By Drew Zuhosky
The Youngstown State University baseball team wasn’t supposed to be at Eastwood Field on Thursday for the straight doubleheader against Oakland University Grizzlies, but an unplayable field in Rochester, Michigan forced the move.
After a 45-minute rain delay to begin the afternoon’s proceedings, the Penguins and Grizzlies split the twin bill, 5-3 and 6-3, respectively.
In game one, Oakland shortstop Mike Brosseau led off the bottom of the first by hitting a solo home run to left field, followed up by an RBI groundout from second baseman Ben Hart in the bottom of the second inning.
YSU responded with a three-run third inning, with successive RBI singles from leftfielder Alex Larivee and designated hitter Jake Fryman, tying the game before the go-head run scored on an RBI groundout from first baseman Ryan Cordova.
The contest remained a 3-3 tie until the sixth inning when Oakland third baseman Spencer Marentette homered to right field, giving the Grizzlies the lead. Marentette later padded the lead with an RBI fly out in the bottom of the eighth, scoring center fielder Robby Enslen.
Penguins right-handed pitcher Jeremy Quinlan went six innings in game one, giving up four runs — three earned — on five hits, walking four batters and striking out four. Oakland lefty Jason Hager pitched a complete game — giving up three runs on six hits, walking three batters and striking out five.
Just like game one, Brosseau led off the nightcap with a solo homer to left field. YSU came right back with two runs in the second inning with a double by shortstop Shane Willoughby, scoring third baseman Matt Sullivan. Willoughby later scored on a two-out throwing error.
Oakland retook the lead with two runs in the third. Right fielder Tyler Pagano flew out to left, plating Enslen, and Marentette singled to left field, driving in first baseman Zach Sterry.
Three runs over the course of the fifth and sixth innings gave YSU the lead. Sullivan’s RBI single in the fifth scored designated hitter Jason Shirley, and a two-run pinch-hit RBI single by Cordova brought home Shirley and center fielder Frank Califano, giving the Penguins a 5-3 lead. A single by Willoughby drove in Sullivan in the ninth inning to close the scoring in a game where YSU picked up a season-best 17 hits.
Left-hander Jared Wight picked up his second win of the year. Over four shutout innings, he surrendered three hits, walking two batters and striking out two more. Right-hander Ryan Krokos picked up his first save this season, walking two batters in 2.1 innings pitched.
Head coach Steve Gillispie talked about Cordova’s pinch-hit success, chalking it up to the pitchers he’s had to face.
“Ryan’s in the middle of the order when we’ve had left-handed starters against us,” Gillispie said. “That was a good matchup for him today. He’s more of a fastball, breaking ball kind of guy, and he handles that stuff pretty well.”
Cordova discussed his game-changing moment in the nightcap.
“Coming into that situation, coach told me to warm up,” Cordova said. “I was geared up for the fastball and waiting to take it the other way. I give all the credit to the pitchers afterwards. They really did a good job coming in and throwing up zeroes after that.”
During the final game of the series, the Penguins were able to hold off a Grizzlies’ comeback in the bottom of the ninth to win 7-6 and clinch the series.
Oakland took a 2-0 lead after scoring individual runs in the second and third innings. Grizzlies second baseman Ian Yetsko hit a double down the leftfield line and was later driven in after a sacrifice fly by catcher Matt DiLeo. Brosseau led off the bottom of the third with a leadoff walk. After stealing second base and advancing to third on a groundout, Brosseau scored on a sacrifice fly by leftfielder Trent Drumheller.
The Penguins scored six runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 6-2 lead. YSU recorded six hits in the top of the fifth, including a three-run double by right fielder Alex Core. Oakland responded with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth to cut the YSU lead to 6-3.
YSU added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on an error by DiLeo — giving the Penguins a 7-3 lead. The Grizzlies would add two runs in the bottom of the inning to cut the lead to 7-5.
After giving up one run the bottom of the ninth, YSU pitcher Anthony Konders recorded the final two outs of the game. Konders recorded his first save of the season.
The Penguins’ record improved to 7-17 (3-9) this season. YSU is scheduled to play Canisius College on April 7. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Eastwood Field.