Next: YSU at Butler (DH), Friday, noon & 3 p.m.
By Greg Gulas
Moments after losing the first game of Saturday’s twin bill to Milwaukee at Eastwood Field, YSU coach Rich Pasquale gathered his team and told them the nightcap would be the most important game of the season so far.
The Penguins had just lost a heartbreaker in 10 innings, 3-2, after leading 2-1 heading into the eighth. The Panthers had rallied thanks to a solo home run by Cole Kraft and an RBI single by Sam Koenig in the 10th.
The Penguins then took out their frustrations in the second game.
Jeremy Banks had four hits, including his third home run of the season, while Joe Iacobucci’s three-run blast in the sixth proved to be the game-winner as the Penguins topped the Panthers, 12-9, to salvage one game of the three-game set.
“We had to play the second game like it was our last game of the season; and we did,” Pasquale said. “We kept battling, didn’t quit and there was plenty of intensity.
“We had confidence offensively and hopefully we can use this game as a springboard the rest of the way. Our league games at Butler this Friday now become the most important games of our season.”
After the Panthers took a 2-0 lead in the first inning of the nightcap, YSU tied it on Jeremy Banks’ third homer of the season and his first at Eastwood Field. The blast over the right field fence scored David Leon, who had walked to start the inning.
“Winning the nightcap was big because you never want to get swept, especially at home,” Banks said. “ I had taken the prior pitch so when I saw the fastball, I was able to drive it.”
UW-Milwaukee took a 3-2 lead in the second, but the Penguins regained the lead in their half of the inning, scoring four times for a 6-3 margin. It was highlighted by Banks’ two-run single. Banks finished with four hits.
The Panthers made it 6-5 in the third and retook the lead in the fourth, 7-6. YSU (12-33, 7-11) knotted the game at 7 in their half of the fourth on a run-scoring double by Neil Schroth, who was later thrown out at the plate for the final out.
The Penguins regained the lead in the fifth frame on a run-scoring double by freshman Chris Mitko, but the Panthers scrapped their way back in the sixth when they added two more.
YSU kept the see-saw affair going in the bottom of the sixth, taking an 11-9 lead on the strength of Iacobucci’s three-run homer — his first of the year.
“It was a fastball inside and I just turned on it,” Iacobucci said.
The Penguins scored their final run of the game in the seventh on a single by David Leon that plated Mitko.
“We put our offense together in the second game and got an excellent relief performance from Nic Manuppelli, who shut the door on them over the final three innings,” Iacobucci said.
In the opener, Panther starter Eric Semmelhack retired the first 12 Penguins before third baseman Drew Dosch opened the YSU fifth with a single.
Iacobucci then followed with a single and after a sacrifice bunt by designated hitter Jonathan Crist, both runners advanced a base with just one out.
A single by Phil Lipari plated the Penguins’ initial run and when Craig Goubeaux executed a perfect squeeze bunt, Iacobucci crossed the plate to give YSU a 2-0 lead.
YSU starter Phil Klein, the Horizon League’s strikeout leader entering the game, went the first seven innings, allowing just one run and striking out seven Panther batters but throwing 115 pitches.