The Youngstown State baseball team earned a 4-1 win over Oakland in its opening round game of the 2018 Horizon League Baseball Championship on Wednesday afternoon at Nischwitz Stadium. The Penguins earned their first win in the league tournament since winning the championship in 2014.
The contest was tied for four and a half innings before the Golden Grizzlies took a 1-0 lead in the fifth. The Penguins tied the game in the sixth before scoring two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to advance into the winner's bracket. YSU will play either Wright State or UIC tomorrow depending on who wins the other first-round game between Milwaukee and Northern Kentucky.
"I think that was probably the best baseball we've played all year," YSU head coach Dan Bertolini said after the game. "In all aspects - pitching, defense and timely hitting - our guys really stepped up today with everything on the line. I think we are hitting our stride at the right time. Hats off to Oakland and Jake Lee, who pitched a great game. We are looking forward to coming back and competing again tomorrow."
Blaze Glenn, Trey Bridis, Nick Massey and Andrew Kendrick each recorded two hits to lead the Penguins offensively. Glenn, the Second-Team All-Horizon League honoree, hit a pair of doubles, scored two of YSU's four runs and drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning. On the mound, Joel Hake and Austin Butler combined to pitch five innings of shutout relief after a strong start by Alex Bellardini, which allowed the offense time to rally late.
Bridis hit a deep fly ball to left field in the first at bat of the game but Oakland left fielder Myles Zilinsky made a leaping grab at the wall to rob an extra base hit. Massey followed with a one-out single but was stranded at first.
Web Charles drew a leadoff walk to begin the top of the third, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third. However, Jake Lee struck out three batters to keep the game scoreless. Lee recorded six strikeouts through his first three innings of work.
Ben Hart and Zilinsky each singled and Mike McGee walked to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fourth but Bellardini got Ronnie Krsolovic to fly out to avoid any damage.
In the top of the fifth inning, Charles was hit by a pitch and Bridis followed with a one-out double off the left field wall to put runners at second and third but Lee retired two straight hitters to keep the Penguins off the board. YSU stranded at least one runner in each of the first five innings.
Ryan Fitzgerald walked and Emerson Misch was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the fifth inning. After Bellardini gave way to Hake, Mario Camilletti walked to load the bases with nobody out. Tyler Trovinger hit a sacrifice fly to center with one out to drive in the first run of the game. Hake did a nice job limiting the damage to a single run as he struck out Zilinsky to end the inning.
Glenn led off the top of the sixth with a double down the left field line. He later stole third and was able to score on the play to tie the game at 1-1 after Oakland's catcher threw the ball into left field.
After Butler came out of the bullpen to strike out the side in the home half of the seventh, Massey led off the eighth with a single and advanced 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Wehler. Glenn followed with an RBI double to left to give YSU its first lead of the game. After Glenn stole his third base of the game to get to third, Kendrick brought him home with an RBI single that put the Penguins in front 3-1.
YSU added an insurance run to go up 4-1 in the ninth as Charles hit a leadoff a single and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Massey.
Butler earned the win for Youngstown State after allowing just two hits and striking out four over four scoreless innings of relief. Bellardini put forth a very strong effort before handing things over to the bullpen, allowing one run on just two hits over four innings.
Oakland reliever Nate Schweers suffered the loss after surrendering three runs on five hits in two innings of work. Lee, the Horizon League's strikeout leader, took a no-decision after allowing just one run on four hits and striking out 12 batters over seven impressive innings. Five different Golden Grizzlies had singles in the game and Trovinger drove in Oakland's only run.
The Penguins will now face either top-seeded Wright State or the second seed UIC in the winner's bracket tomorrow. YSU will face Wright State tomorrow at 11 a.m. if third-seeded Milwaukee wins today's other first-round game but if sixth-seeded Northern Kentucky is victorious, the Penguins will face UIC at 3 p.m.