The 2012 Youngstown State University baseball regular season slated a 9-42 record, the most losses in school history. The Penguins also had 12- and 13-game losing streaks on two separate occasions.
The Penguins were the sixth seed, the lowest rank, in the Horizon League tournament, but they’re poised to revamp the season, winning two out of four.
“No matter what your record is, you’re starting out 0-0,” head baseball coach Rich Pasquale said. “That week, every pitch, every inning, that’s the most important thing that we have to focus on.” The Penguins began the tournament with an 8-4 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on May 23. They fell to the 2012 tournament champion Valparaiso University, 16-3, the following day.
Facing elimination, the Penguins took on Wright State University, a team that went 6-0 against YSU in the regular season and outscored the Penguins 84-17, including a 32-4 victory on April 5.
“Not only was it an elimination game, but against a team like that, the focus [and] the excitement were there,” said sophomore infielder Drew Dosch. “Once we started scoring a few runs, we knew we had a chance with one of the best teams year in and year out in the league.”
The Penguins trailed, 4-0, after the second inning. Starting pitcher Blake Aquadro allowed one earned run out of the four. The Penguins held the Raiders’ offense for the rest of the game. “I was able to keep the confidence to shut them down,” Aquadro said. “The offense came around in the next few innings to get the runs and put us in the lead.”
The Penguins scored three runs in the third inning, and one each in the fifth and sixth, pulling away with a 5-4 victory. Aquadro was taken out of the game with one out left in the ninth inning. He allowed 10 hits, walked two, struck out a pair and earned all-tournament honors.
“A lot of motivation went into that game,” Aquadro said. “We wanted to stay alive in the tournament, and we also wanted to get them back for humiliating us in the first series we played them.”
YSU was one of three teams remaining before falling to the University of Illinois at Chicago, 5-0, on Saturday. The Penguins finished 11-44 this season.
“We had a lot of ups and downs, mainly some downs, and not feeling good about an outcome, but the next day is a new day,” Pasquale said. “That was the approach every day.”
Pasquale said the most disappointing aspect this season was the .956 fielding percentage, which ranked last in the conference. YSU ranked first in that category last year.
“You name it, we did it wrong. That definitely has to change as we go into next year,” Pasquale said.
Heading into next season, the Penguins will be without senior Jeremy Banks, who missed 14 games due to a shoulder injury. Pasquale said Banks finished out his career on a high note, and added that he hopes Banks will be taken in the MLB draft, which begins Monday.
Banks led the conference with a .385 batting average and placed seventh with 44 RBIs. He was voted first-team all-HL by the league’s coaches along with Dosch, who said he wants to play a larger role in the team’s leadership next year.
Dosch, part of the College Sports Madness all-league team, finished fifth in the conference with a .353 batting average, third in home runs (eight), tied eighth in RBIs (42) and fourth in hits (79).
“We’ve asked so much from Drew this season,” Pasquale said. “We came up short in the wins column, but he came up with many big hits.”