By Jeff Brown
The Youngstown State University baseball team has had a rough go of it so far in the 2015 season. Coming into last weekend’s three game series against Wright State University, YSU was in last place in the Horizon League (11-24, 4-14) and the Raiders were in a battle with University of Illinois Chicago for a top spot in the Horizon League.
The series against Wright State started off as expected with the Penguins losing 19-2. The Raiders jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and allowed their pitching to take over, only allowing six hits to YSU.
The next two games were a different story. The Penguins were able to put the 19-2 loss behind them — winning game two (13-3) and three (6-3) of the series.
“I think it says a lot [about our team]. They play first pitch to last pitch. I don’t think the 19-2 says much about us because they are a momentum team and we didn’t pitch well,” YSU head coach Steve Gillispie said.
In game two, Wright State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth, but YSU would answer in the bottom of the inning with a three-run homer from Shane Willoughby giving the Penguins a 3-2 lead, and sparked the offense throughout the rest of the game. The homerun was Willoughby’s first of his career.
Wright State starting pitcher Luke Mamer came into the game with just a 1.91 ERA, but YSU got the best of the righty scoring six runs on five hits and two walks against him.
Jeremy Quinlan (3-6) was awarded the win for the Penguins after allowing two earned runs on four hits in six innings pitched.
Game three was much of the same for the Penguins. Wright State jumped out to a 3-0 leading the top of the fifth with YSU’s offense struggling to that point.
That would change in the sixth inning as their offense caught fire, exploding for six runs and giving YSU a 6-3 lead. Jonny Miller started the scoring for the Penguins on an arrant throw to first base. Alex Larivee added a two-run double at the next at bat.
“We got our lead off runner on. Jonny Miller base hit with the top of the order coming up, it allowed us to try and create some offense,” Gillispie said. “In this park, with the windy conditions, it’s more suited for creating [runs] rather than banging balls around, and it allowed us to do that.”
Relief pitcher Josh North said he wasn’t worried about the bats struggling to score runs early.
“I know our guys always come along eventually in the game. It just took them a while to get to their starter, but once we got some runs we just added on and that’s the sign of a good team,” North said.
North picked up his second win of the season for the Penguins. North allowed a double to the first batter he faced, but rallied — only allowing one run in four innings of relief.
With the Horizon League championship less than a month away, Gillispie says winning a series against the top team in the conference gives the team confidence heading down the stretch.
“We’ve been playing better,” Gillispie said. “We’re about .500 in our last 20 games and as the weather turned and we’ve gotten a little more consistent playing times we’ve played better. I think it says a lot about us moving forward in that we’ve played with a team that’s won 30 ball games.”