By Ryan Jones
NILES — Even though defensive miscues and spotty pitching plagued Youngstown State Wednesday in its 14-6 defeat to Ohio University, Erich Diedrich’s first homer provided another sign that the senior slugger is rounding into form.
Diedrich, who fractured his wrist on the first day of practice and was held out of action until March 26, hit his 24th career dinger in the bottom of the fifth inning with one on and one out.
Diedrich, in second place on the career home run list, said it definitely felt good to take one deep, but he knew it was only a matter of time before it happened.
“I got a 3-1 fastball and drove it,” Diedrich said. “I’ve been hitting the ball hard and trying to drive it. It’s taken some time and patience to come back from the injury. I’ve got good hitters in front and behind me that help me out and make my job easier.”
Coach Rich Pasquale said Diedrich is coming around at just the right time.
“The past couple of weeks have been his [Diedrich’s] spring training,” Pasquale said. “He’s right where he needs to be at this point. He’s really starting to come around; he’s starting to drive the ball more. We put him in the 3-hole to get him as many at bats as possible.”
The Bobcats broke a 2-2 tie in the third inning, as their high-powered offense put up four runs.
After Marc Krauss grounded out to lead off the inning it appeared that Brandon Besl made the second out when he flied deep to right field, but Eric Marzec lost the ball in the sun and was unable to secure the catch.
Following a Guantlett Eldemire groundout, Robert Maddox III doubled home Besl, Zach Keen singled home Maddox and Trace Voshell plated Keen with single to center to give Ohio a 5-2 lead.
Voshell scored the final run of the inning as he was forced home with the bases loaded when Hayden Johnston was hit by a pitch.
Pasquale said the couple of bad breaks his team experienced defensively were detrimental.
“We seemed sluggish out there today,” he said. “We knew coming into the game that they could swing it. I’m totally disappointed with our defense today because you can’t give an offense like theirs extra chances.”
Ohio (18-16) added another run in the fourth when Jeremie Rehak reached on a bunt single and scored after shortstop David Leon mishandled a Voshell grounder.
The Bobcats loaded the bases twice in the fifth and scored four more runs courtesy of two-run singles by Besl and Voshell that increased the lead to 11-2.
“The hits they had against us today weren’t dinks,” Pasquale said. “They hit well above .300 as a team. What impressed me the most was when we made a pitch on the outer half they took it the other way.”
Diedrich said the team is looking forward to this weekend when the Penguins (13-21) play doubleheaders with Horizon league rivals Butler and Milwuakee.
“The goal is to take all four games; we’re shooting for nothing less than that,” he said. “The pitchers we have going have been throwing strikes. We need to focus on fundamentals and drive in runners once we get them on. There’s a lot of good pitching in the Horizon league so the little things, like driving in runs with two outs, usually win games.”
Pasquale said Chuck Schiffhauer and Aaron Swenson will be on the mound against Butler Saturday.
“Butler took two of three from us out there,” he said. “They’re a solid team. We need to take both games to stay in the hunt. There’s no time for splitting now.”