Baseball Begins Busy Week with Midweek Contests at Kent State and Pitt

Zach Lopatka
Zach Lopatka

The Youngstown State baseball team will begin a busy week of road five games with a pair of regional midweek contests on Tuesday and Wednesday before opening Horizon League play over the weekend.

The Penguins will play at Kent State on Tuesday before traveling to face Pittsburgh on Wednesday. First pitch from Olga Mural Field at Schoonover Stadium on Tuesday is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET while Wednesday's contest at Charles L. Cost Field is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET.

Live audio will be available for Tuesday's game at YSNLive.com, and Wednesday's game will be broadcast live on ACC Network Extra. Live stats will be available through links on YSUsports.com, and fans can also follow @YSUBaseball on Twitter for live updates.

Wednesday's contest will be YSU's sixth game in six days after playing a four-game series at Miami (Ohio) this past weekend.

Probable Starters:

Tuesday - Zach Lopatka
Wednesday - Joel Hake

*Starters subject to change

Previewing Opponents

Scouting The Golden Flashes

  • Kent State will enter Tuesday's game with a record of 4-10, and having lost five of its last six after being swept in a three-game series at West Virginia over the weekend. 
  • Among starters, sophomore outfielder Ben Carew leads the Golden Flashes with a .318 batting average and 14 total hits. Sophomore outfielder Nick Elsen has a team-high three home runs while senior infielder/pitcher Pavin Parks paces the squad with eight RBIs. 
  • Three-time MAC Coach of the Year Jeff Duncan has led Kent State to three straight regular season conference crowns. The Golden Flashes went 40-18 last season, and also won the MAC Tournament. 
  • Kent State took both matchups between the schools in 2018, winning 7-2 in seven innings at Schoonover Stadium in late March and 5-1 at Eastwood Field in mid May.
  • The Golden Flashes have won four straight in the series. YSU's last win came on April 4, 2017, when it bested a Kent State team that was ranked No. 29 in the nation, 11-6.

Scouting The Panthers

  • Pitt enters the week at 6-7 and on a four-game losing streak after being swept in a three-game series at No. 20 North Carolina State this past weekend. The Panthers will host Penn State at Charles L. Cost Field on Tuesday before welcoming the Penguins.
  • YSU and Pitt were also scheduled to play a mid-week contest in Pittsburgh last week, but the contest was postponed due to inclement weather.
  • Wednesday will be one of three scheduled games between the Penguins and Panthers this season. The two teams are slated to play at Eastwood Field on March 27 and in Pittsburgh again on April 16.
  • Outfielder Connor Perry leads Pitt with a .364 batting average, and is tied for the team lead with 16 hits and two home runs. Infielders David Yanni and Sky Duff have each recorded a team-high 10 RBIs. Sophomore right-hander Chase Smith has 1.08 ERA and a save in seven relief appearances.
  • The Panthers have won six straight in the series including a 9-5 victory at Charles L. Cost Field in early April last season. YSU's last win over Pitt came on April 2, 2014, when the Penguins took a 7-6 decision at Eastwood Field.

Recapping Last Week

The Penguins fell to 0-13 on the season after losing four games this past weekend at Miami (Ohio). In the opener, the Penguins plated two runs in the top of the first inning to grab an early advantage, but the RedHawks scored five of the game's final six runs to win 6-3. In the second game, YSU manufactured a run in the top of the first inning to take an early lead for the second time in as many days, but the RedHawks scored in each of the first four frames on their way to a 5-2 victory. The contest began on Saturday afternoon but was suspended due to weather conditions in the bottom of the eighth inning before it was finished Sunday morning. The RedHawks jumped out to early leads in each game of a doubleheader on Sunday, taking game one 9-1 and the finale 11-1.

Notables

Challenging Non-Conference Competition

  • Youngstown State has started the season against four very formidable opponents. The combined record of YSU's four opponents thus far in 2019 is 48-10. 
  • YSU played six road games against two top-10 nationally ranked opponents in Mississippi State and Florida State to begin the season, and held leads in five of them. Mississippi State enters the week at 15-1 while Florida State is 13-1. The Seminoles are ranked No. 1 in this week's Collegiate Baseball national rankings while the Bulldogs are No. 5. Both teams are ranked in the top 10 of every major national poll.
  • The Penguins then traveled to Tennessee Tech, which went 53-12, won the regular season OVC championship and reached the NCAA Super Regionals in 2018. The Golden Eagles are off to a 9-5 start in 2019.
  • Last week's opponent, Miami (Ohio), is now 11-3 this season after going 35-20 and finishing tied for second in the MAC last season. The RedHawks also finished as the runner-up at the 2018 MAC Tournament.
  • The Penguins have held a lead in 10 of their 13 games. YSU's challenging non-conference schedule will continue on Tuesday against defending MAC champion Kent State.

