By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- Fifty years from now you'll have to excuse Youngstown State pitcher Frank Santore if he is still talking about his first career start. When the Penguins needed a starting pitcher, Santore delivered.
A redshirt freshman and a graduate of Boardman High, Santore made the first start of his college career a memorable one, holding Kent State to just one hit for six innings and earning the decision in a 12-4 victory at Cafaro Field.
"This is about the third game in a row that he's pitched extremely well," said YSU coach Mike Florak of Santore.
Plenty of support: Backed by an offense which produced 17 hits, including three doubles and a Jim Lipinski home run, Santore (1-1) and Paul Yates held a potent Kent State team to just seven hits.
To put Santore's performance into perspective, four of the top eight YSU pitchers are out for the remainder of the season with injuries, and he entered the game with a team-high 11.69 earned run average.
"I was pretty nervous, actually," Santore said. "I said to myself 'I've done this a million times.' "
Santore's only mistake in the first six innings was a lead-off double to left field by Canfield High graduate Matt Sega, who started at shortstop.
"Coming back here, it's kind of fun to compete against them," said Sega. "They were just on tonight and we weren't."
YSU (19-24-1) led 3-0 by the fifth inning against Kent State starter and Howland High graduate Scott Diehl (1-3).
Clint Ford, who went 3-for-5 with a double, singled home the first run. Joe Marzano, who had three RBIs, drove in the second run and he doubled in the third run in the fifth.
The Penguins scored three runs in the sixth to make it 6-0. YSU catcher Adam Cox, who went 2-for-4, singled up the middle to plate two runs.
"I was a little worried when it was 1-0 but then they started coming through," Santore said. "We finished pretty good.
"I was getting tired because I haven't thrown that many innings since high school."
The Golden Flashes (20-23) scored three runs, all unearned, off Santore in the seventh to narrow the gap to 6-3.
"When we recruited Frankie, he was more of an infielder," Florak said.
"But, you could see what a good arm he had. He's developing himself into a pitcher. He's still technically a freshman."
Lipinski homers: The Penguins put the game out of reach with a six-run eighth, capped by Lipinski's three-run homer over the left-field wall.
Lipinski was 3-for-5 and Kendall Schlabach and Kellen Dixon each had two hits.
"Jimmy's [Lipinski] a freshman, but he's a man right now," Florak said. "I mean he's not a kid. He can do it with the best of them right now."
"I have high expectations for him and he has them for himself."
Florak called the game the best performance by the team this season.
"It takes young guys a while to figure out, when adversity strikes, you just have to keep going," Florak said.
"We've been through a lot of adversity and these guys are battle-tested."