The fifth-seeded Youngstown State baseball team will open the 2018 Horizon League Baseball Championship against fourth-seeded Oakland on Wednesday at noon. The tournament is being hosted at Wright State's Nischwitz Stadium after the Raiders secured the top seed in the field. All games of the tournament will be streamed live on ESPN+, and live stats will also be available through links on HorizonLeague.com.
Senior right-hander Alex Bellardini will take the ball for the Penguins against the Golden Grizzlies. Wednesday's opening-round games will be single elimination, and the tournament will shift to a double-elimination format on Thursday once it is narrowed to four teams. If the Penguins win, they will play either top-seeded Wright State or the second seed UIC in the winners bracket on Thursday.
Oakland (15-31, 12-14 Horizon League) will enter the league tournament as the fourth seed. The Penguins were 2-3 against the Golden Grizzlies during the regular season, splitting a doubleheader at Eastwood Field on April 6 and going 1-2 at Oakland the first weekend of May. The Golden Grizzlies have four regular starters who are hitting at least .280 for the season, led by Myles Zilinsky at .313. Mario Camilletti is hitting .304 with a team-best 55 hits while Ben Hart leads Oakland and ranks sixth in the Horizon League with 41 RBIs. Ryan Fitzgerald leads the Golden Grizzlies and ranks third in the league with 20 stolen bases. Right-hander Jake Lee leads the Horizon League with 100 strikeouts and ranks second with seven wins.
Recapping Last Week
The Penguins dropped four games in the final week of the regular season. YSU fell 5-1 to Kent State on Tuesday in its home finale and a special Akron Children's Hospital Kids Day game. Over 3,000 local students were in attendance at Eastwood Field. The Penguins finished the season with a record of 5-2 against opponents from the MAC. YSU also dropped three contests at UIC over the weekend. The Flames rode solid pitching to wins of 6-2 on Thursday and 12-0 on Friday. UIC also won the regular season finale 8-5 on Saturday in a game where each team hit three home runs. Trey Bridis hit a pair of solo homers and Andrew Kendrick hit one of his own.
Quick Notes Around The Diamond
- YSU's 10 league wins are its most since the 2009 season. Its 17 total wins are the most since the 2014 season.
- The Penguins have recorded the most conference wins (19) in back-to-back seasons since the 2009-2010 seasons and the most regular-season wins (32) since 2010-2011.
- YSU is playing in the Horizon League Tournament for the first time since the 2015 season. No player on the current roster has played in a league tournament game.
- Youngstown State won the Horizon League Tournament Championship in both 2004 and 2014.
- YSU has drawn a school-record 268 walks as a team this season, which leads the Horizon League by 27 and also ranks 30th in the nation as of Monday.
- The Penguins have 81 stolen bases as a team this season. That total ranks second in the Horizon League and 29th in the nation. It also ranks as the fourth-most team stolen bases in a single season in school history.
- The Penguins have hit 44 home runs as a team, which ranks second in the Horizon League and is the third most in a single season in school history.
- This season marks the first time in school history that YSU has hit at least 40 HR in back-to-back seasons. The Guins hit 50 HR in 55 games last season, which is the second-highest team total in school history.
- Blaze Glenn was kept off the bases for the first time in a game since Feb. 23 in Friday's loss at UIC. He had reached base in 46 consecutive games, which was believed to be the longest streak in the country.
- Jeff Wehler leads YSU while ranking second in the Horizon League and 29th in the nation with 25 stolen bases. He is the first Penguin to steal at least 25 bases in a season since 1988.
- Wehler's 25 steals are the most by a YSU freshman and the fourth most in a single season in school history. Only three freshmen in the country have more steals.
- Trey Bridis has a career-high 42 walks this season, which leads the Horizon League and is the second most in a single season in school history. He is the second Penguin to walk at least 40 times in a season and the first since 2001.
- Bridis has hit a career-high 13 home runs this season, which ranks second in the Horizon League and is the second most in a single season in school history.
- Bridis and Glenn are two of just four players in program history to record at least 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in the same season.
