Penguins Begin Three-Game Series at NKU Friday to Open Horizon League Play

Marco DeFalco (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Marco DeFalco (Photo by Rob Hayes)

The Youngstown State baseball team will open Horizon League play with a three-game series against Northern Kentucky beginning on Friday afternoon at the Bill Aker Baseball Complex in Highland Heights, Ky.

The Penguins (1-14) and Norse (1-12) will play at 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday, 1 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. The first two games of the series will be broadcast live on ESPN3, and live stats will be available throughout the weekend through links on YSUsports.com. Fans can also follow @YSUBaseball on Twitter for live updates.

By the end of the weekend, YSU will have played nine games in 10 days. The busy stretch started last Friday when the Penguins began a four-game weekend series at Miami (Ohio) before playing single games at Kent State and Pittsburgh on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Probable Starters:

Previewing Northern Kentucky

Scouting The Norse

Northern Kentucky enters the weekend at 1-12 and on a four-game losing skid after dropping a 16-1 decision at home against Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday. Freshman outfielder Griffin Kain leads NKU with a .323 batting average while freshman infielder Noah Fisher has team highs with 12 hits and two home runs. Sophomore infielder Griffin Doersching, last season's Horizon League Freshman of the Year, leads the Norse with nine RBIs. Junior lefty Jake Dennis and freshman right-hander Tyler Ollier each have sub-2.00 ERAs while senior left-handed starter Sam Williams has posted team highs of 19.2 innings and 24 strikeouts. NKU pitchers have struck out a league-best 110 batters.The Penguins went 4-2 against the Norse last season, taking two of three in each series.

Series History

  • Overall: Northern Kentucky leads 11-6
  • Bertolini: 5-6 // Home: 3-6 // Away: 3-5 // Neutral: 0-0
  • Current Win Streak: 2 by Youngstown State
  • 16 of the 17 meetings have come since 2016 when NKU joined the Horizon League; the only previous matchup came during the 1977 season.

A Win on Friday Would…

  • Be YSU's second win of the season, and 36th under Head Coach Dan Bertolini.
  • Be YSU's second consecutive victory.
  • Give YSU it's seventh win in the all-time series with Northern Kentucky.
  • Be YSU's third straight victory over the Norse, and fifth in the last seven games between the two schools.

Recapping Kent State and Pittsburgh

at Kent State (Tuesday, March 12) / L 10-5:

  • Youngstown State dropped a 10-5 decision to Kent State on Tuesday evening at Schoonover Stadium in its fifth game in five days.
  • The Golden Flashes scored in each of the first four innings to build an 8-1 lead before the Penguins plated one in the fifth and two in the seventh to shave the deficit to four.
  • However, YSU would get no closer as Kent State responded with two runs in the home half of the seventh to push its advantage back to six. The Guins plated their final run in the eighth for the final margin.
  • Kent State snapped a three-game losing streak and won its fifth straight in the series to improve to 5-10 while Youngstown State fell to 0-14 on the season.
  • Lucas Nasonti matched his career high with three hits including a double and also scored twice. The sophomore outfielder has now recorded seven hits over his last three games. Phillip Glasser went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks.
  • Blaze Glenn doubled, walked and drove in a season-high three runs while Trevor Wiersma hit his league-leading fourth home run of the season. Jeff Wehler walked twice, scored a run and snatched his team-leading fifth stolen base.
  • YSU set season highs offensively with nine hits and eight walks, and six different Penguins recorded at least one hit in the contest. The Penguins actually out-hit the Golden Flashes 9-8, but left a total of 10 runners on base.

at Pittsburgh (Wednesday, March 13) / W 4-2:

