Standing in the Eastwood Field dugout after Youngstown State University’s 5-1 loss to Wright State University on Saturday, manager Steve Gillispie watched as his team attempted to tarp the field under a steady rain.
“We’re scuffling with that out there now as much as we’re scuffling at the plate,” he said.
In its first Horizon League series of the season, YSU dropped two games to the Raiders as they mustered only three runs in 18 innings. Falling to 3-16 on the campaign (0-2 Horizon League), the Penguins’ bats were as cold as the 30- and 40-degree temperatures they played in over the weekend.
“I think we’re battling a lack of confidence right now,” Gillispie said. “Things tend to pile up on you when you’re not winning and things aren’t going good, but it’s something we have to turn around.”
The Penguins stranded seven runners on base in each contest and have scored two or less runs in four of their last five games. The exception was an 11-4 victory at Ohio University on Wednesday.
Gillispie acknowledged his concern for the lack of production with runners in scoring position.
“We need to trust some of the things we’re working on in practice and try to apply those to the game a little bit better,” he said. “When we’re able to do that, I think things will turn a little. But we have some guys that are having a hard time making adjustments.”
Of the 14 players with at least 20 at-bats, only three have a batting average above .300. David Saluga paces the Penguins at .367, Alex Larivee is at .362 and Jason Shirley is hitting .324.
As a team, YSU is batting .247. Gillispie credited some of the struggles to a lack of repetitions, as Brent Gillespie leads the Penguins with 69 at-bats.
“You look at [Wright State’s] statistic versus ours and they have multiple guys, all the way through their lineup pretty much, with 100 at-bats.” Gillispie said. “And we’re approaching 65. So they’re in a pretty good groove right now and we’re still struggling to find some things.
“We’re trying to get some consistent at-bats, but we haven’t had a ton of success yet.”
Meanwhile, the YSU pitching staff has experienced some success recently.
Six Penguins combined to allow only three earned runs against the Bobcats. Patrick O’Brien, Alex Frey and Josh North surrendered just four runs on Friday. Other than a bad first inning in which Brendon Shoemake allowed three runs on Saturday, he and Robert Switka gave up just one run over the final eight innings.
“I think we’ve been having a good game plan,” Switka said, who pitched five scoreless innings out of the bullpen against Wright State. “We’re matching up against the hitters pretty well, and we’re executing and throwing our game. We’re competing.”
However, as a staff, YSU holds a 7.38 ERA on the season. Switka leads the Penguins with a 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 innings pitched, while fellow bullpen mate Frey is second with a 2.51 ERA in 14 1/3 innings pitched.
“It’s been solid lately,” Gillispie said. “Maybe not good enough in every area with the pitching staff, but it’s been pretty good.”
YSU travels to Penn State on Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. matchup, hosts the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and then travels to the University of Illinois at Chicago on Friday for a weekend series.