By Ryan Jones
Eric Marzec’s 10th-inning homer led the Penguins past Illinois-Chicago.
NILES — Sophomore Eric Marzec stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 5-5 ballgame knowing if he got his pitch the game would be over.
The rightfielder took a deep breath, settled in and raked an offering from Illinois-Chicago pitcher Adam Worthington over the left field wall to give the Penguins (11-19, 4-3) a 6-5 victory over the Horizon League leaders.
Marzec, who couldn’t have picked a more opportune time to hit the first homer of his Penguin career, said he visualized belting the game-winner while he was in the field during the top of the 10th.
“To be honest, I was trying to hit one out,” Marzec said. “Even though I was 0-for-4 in the game, I was swinging the bat well. I knew if I got the pitch I was looking for I was going to end it.”
Marzec said he was waiting on a high fastball, but got a change-up instead.
“I was lucky to time it up right,” Marzec said. “I put a good swing on it.”
On any other evening, teammate Josh Page and his clutch hitting would have stolen the headlines.
Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on first and two outs, Page was called to pinch hit for David Leon. The senior smoked a fastball from Flames’ right hander Don Phillis out to left to tie the game.
Page said he was trying to advance the runner and get the next guy up to bat.
“I was just trying to get on base and I got a good pitch,” Page said. “We have the talent on this team to be successful and we’ve been close to getting over the hump. This helps our confidence.”
Coach Rich Pasquale said this was the effort he expected of his team.
“Guys stepped up tonight,” he said. “[Josh] Page’s pinch hit homer was huge and Eric [Marzec] picked a great time to hit his first home run. This club is learning to be resilient.
“We have been preaching since the beginning of the season to worry about the process and not the outcome. We’re learning that it doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what the situation is. We need to compete every time out and to keep fighting.”
Illinois at Chicago (19-11, 8-2) starting pitcher Derrick Miramontes stymied the Penguin offense for the first four innings, but timely hitting allowed the Penguins to break through in the fifth.
C.J. Morris singled to left and advanced to third in a hit-and-run situation with Anthony Munoz, who slapped a single to right field as Morris went in motion. Leon followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Morris to tie the game a one.
Pasquale said the fifth inning was indicative of the type of situational hitting his team has worked on all season.
“When we take BP we practice putting ourselves in different situations,” he said. “We’re not just swinging for the fences all the time. We’ve been working hard to get take good leads on the bases.”
Penguin hurler Chuck Schiffhauer tossed seven innings, scattered eight hits and allowed three runs.
“Schiffhauer has thrown first pitch strikes for us all season,” Pasquale said. “He’s become our dominant No. 1 starter.”
Pasquale said in the seventh inning he noticed that some of Schiffhauer’s pitches were up in the strike zone. Schiffhauer, who recorded 18 groundball outs, got the final out of the seventh after sitting through a 35-minute rain delay.
Adam Kalafos (2-3) relieved Schiffhauer after and threw three innings to earn victory.
“Adam began as our No. 2 starter, but he had a couple of rough outings,” Pasquale said. “The thing I’ve admired about him is that he’s kept working on his game because he is important to us and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Munoz led YSU with three hits, two runs and a stolen base, while Sean Lucas hit a two run double. Erich Diedrich and Tom Clayton had two hits each.
Brett Schaefer led the Flames with three RBIs and two hits.