Bridis Bolsters Lineup
Senior outfielder Trey Bridis has had an impressive senior season in 2018. After starting the season just 2-for-23, Bridis is batting .330 with 58 hits in 44 games played since March 4. On May 14, Bridis was named a National Player of the Week and the Horizon League Co-Batter of the Week after a week in which he batted .500 and hit four home runs. He added a 1.042 slugging percentage, 12 total hits, six RBIs, a .586 OBP, 10 runs scored, 25 total bases, five walks and three stolen bases that week. The senior hit a pair of home runs this past Saturday in the regular season finale at UIC. Bridis has walked 42 times this season, which ranks as the second most in a single season in school history. His 22 career home runs are tied for fifth most in program history. Bridis is batting .357 and slugging .810 with 15 hits, six home runs, nine RBIs, 13 runs scored and 34 total bases over his last 10 games. Bridis ranks in the top 10 of the Horizon League in eight different offensive categories heading into the week. He is first in walks, second in home runs, third in runs scored, fourth in slugging, fifth in at bats, fifth in OBP, sixth in hits and seventh in stolen bases. Bridis also leads the team with 16 multi-hit games this season.
Bombs From Bridis
Trey Bridis finished the regular season with 13 home runs, which ranks second in the Horizon League and as the second most in a single season in school history. He is just the second Penguin to hit at least 13 dingers in a season, joining teammate Andrew Kendrick, who set the school record with 17 last season. Bridis has been on an absolute tear over the last month, hitting eight home runs over his last 12 games of the regular season. For perspective, Bridis hit eight homers all of last season and is one of 21 players in program history to hit at least eight home runs for an entire season. Bridis and Kendrick are two of just six players in school history to hit at least eight homers in two different seasons. Bridis has five leadoff homers this year and has went yard twice in the same game on two different occasions.
Sophomore Blaze Glenn has made quite an impression in his first season with the program. In Friday's loss at UIC, Glenn was kept off the bases for the first time in a game since Feb. 23. He had reached base in 46 consecutive games, which was believed to be the longest streak in the country. Glenn hit three home runs in a doubleheader sweep on April 24, including two against Bowling Green in game two. His 10 total bases in that game tied for the third most in a single game in school history. Glenn leads YSU with a .324 batting average, 42 RBIs, 61 hits and a .443 OBP. Glenn's 11 homers are tied for the fourth most in a season in school history. He ranks in the top 10 of the Horizon League in eight different offensive categories. He is third in walks, fourth in OBP, fourth in home runs, fifth in hits, fifth in RBIs, fifth in slugging, fifth in batting average and seventh in steals. Glenn is tied for second on the team with 15 multi-hit games this season and leads the squad with 10 multiple-RBI games. He is also the only Penguin who has played and started all 53 games this season.
Rotation Ravaged by Injuries
All three of YSU's regular weekend starters from earlier in the season are now out with injuries. Sophomore right-hander Greg Dunham and junior left-hander Collin Floyd, who were the team's top-two starters for most of the season, are both sidelined. Dunham has made just one start in the month of May while Floyd has not pitched since May 5. Zach Lopatka, who was the team's Sunday starter for a majority of the season has not pitched since April 22. Alex Bellardini and Kip DeShields, who were relievers for most of the season, have been forced to become the top-two arms in the rotation over the past month.
Bellardini Answering The Bell
Senior right-hander Alex Bellardini was named Horizon League Pitcher of the Week twice in the past three weeks. The Elmira, N.Y., native allowed one run on just six hits over six innings to lead the Penguins to a 14-7 win over NKU on May 12 to earn his second weekly honor. Bellardini struck out four batters and only walked two while earning his second consecutive conference victory. He picked up his fourth win in just this fourth start of the season after spending most of the campaign in a relief role. The senior was coming off another dominant performance against Oakland the week before that earned him his first weekly honor. He was the first player to garner back-to-back weekly league honors this season. Bellardini was inserted into the weekend rotation due to injuries last month and has stepped up big. Bellardini was also brilliant in his first start of the season against Bowling Green on April 24. He allowed just four hits over six shutout innings on his way to earning the win. The senior will take the mound for the Penguins' opening-round game Wednesday vs. Oakland.
Keep On Walkin'
The Penguins set the single-season school record for walks in a win at Toledo on May 8. YSU has drawn a Horizon League-best 268 walks this season, surpassing the previous school record of 234 which was set in 2013. As of Monday, YSU ranked 30th in the nation in walks and had 27 more than any other team in the league. Trey Bridis has drawn a career-high 42 walks this season, which leads the Horizon League and is the second most in a single season in school history. Blaze Glenn has walked 38 times, that is the fourth most and Andrew Kendrick's 31 walks are tied for 10th most. The Penguins have 11 different players who have walked at least 10 times while five players have drawn at least 20 free passes.
