kendrick with two outs in the third inning to increase the margin to four.
Valparaiso started the third inning with three straight hits and went on to score four runs in the inning to tie the score at 4-4. Chase Dawson drove in the tying run on a two-out double to left that plated Giovanni Garbella.
The Crusaders took their only lead of the contest in the top of the sixth when Christian Barczi led off with a triple and scored on Sam Shaiken sacrifice fly.
Youngstown State made outs on the base baths in the sixth and seventh innings to hurt scoring chances, but it tied the game in the eighth. Kendrick was hit by an 0-2 pitch, and Padovan followed with a single that moved him to third. Bridis' sacrifice fly to center plated Kendrick and set the stage for Larivee in the ninth.
King allowed a single and a walk to start Valparaiso's half of the ninth, and James Stea's sacrifice bunt advanced the runners. King induced a fielder's choice where Shane Willoughby threw out Scott Kapers at the plate, and, following an intentional walk, Jake Hanson grounded out to end the inning.
Cardona reached on an error to start the bottom of the ninth, and Benyo was hit on the first pitch of his at bat to move the pinch runner Armstrong to second. Larivee then ripped the first pitch he saw over Garbella's head in left to give YSU its second walk-off win in two weeks.
In game two, Youngstown State took a 2-0 in the second inning when Arucri tripled in Bridis and scored on a Cardona single. Valparaiso took the lead with three runs in the top of the fourth, and Bridis scored on a Benyo single with two outs in the bottom of the inning to tie the score at 3-3.
Nate Palace hit a two-run home run off Kevin Yarabinec in the top of the fifth to put the Crusaders back on top 5-3. Willoughby's solo blast in the bottom of the seventh brought the Penguins to within a run, but Garbella's two-run homer in the top of the eighth upped the Crusaders' lead to 7-4. That margin ended up making the bottom of the eighth more dramatic.
Bridis and Arcuri walked to start the inning, and Cardona followed with a single to load the bases for Larivee. The senior outfielder came up big again with a two-run double to the left-field corner that plated two runs. Pinch-runner Anthony Rohan scored the tying run on Web Charles' chopper to the left of the mound, and the winning runs scored on an error.
King allowed a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth but retired the next two batters to preserve the win. Palace grounded into a fielder's choice, and Padovan picked a hot grounder at third base to start a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Youngstown State will go for the series sweep on Saturday at 3 p.m. For the latest on weather-related schedule changes, fans should follow @YSUBaseball on Twitter.