  • Four different Penguins drove in a run, and YSU got outstanding efforts from its freshman pitchers in a 4-2 victory at Pittsburgh on Wednesday at Charles L. Cost Field.
  • YSU earned its first win of 2019, its second win over a team from the ACC in the last three years, and it beat the Panthers for the first time since the 2014 season.
  • YSU scored the first four runs of the game, and freshman pitchers Brandon Matthews, Brett Souder and Marco DeFalco combined to hold Pitt to one run on six hits over seven innings out of the bullpen.
  • Offensively, Drew Dickerson went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, and he scored and drove in a run. Lucas Nasonti, Trevor Wiersma and Dylan Swarmer also had an RBI, and seven different Penguins had a hit. Five of YSU's nine hits went for extra bases, and YSU limited Pitt to seven singles.
  • YSU scored all four of their runs in the first three innings, and Matthews was able to keep them ahead. The freshman came on to start the third inning, and he held Pitt to one run on three hits and one walk over four innings.
  • The Penguins jumped on the Panthers with three runs in the second inning on three consecutive hits and a squeeze play to take a 3-0 lead. Web Charles scored the game's first run when he hit a one-out single, stole second and raced home on Dickerson's double to right. Swarmer then brought in Dickerson on a triple off the wall in left center, and Swarmer scored two batters later on Nasonti's sacrifice bunt.
  • YSU added a run in the third as Blaze Glenn singled and scored on Wiersma's double. Glenn made a great slide to avoid the tag at the plate to put YSU ahead 4-1.
  • Pitt loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth, but Matthews was able to minimize the damage and escape by allowing just one run.
  • DeFalco then got perhaps the biggest outs of the game in the eighth. He came on with two runners on and nobody out, and gave up a single to load the bases and put the go-ahead run at the plate. The freshman left-hander induced a 5-4-3 double play that brought in a run, and got a strikeout to end the inning with YSU still ahead 4-2.
  • DeFalco retired the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth, and the next two Panthers reached before a ground out to Wiersma at first ended the game. Matthews earned his first collegiate victory, and DeFalco was awarded the save.

Notables

Going Yard

  • The Penguins have continued their home run-hitting ways so far in 2019. Heading into the weekend, YSU leads the Horizon League with nine total homers, and four players have hit at least one. 
  • Trevor Wiersma leads the league with four dingers, Blaze Glenn and Jeff Wehler are tied for third with two and Steven D'Eusanio has one round-tripper to his credit. 
  • YSU hit 44 home runs as a team in 2018, which ranked second in the Horizon League and as the third-most in a single season in school history. It also marked the first time in school history the Guins hit at least 40 homers in back-to-back seasons; they hit 50 in 2017. 
  • YSU hit a combined 94 homers over the previous two seasons after averaging just 14.2 homers per year over the previous six campaigns. 
  • Trey Bridis had 13 home runs last season; Glenn had 11; Andrew Kendrick hit nine. It marked just the second time in school history that three Penguins hit at least nine home runs in a season. 
  • Last season was also the first time in school history that two Penguins hit at least 11 homers in the same season.

Smooth Criminals

  • Heading into the weekend, the Penguins rank second in the league with 17 steals, and are 17-of-20 in stolen base attempts on the season. Jeff Wehler ranks second in the league with three swipes while Blaze Glenn is tied for fourth with four. 
  • YSU has had at least two stolen bases in six different games, and set a season high with four on Wednesday at Pitt.
  • YSU had 86 stolen bases as a team last season, which ranked second in the Horizon League. That total is also tied for the second-most in a single season in school history. It marked the first season since 1998 in which the Penguins stole at least 80 bases. 
  • YSU had three players who ranked in the top-10 of the league in stolen bases. Wehler ranked second with 25; Glenn was sixth with 16; Trey Bridis was eighth with 13. 
  • Wehler's 25 steals were the most ever by a YSU freshman, and he became the first Penguin since 1988 to reach at least 25 swipes in a season. That total is the fourth-most in a single season in school history, and only three freshmen in the nation had more steals than Wehler at the end of the regular season
  • 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 stole at least three bases in 14 different games last season. 
  • Glenn, Wehler and Lucas Nasonti each had games in which they recorded three stolen bases in 2018, becoming three of just six players since 2000 to do so. Before last season, only one Penguin had stolen at least three bases in a game since 2003

Bats Coming Alive

  • After struggling offensively over the first part of the season, YSU's offense has started to show improvement over the last few games.
  • The Penguins recorded season highs of nine hits, eight walks and four RBIs in each of the last two contests at Kent State and at Pittsburgh.
  • YSU has registered nine extra-base hits over its last two games after having 19 over the first 13 games of the season.
  • The Penguins had three doubles and a home run at Kent State before posting four doubles and a triple at Pitt.

Challenging Non-Conference Schedule

  • YSU has started the season against six very formidable opponents. The combined record of YSU's six opponents thus far in 2019 is 62-31. 
  • 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 16-1 while Florida State is 13-2. 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 10-6 start in 2019. 
  • Last week's opponent, Miami (Ohio), is now 12-3 this season after going 35-20 and finishing tied for second in the MAC last season. 
  • The Penguins also played Kent State and Pitt earlier this week. Kent State has won three straight regular season MAC crowns. The Golden Flashes went 40-18 last season, and also won the MAC Tournament.