Weather Woes

  • YSU has had each of its first four weekend series of the season affected by weather. In addition, the Penguins had a mid-week contest against Pitt, that was scheduled for last Tuesday, postponed due to winter weather that came through the area on Sunday. 
  • YSU was slated to play single games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in each of its first three series at Mississippi State, Florida State and Tennessee Tech. However, the threat of inclement weather on Sunday forced schedule changes to all three. The Penguins played a Saturday doubleheader three straight weekends to begin the season. 
  • Weather forecasts also prompted changes to YSU's most recent series at Miami (Ohio). The threat of poor weather forced multiple schedule changes, and Saturday's contest was suspended in the eighth inning due to rain and lightning before being completed on Sunday morning.

Among League Leaders

  • Youngstown State enters the week leading the Horizon League with eight home runs as a team. The Penguins rank third in the league with 12 steals, and are 12-of-14 in stolen base attempts on the season.
  • YSU also has a number of individual players who rank among the Horizon League leaders in various statistical categories heading into the week.
  • Senior first baseman Trevor Wiersma leads the league with three home runs and is tied for fifth with nine RBIs.
  • Jeff Wehler ranks second with four stolen bases, tied for second with two home runs and tied for fifth with eight runs scored. Blaze Glenn is also tied for second in the league with a pair of homers. Glenn ranks tied for third with three steals.
  • Senior outfielder/pitcher Zach Lopatka is tied for seventh with a .409 on-base percentage.
  • Sophomore left-hander Colin Clark is fourth in the league with 21.1 innings pitched, and tied for seventh with 15 strikeouts.

Hake Approaching Appearances Record

  • Senior pitcher Joel Hake is scheduled to start his first game of the season on Wednesday, and draw closer to YSU's all-time mark for pitching appearances. After working one inning out of the bullpen on opening weekend at Mississippi State, he moved up to seventh all-time in school history with 77 career appearances. 
  • Hake needs three more to crack the top-five and nine to break the career record of 85, that was set by Ryan Sellman from 2005-08. The senior, who was YSU's primary closer and led the team with 26 appearances last season, has made just three starts in his career. 
  • Hake also led the Penguins and tied for second in the Horizon League with a career-high four saves in 2018. The Youngstown native finished with a 1-1 record and a career-low 4.36 ERA in 33 innings pitched last season. He recorded a career-high 35 strikeouts while walking just 12 batters. In addition, his 9.55 K/9 in 2018 was more than a  five-point improvement from the season prior. 
  • Hake was also named to the Horizon League's 2018 All-Academic Team, holding a 3.65 GPA as a nursing major. He has been working back from an injury that has kept him out the last few weeks.

Lopatka to Make First Start of 2019

  • Junior left-hander Zach Lopatka is slated to make his first start of the season on Tuesday at Kent State. 
  • The senior has made four appearances out of the bullpen this season. He has a 2.08 ERA and four strikeouts in 4.1 innings of work. 
  • Lopatka tossed 31.1 innings in eight starts and two appearances out of the bullpen last season. He was YSU's regular Sunday starter until being shut down due to injury in April.
  • The two-way player has also played in seven games and made six starts as a position player this season. He played in 27 games as a position player in 2018, starting 23 — 14 in left field and nine as the designated hitter.

Bullpen Efforts

  • Cade Negley has now worked seven straight scoreless innings over his last two outings. 
  • The sophomore came out of the bullpen in the fourth inning on Saturday at Miami (Ohio), and kept the Penguins in the game by allowing just one hit over 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. He dispatched nine of the 10 batters he faced, retiring Miami in order in both the fifth and seventh innings.
  • Negley also tossed 3.2 innings of scoreless relief in the series finale at Tennessee Tech the previous week. He scattered five hits and struck out three batters while walking only one.
  • In his first career appearance this past Sunday, Brandon Matthews allowed only one hit and struck out three batters in four innings of scoreless relief in the first game of a doubleheader with the RedHawks.
  • Freshman left-hander Marco DeFalco surrendered just one hit over 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.

Offensive Notes from Miami (Ohio)

  • Lucas Nasonti led YSU offensively in its doubleheader on Sunday at Miami (Ohio), going 2-or-4 and scoring the Penguins' only run in each contest. The sophomore outfielder doubled in the first game before recording his first career triple in the series finale. Nasonti had three hits on the season before notching four on Sunday.
  • Sophomore Jeff Wehler hit his second home run of the season on Friday. He is one of three Penguins who have hit at least two homers so far in 2019. Wehler registered two hits in each of the first two games against the RedHawks. He scored two runs and collected his team-leading fourth stolen base of the season in the opener on Friday. Wehler also had an RBI single in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday.
  • Freshman infielder Phillip Glasser scored three runs and drew three walks over the first two games of the series. In the series finale on Sunday, he went 2-for-3 with a walk, a single and his first career triple. The triple also gave him his second RBI of the season as he drove home YSU's only run of the game.

Up Next

YSU will open Horizon League play on Friday with game one of a three-game series at Northern Kentucky. The Penguins and Norse will play at 3 p.m. ET on Friday in the opener, 1 p.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday.