By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
NILES -- The Youngstown State baseball team didn't come to life until the eighth inning Tuesday night. By then, it was too little, too late.
Trailing 9-0 after seven innings, the Penguins rallied for five runs in the eighth inning, but could do no more and dropped an 11-5 non-conference game to Kent State University at Cafaro Field.
The Penguins, who are hampered by injuries, produced just three singles through seven innings off Kent freshman starter Ben Orengia.
In the meantime, the Flashes pounded out 14 hits, including a pair of home runs off three YSU pitchers, one of them being the team's regular shortstop (senior James Swearengen).
"We're really banged up right now," YSU coach Mike Florak said. "We've got a patched up lineup and kids playing out of position.
"We've also still got a lot of players like Chico [Swearengen], who will do whatever it takes to help the team," Florak said. "He's only pitched a couple of times for us over the years, but he went out and did a whale of a job tonight and really allowed us to save some of our arms."
The Penguins (12-20) play at Ohio State today, then go to Wright State for a four-game Horizon League series beginning Friday. The game with the Buckeyes will be televised by Ohio News Network beginning at 6:35 p.m.
"We're really in good shape in the Horizon League and if we can get some of these kids to step up a little this weekend at Wright State we'll be right in the thick of the race," Florak said.
The Penguins are 6-6 in the Horizon League and in third place in the standings behind UIC and UW-Milwaukee, a team the Penguins will wind up regular season league play with on May 10 at Cafaro Field.
"We really miss our three injured pitchers, but we're going to be all right," Florak said. "These kids are fighters and they'll hang right in there to the end."
Flashes flying high
YSU starter, freshman Chris Dennis (0-3), struggled from the start against the Flashes (26-12).
Dennis pitched out of a jam in the first, but gave up an RBI double to Chad Kinyon in the second.
Kent's Eric O'Brien opened the third inning with a home run over the 405 mark in center field.
The Flashes added another run in the third, following a Penguins error (one of three) and an RBI ground out by Pat O'Brien.
In the fifth, the Flashes got to reliever Mike Hosterman for four runs on four hits and another YSU error before Swearengen came on and struck out O'Brien to end the inning.
Swearengen gave up two runs in the seventh, but through no fault of his own as center fielder Kendall Schlabach dropped a fly ball. Swearengen allowed another run on a wild pitch.
In the eighth inning, the Penguins came to life.
Kyle Smith led off the inning with a single to center and Ross Buttle followed with another single to center that got past O'Brien, advancing the runners to second and third.
Schlabach singled up the middle to drive in Smith. After Ty Furino struck out, Matt Gnacinski singled home another run and Jim Lipinski found the gap in right center for a double and another RBI.
The final run was produced by a sacrifice fly to left by Mark Nightingale.
The Penguins had six of their nine hits in the inning.
Kent scored two runs in the top of the ninth to close out the scoring as Eric Holick drove a pitch over the visitors' bullpen in right field with Matt Sega ahead of him. Sega, who pinch-hit in the ninth, is a Canfield High graduate.
The Penguins started the game with six freshmen in the starting batting lineup plus Dennis.