True freshman infielder Jeff Wehler has had an impressive first season as a collegiate baseball player, starting 49 of the team's 53 games. He leads the team while ranking second in the Horizon League and 29th in the nation with 25 stolen bases. His 25 steals are the most by a YSU freshman, and he is the first Penguin since 1988 to reach at least 25 steals in a season. Wehler's 25 steals are the fourth most in a single season in school history and only three freshmen in the country have more steals than him. He has a team-high 12 doubles and is third with 24 RBIs. He leads the league with 204 at bats, and his 12 doubles rank fifth. He is batting .326 with 14 hits and eight stolen bases over his last 10 games. Wehler has also recorded 13 multi-hit games and eight games with multiple RBIs this season. In conference play, he is second with 15 steals while ranking third with nine doubles and fourth with 35 hits. Wehler is batting .282 against league opponents this season.
Freshmen Finding Their Groove
In addition to Wehler, outfielder Lucas Nasonti, first baseman Nick LaBrasca and reliever Jakob Brustoski are three players who have also had impressive freshman seasons. Over his last 18 games, Nasonti is batting .286 with 14 runs scored, 13 RBIs and seven stolen bases while starting every game in the outfield. After starting the season just 1-for-12, LaBrasca is 22-for-67 (.328) in 22 games played since. He is hitting .291 with 18 RBIs and a .443 slugging percentage overall. LaBrasca is batting .341 and slugging .512 with 14 hits and 13 RBIs over his last 10 games. Nasonti is batting .304 with 14 hits and 10 RBIs over his last 10 contests. Nasonti has played in 42 games while LaBrasca has played in 31. Brustoski is tied for the team lead with 24 appearances out of the bullpen and has struck out 34 batters this season. He also leads the team with 13.30 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
YSU has 82 stolen bases as a team this season, which ranks second in the Horizon League and 29th in the nation. It also ranks as the fourth most in a single season in school history. This season marks the first time the Penguins have reached at least 80 steals in a season since the 1998 campaign. YSU has three players who currently rank in the top 10 of the Horizon League in stolen bases. Jeff Wehler ranks second with 25 while Trey Bridis and Blaze Glenn are each tied for seventh with 13. YSU's eight steals at Northern Kentucky on May 11 tied for the second most in a single game in school history and was just one shy of the record. It also marked the first time since 1986 that the Penguins had at least eight steals in a game. YSU has stolen at least three bases in 13 different games this season. Bridis and Glenn are two of just four players in school history to record at least 10 HR and 10 steals in the same season.
Using The Long Ball
YSU has three players with at least nine home runs this season. Trey Bridis has 13, Blaze Glenn has 11 while Andrew Kendrick has hit nine long balls. Bridis and Glenn became two of six Penguins in school history to hit at least 11 home runs in a season. Bridis' 13 homers are tied for second in the Horizon League and are the second most in a single season in school history. Bridis has also moved into a tie for fifth on Youngstown State's career home runs list with 22 in his career. He has also become the eighth player in school history to hit at least 20 career home runs. Kendrick set the school's single-season home run record with 17 last season and the career record with the 28th of YSU career earlier this season. Bridis and Kendrick are two of six players in school history to hit at least eight homers in two different seasons. This season marks the first time since 2010 that at least two Penguins have hit 10 or more HR in the same season. The Guins have hit 44 home runs as team this season, which ranks second in the league and is the third most in a single season in school history. It marks the first time in school history the Guins have hit at least 40 HR in back-to-back seasons; they hit 50 last season. YSU has now hit a combined 94 dingers over the past two seasons after averaging just 14.2 homers per year over the previous six years. The Penguins ranked first in the nation with 13 HR the week of May 7-13.
Hake Earns All-Academic Honors
Junior reliever Joel Hake was named to the Horizon League's 2018 All-Academic Team last week. Hake has served as the Penguins' primary closer this season, is tied for the team lead with 24 appearances and leads YSU with 29.2 innings of relief pitched. He is now seventh all-time in school history with 74 career appearances. Hake leads the Penguins and is tied for second in the Horizon League with a career-high four saves. His four saves are also tied for the sixth most in a single season in school history. The Youngstown native has recorded a career-high 34 strikeouts while walking just 10 batters this season. He is also averaging a career-best 10.31 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, which is almost a six-point improvement from last season. Hake holds a 3.65 GPA as a nursing major.
Bertolini Brings Promise
YSU's 15 wins in 2017 under first-year Head Coach Dan Bertolini represented an increase from the program's regular-season totals in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. YSU's nine Horizon League wins last season tied for its most since 2009. The Penguins have surpassed last year's win totals with 10 league wins and 17 total victories in 2018. The team's 10 league wins this season are the most since 2009 and its 17 total wins are the most since 2014. The Penguins have recorded the most conference wins (19) in back-to-back seasons since the 2009-2010 campaigns and the most regular-season wins (32) since 2010-2011.