By Ryan Jones
The Penguins’ relief pitching struggled in an 8-5 loss to visiting Akron.
NILES — After darting to a 5-0 lead in the third inning, Youngstown State’s baseball team, hitting on all cylinders, seemed primed to steam roll over Akron.
However, the Zips (14-10) held the Penguins scoreless and scored eight runs during the final six innings for an 8-5 triumph.
YSU coach Rich Pasquale said a combination of factors led to his team’s downfall.
“I was pleased with our start, and pleased with how [Chuck] Schiffhauer threw the first three innings,” he said. “But we didn’t make any adjustments to their pitching as the game wore on. We put the burden on our relief pitchers to hold the lead and they didn’t get it done.”
Schiffhauer threw 36 pitches in his three scoreless innings of work, but was relieved in the fourth because of scheduled start Friday against Horizon League opponent Illinois-Chicago.
“It was our plan to pitch each of our conference guys a few innings this afternoon because each will be making a start this weekend,” Pasquale said.
Trouble found the Penguins (10-19) in the top of the fourth. John Turk dribbled a single in between third and short to lead off the inning. Kurt Davidson reached on an error by Penguin third basemen Sean Lucas. After Jake Plata sacrificed Turk to third, Vince Chiera lined Corey Vukovic’s 3-1 offering over the left field wall and cut the lead to 5-3.
“That ball has to be fielded; it was crucial,” Pasquale said of the error. “We were rushing to try and turn a double play. Physical errors are going to happen, but we have been talking about recognizing where the turning points are in a game, and that was the play.”
Akron tacked on another run in the sixth when Doug McNulty hit a solo homer to left, and tied the game in the seventh when Drew Turocy (Canfield High) singled home Brian Kordal, who reached base on a double to right center and advanced to third on a balk by Penguins reliever Aaron Swenson.
“The long ball hurt us,” Pasquale said. “When you score you want to put up zeros in the other half of the inning and that’s what Akron did. I’m not sure if our attention drifted once we got the lead, but it seemed like it did. That’s something we’ll take care of in practice.”
The Zips completed their comeback bid by scoring two runs in the eighth, which gave them a 7-5 lead. Turk walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch by Lucas Engle. Matt Roberts singled home Davidson for the second run of the inning.
Penguin relievers surrendered eight runs (five earned) and nine hits in six innings, while Akron relief pitchers Benjamin Danziger, Kevin Kumazec, Ryne Romick and Garrett Knoll struck out four and allowed three hits during the same span.
YSU took the early lead when Lucas drew a walk, advanced to third on a ground-rule double off the bat of Erich Diedrich and scored on a wild pitch. Diedrich scored the second run of the first inning on Cory Hornyak’s sac fly.
John Koehnlein went 3-for-5 with an RBI to lead the Penguins. Lucas, Hornyak and Eric Marzec each had an RBI and a run scored in defeat.
Chiera led the Zips with three RBIs, Kordal collected two hits and scored two runs and Turk and Davidson added two runs and a hit each.
Pasquale said although this wasn’t the way he wanted to kick off a 10-game homestand, his team will have an opportunity to improve on its 5-3 home record.
“This weekend is huge,” he said. “We’ve got to pick it up and really bare down. We swing the bats well at home and there will be a good crowd. It’s always nice to sleep in your own bed. All we have to do it get three wins against UIC.”