By Steve Wilaj
In a matchup with Pittsburgh that lasted approximately three and a half hours on Tuesday, Youngstown State trudged through a final four innings that seemed to last three and a half days.
The Panthers scored 21 runs from the sixth inning on in a 24-7 victory over the Penguins at Eastwood Field.
While YSU coach Steve Gillispie was disappointed in his team’s effort, he didn’t overreact to the non-conference loss.
“You kind of just have to say ‘Oh, well,’ and move forward,” he said.
The Penguins were coming off a weekend series victory against Horizon League-leading Milwaukee.
“Too many good things have been happening,” Gillispie said. “That’s not the norm and that’s not the way we’ve been playing. So we just have to turn the page.”
Pittsburgh (21-9) jumped out to a 3-0 lead after three innings. But that was all YSU freshman starting pitcher Jarrett White surrendered in five innings. White allowed seven hits.
“He was very competitive,” Gillispie said. “Some of their hits were flared in and I thought he really did a nice job.”
YSU (9-22) fought back to tie the game in the fifth. Boardman graduate Dan Popio doubled to start the inning and eventually scored on a Mike Accardi groundout.
The Penguins then pulled even when Josh White doubled home Neil Schroth and Drew Dosch.
“We battled back and tied it up, but we just weren’t very good in the bullpen today,” Gillispie said.
Pitt regained the momentum with a five-run sixth inning. YSU relief pitchers Ryan Krokos and Alex Frey were roughed up for a combined six hits before retiring the side.
And the final three innings didn’t get any better for the Penguins. The Panthers added four runs in the seventh, five in the eighth — keyed by a Casey Roche grand slam off YSU pitcher Joey Gajda — and seven runs in the ninth.
The Penguins’ bullpen allowed 21 runs on 17 hits and seven walks in four innings of work.
“There is a little concern from a strike-throwing standpoint,” Gillispie said. “We didn’t locate very well — a lot of balls were in the middle of the plate. Against a physical team like Pitt, balls are gonna get hit pretty hard.”
Roche hit for the cycle and paced Pitt with five hits and 10 RBIs. Stephen Vranka and Dylan Wolsonovich also added four hits for the Panthers. Cardinal Mooney graduate Boo Vazquez had a rough day at the plate, going 0 for 5. He walked once.
Schroth and Marcus Heath had two hits apiece for YSU. The Penguins will travel to West Virginia for a single game on Wednesday and then will return home for a weekend series against conference foe Valparaiso beginning on Friday.
“When things go bad you have to keep your head up and try to turn the corner and move on,” Gillispie said. “West Virginia will be a great test for that. And if we’re able to do that and be competitive, it sets us up nicely for the weekend.”