Nasonti Heating Up

  • After starting the season just 3-for-33, sophomore outfielder Lucas Nasonti, is hitting .500 over his last four games.
  • The Horizon League All-Freshman Team honoree last season has eight total hits including three doubles and a triple over that stretch. He has had at least one hit in four straight contests, and at least two in three of the last four. 
  • Nasonti recorded two hits in both games of a doubleheader at Miami (Ohio) on Sunday, and followed that with three hits and two runs scored at Kent State on Tuesday. He doubled, walked and drove in a run in Wednesday's win at Pittsburgh.
  • The Warren, Ohio, native has also made a number of impressive defensive plays in center field. Nasonti made a spectacular, diving catch while running toward the infield during opening weekend at Mississippi State. He made another amazing, diving catch on the warning track going toward the wall on Wednesday in YSU's win over Pitt.

Young Arms Coming of Age

  • In the first two appearances of his career, freshman right-hander Brandon Matthews has allowed just one run on four hits and struck out four with a 1.12 ERA over eight innings out of the bullpen. 
  • In his debut last Sunday at Miami (Ohio), he surrendered only one hit and struck out three batters in four innings of scoreless relief in the first game of a doubleheader.
  • He followed that by holding Pitt to one run on three hits and one walk over four innings to earn his first collegiate victory on Wednesday.
  • Over his last four appearances, freshman left-hander Marco DeFalco has allowed just three hits over four scoreless innings of relief. He entered in the eighth inning at Pitt on Wednesday, and allowed no runs on two hits over a season-high two innings to earn his first career save.
  • Sophomore right-hander Cade Negley has allowed just two runs over nine innings in his last three outings. He had worked seven straight scoreless innings before giving up two runs in two innings at Kent State on Tuesday.
  • Negley 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.

Among the League Leaders

  • Youngstown State enters the weekend leading the Horizon League with nine home runs as a team. The Penguins rank second in the league with 17 steals, and are 17-of-20 in stolen base attempts on the season. The Guins are also second in the conference with a .972 fielding percentage, and third with 61 walks.
  • YSU also has a number of individual players who rank among the Horizon League leaders in various statistical categories heading into the weekend.
  • Senior first baseman Trevor Wiersma leads the league with four home runs, is tied for fifth with 11 RBIs, and ranks 10th with a .463 slugging percentage.
  • Jeff Wehler ranks second with six stolen bases, tied for third with two home runs and tied for fifth with nine runs scored.
  • Blaze Glenn ranks third in the league with 11 walks, tied for third with a pair of homers, tied for fourth with four steals, and tied for fifth with 11 RBIs along with Wiersma.
  • Sophomore outfielder Lucas Nasonti is tied for fourth with four doubles.
  • Sophomore left-hander Colin Clark is fourth in the league with 21.1 innings pitched, and tied for seventh with 15 strikeouts.
  • Freshman right-hander Brandon Matthews ranks fifth with a 1.13 ERA, and seventh with a .143 opposing batting average.
  • Senior right-hander Kip DeShields is ninth with an opposing average of .150.

Pitching By Committee

  • The Penguins used six different pitchers in Wednesday's win at Pittsburgh. 
  • Joel Hake made his fourth career start and worked a scoreless first inning before Dalton Earich worked a scoreless second. 
  • Freshmen Brandon Matthews, Brett Souder and Marco DeFalco combined to hold Pitt to one run on six hits over seven innings, and Greg Dunham also appeared in the contest.
  • Seven different Penguins have started a game on the mound as the coaching staff continues to search for consistent Saturday and Sunday starters behind Colin Clark on Fridays.
  • Clark will make his team-leading fifth start of the season on Friday, but starters for the final two games of the series are TBA as YSU will likely use a by-committee strategy again this weekend.

Glasser Establishing Himself

  • Freshman infielder Phillip Glasser has started to establish himself as a regular fixture in YSU's starting lineup. 
  • He is batting .333 with four hits including a double and a triple over his last four games. The talented frosh has also walked four times, scored twice and drove in a run over that stretch. 
  • Glasser went 2-for-3 in back-to-back contests at Miami (Ohio) and Kent State after recording two walks and two runs scored in the previous contest.
  • The freshman has played in 11 of YSU's 15 games, and made 10 starts at shortstop this season. He's hit leadoff or in the number-two spot in nine of his 10 starts.

Up Next

The Penguins will play at West Virginia on Tuesday at 3 p.m. before hosting Oakland for their home opener at Eastwood Field on Friday, March 22, to begin a three-game Horizon League series.