Comeback Bid Falls Short as Penguins Drop Series Opener 11-10

Grant Kersh (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Grant Kersh (Photo by Rob Hayes)

The Youngstown State baseball team scored the final eight runs of the game including four in the ninth inning to mount a major comeback bid, but ultimately fell 11-10 to Milwaukee in the opener of a three-game series on Thursday afternoon at Eastwood Field.

Trailing 11-6 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Penguins scored four times and got the potential winning run to the plate but Milwaukee closer Jake Sommers came on to get a game-ending strikeout with the tying run on second base.

Milwaukee built a comfortable 11-2 lead with a six-run third and a two-run fourth. YSU chipped away at the deficit with two runs in the fourth and one each in the sixth and seventh to set up the ninth-inning drama.

Both teams had 12 hits but early errors proved costly for Youngstown State as Milwaukee scored eight unearned runs over the first four innings as a result of Penguins' miscues.

Grant Kersh helped create the comeback opportunity with a phenomenal performance out of the bullpen. He allowed only three hits and retired 15 of the 18 batters he faced over five scoreless innings of relief. The freshman right-hander faced the minimum in two different frames.

Phillip Glasser's stolen base in the bottom of the first inning gave YSU its 105th steal of the season to set a new single-season school record. The previous record of 104 was set 49 years ago in 1970. The Penguins went on to steal three bases in the game to push their season total to 107.

With the score 11-6 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Web Charles and Lucas Nasonti each drew one-out walks and Blaze Glenn was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. Jeff Wehler then delivered a bases-clearing double to right field, and Trevor Wiersma followed with an RBI single to put the tying run on base. Pinch runner Cameron Murray got into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Sommers got Drew Dickerson to strike out looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.

Steven D'Eusanio and Wiersma each had three hits for the Penguins, and Wiersma scored three times. Wehler and Dickerson had two hits apiece, and Wehler drove in three runs in the ninth.

Tyler Bordner paced the Panthers offensively with three hits and four RBIs.

Milwaukee grabbed an early lead with three unearned runs in the top of the first inning. Mike Ferri reached with a one-out single, and after a flyout, Joe Vyskocil hit a routine ground ball to Glasser at shortstop that should have ended the inning. However, Dickerson was unable to handle the toss to second on the fielder's choice, allowing the inning to continue. Bordner made the Penguins pay with a three-run home run to left center field in the ensuing at bat.

Youngstown State responded in the bottom of the second inning by loading the bases with three consecutive singles by Wiersma, Dickerson and D'Eusanio. Dylan Swarmer drove in YSU's first run with a sacrifice fly to right field, and Charles shaved Milwaukee's lead to 3-2 with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt down the first base line that plated Dickerson from third.

The Panthers countered with six runs, four of which were unearned, on five hits in top of the third. The first two runs of the inning came on a one-out RBI single by Trevor Schwecke and a two-out RBI triple from Bordner. After a walk put runners at first and third, the Penguins had another fielder's choice go awry. After fielding a ground ball at third base, Glenn's throw to second for the force out went over Dickerson's head and into right field allowing a run to score. Milwaukee took advantage as Zach Nogalski went on to hit a two-run triple, and Mitch Buban followed with an RBI double.

Milwaukee pushed its advantage to 11-2 with two more runs in the top of the fourth. Schwecke led off with a solo home run to left field, and Jack Thelen recorded a two-out RBI single later in the inning. Thelen's base hit plated Vyskocil, who reached on YSU's third error of the game.

The Penguins reduced the deficit back to seven with a pair of runs on three hits in the home half of the fourth. Wiersma hit a leadoff triple and Dickerson followed with an RBI single. After Dickerson advanced to second on a wild pitch, D'Eusanio drove him home with this second single of the day.

YSU scored its fifth run in bottom of the sixth inning when Wiersma drew a leadoff walk, moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch and scored on D'Eusanio's second RBI single of the game. Charles hit a leadoff single, stole second base and eventually scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh to cut Milwaukee's lead to 11-6.

YSU starter Colin Clark suffered the loss after allowing 11 runs, only three of which were earned, on nine hits over four innings. The sophomore left-hander also registered five strikeouts in his four innings of work.

Jared Reklaitis was responsible for five runs on eight hits over six innings in his eighth victory of the season. Jack Mahoney surrendered five runs on three hits over 2.2 innings of relief. Alex McIntosh allowed Wiermsa's RBI single in the ninth before giving way to Sommers, who struck out the only hitter he faced to earn his ninth save.

The Penguins and Panthers will play game two of their three-game Horizon League series tomorrow at 11 a.m. It will be Kids Day presented by Akron Children's Hospital with more than 3,000 area students in attendance. The contest will be broadcast live at YSNLive.com.