By Dan Hiner
Everything was running smoothly for the Youngstown State University baseball team until the fifth inning of the Penguins home opener on Friday.
The Penguins held a 5-3 lead, but during the top of the fifth, Oakland University tied the game. To make matters worse, the Penguins also lost first baseman Andrew Kendrick to an ankle injury.
Kendrick was 2-2 with three RBIs, including a two-run homerun in the bottom of the third inning.
“That’s one of our key guys,” YSU outfielder Anthony Rohan said. We’re not too deep at first base. Kyle [Benyo] is not normally a first baseman, but he jumped in there became the team needed him to.
Rohan said the team not only lost their first baseman, but the power bat in the middle of the batting order. He said the team still has some power but the loss of Kendrick means the team lost one of the Penguins best hitters.
Kendrick walked out of the dugout with an ankle brace on his left foot. YSU head coach Dan Bertolini said Kendrick injured the same ankle earlier in the season. He said he didn’t know if Kendrick will be ready in the immediate future.
After the fifth inning, the Penguins were outscored 5-1 and never found their way back into the game.
YSU (2-16, 0-1 Horizon League) couldn’t come up with clutch hits in the final five innings. The Penguins left runners in scoring position, and outside of a solo homerun by Kyle Benyo, couldn’t push a run across the rest of the game.
Oakland (2-16, 1-0 Horizon League) started to take advantage of hittable pitches. The YSU bullpen allowed six runs, five earned, in 3.2 innings pitched. The Penguins relief pitchers also allowed eight hits and four walks.
“I don’t think we need to make a lot of changes. I think Kevin [Yarabinec] and Jeremy [Quinlan] will give us a good opportunity to win,” Bertolini said. “Hopefully we’ll get a couple timely hits when we need them and keep the energy and momentum going. We’ll play some good defense behind them so I think we’re in a good spot. It’s one game of a three game series. We’re gonna come out tomorrow and play well.”
YSU will play a doubleheader against Oakland on Saturday. Game one is scheduled for noon and game two is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.