The Youngstown State baseball team fell 8-5 to UIC in what turned into a home run derby on Saturday afternoon at Curtis Granderson Stadium. The Penguins and Flames each hit three home runs in the regular season finale for both squads.
A pair of three-run home runs by UIC's Dominic Smith proved to be the difference as the Flames earned the series sweep. The junior outfielder hit his blasts in the third and fifth innings to quell multiple YSU comeback attempts. Smith went 2-for-3 with the two homers, two runs scored and seven RBIs.
Trey Bridis led the Penguins offensively with two home runs of his own, a pair of solo shots to left field. It marked the second time this month the senior hit two home runs in the same game. Andrew Kendrick also hit a solo home run and drove in two runs while Drew Dickerson recorded a pair of singles.
Derrick Patrick drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first inning and advanced to third on a single by Matt Bottcher. Smith then brought Patrick home with a sacrifice fly to give the Flames an early 1-0 lead.
Bridis tied the game with a two-out, solo home run to left field in the top of the third before UIC regained the lead with a two-out rally in the bottom half. Patrick hit a two-out double and Bottcher walked before Smith sent his first three-run homer over the wall in left to put the Flames back in front 4-1.
The Penguins answered by scoring two runs in the top of the fifth to pull within a run at 4-3. Kendrick hit a solo home run to left field and three batters later, Bridis hit his second solo shot of the game. With his 13th homer of the season, Bridis joined Kendrick as the second player school history to hit at least 13 in a season. His 13 dingers rank as the second most in a single season in program history, behind only Kendrick's 17 blasts last season.
However, the Flames responded as Smith hit his second three-run home run of the contest in the home half of the fifth to push the UIC lead to four at 7-3.
Jeff Wehler led off the top of the sixth with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Blaze Glenn followed with a walk and Dickerson singled to load the bases with nobody out. Nick Massey drove in Wehler with a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout by Kendrick cut the deficit to two at 7-5.
The sixth combined home run of the game, a solo shot by Scott Ota in the bottom of the eighth, pushed the UIC advantage back to three at 8-5.
YSU starter Dalton Earich took the loss after allowing five runs on four hits over four innings. Jacob Key was awarded the win after surrendering four runs on four hits over two innings of relief. UIC starter Reid Birlingmair was solid over four innings of work, giving up just one run on two hits in his first start since late March.
The Penguins will begin play as the five seed in the Horizon League Tournament on Wednesday. First pitch for YSU's opening-round, single-elimination game against the four seed Oakland is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Nischwitz Stadium in Fairborn, Ohio.