Late-Inning Rally Leads NKU Past Penguins in Horizon League Opener

Jeff Wehler (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Jeff Wehler (Photo by Rob Hayes)

Highland Heights, Ky. - A sixth-run eighth inning helped lead Northern Kentucky to a 13-5 win over the Youngstown State baseball team in the Horizon League opener for both teams on Friday at the Bill Aker Baseball Complex.

NKU scored 11 runs over their final four at-bats in a game that featured four lead changes over the first five innings. Each team scored in the second and fifth innings, and the Norse led by just two runs after the seventh before the six-run eighth allowed them to pull away. Neither team was retired in order until the bottom of the sixth inning.

Northern Kentucky snapped a four-game losing streak to improve to 2-12 overall and 1-0 in league play while Youngstown State drops to 1-15 and 0-1 with the loss.

The Norse logged 17 hits and eight different players had at least one. Sam Hedges had four hits including two doubles and three RBIs while Andrew Bacon and Jayden Wakeham each had three hits. Bacon and Griffin Doersching each hit two-run homers in the team's big eighth inning, and Bacon drove in a game-high four runs.

Jeff Wehler tied his career high with three hits while also recording an RBI, a stolen base and a run scored for YSU. Phillip Glasser and Drew Dickerson each tied a season high with two hits, and Glasser also scored twice and doubled home a run.

YSU starter Colin Clark struck out a career-high seven batters, but allowed six runs on 11 hits over 4.2 innings in his third loss of the season. The sophomore left-hander fanned at least one batter in four different frames, and had five strikeouts over the first two innings.

The Penguins used a pair of two-out hits in the top of the second inning to score the game's first run. Dickerson doubled down the right field line, and Tanner Montgomery followed with an RBI single to give YSU an early edge.

NKU quickly responded as Bacon hit a leadoff single in the home half of the second, and advanced 90 feet when Wakeham was hit by a pitch two batters later. After Clark's second strikeout of the inning, Hedges sent a two-out, two-run double down the left field line that cleared the bases to give NKU its first lead at 2-1.

The difference remained one run until the Penguins plated a pair in the top of the fifth inning to regain the lead. Nasonti drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on Glasser's RBI double to tie it. In the next at-bat, Wehler sent an RBI single back up the middle to put YSU back in front 3-2.

The Norse answered immediately in the bottom half of the fifth by batting through the order to score four runs on six hits and move ahead 6-3 for the fourth lead change in five innings. Hedges got things started with the first of three straight singles to begin the inning. Will Haueter, Bacon and Wakeham each provided run-scoring base hits during the four-run rally.

The Penguins missed a big opportunity in the sixth when they failed to score after loading the bases with three consecutive one-out walks. NKU reliever Cameron Ross got two straight pop outs after issuing the free passes to get out of the jam. YSU did draw closer in the seventh as Glasser drew a leadoff walk, and Wehler followed with single. After a pitching change, Blaze Glenn reached on a throwing error that allowed Glasser to score. Trevor Wiersma then pushed Wehler across with an RBI groundout that reduced the NKU advantage to 6-5.

Joel Hake came out of YSU's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh after an error and two walks loaded the bases with nobody out. Collin Luty drove in a run with a fielder's choice, but Hake struck out a pair to minimize the damage and keep the Penguins in the game.

Haueter jump-started Northern Kentucky's sixth-run eighth by drawing a one-out walk, and scored on Doersching's two-run blast to left field two batters later. After a base hit by Noah Fisher, Bacon sent his two-run shot over the wall in left. An RBI double by Luty and an RBI single from Hedges produced the final score.

NKU starter Sam Williams was responsible for three runs on seven hits over 5.1 innings in his first win of 2019. Joe Martin did not allow a hit and fanned four hitters over three scoreless innings of relief to earn the save.

Dalton Earich was charged with one unearned run on no hits and three walks in 1.1 innings out of the bullpen. Hake tossed one scoreless inning before Cade Negley and Kip DeShields each surrendered three runs in the eighth.

The Penguins and Norse will continue their three-game Horizon League series tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.