By Steve Wilaj
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Youngstown State had just cut the UIC lead to 10-9, had the bases loaded and its best hitter at the plate in Drew Dosch.
They entered the inning trailing 10-2 and looked destined to regain the lead and cap their already monster inning. But on a 2-2 pitch, Dosch was called out looking, as he could only bark at the home-plate umpire for the pitch that appeared off the plate.
“I have to do a better job of fouling that ball off,” Dosch said. “It was probably too close to take in that situation, so that was on me to do a better job to get another one hopefully more over the plate.”
With that, YSU (11-27, 6-7 Horizon League) lost the momentum it gained. The Flames (18-16, 7-6) answered with three runs in the eighth and two in the ninth, securing a 15-11 victory in Friday’s series opener at Eastwood Field.
“A couple errors, walks, hit batters and we couldn’t close out a couple innings,” said head coach Steve Gillispie. “Those are the kind of things that you have to do to stay in a game with a team that pitches like their starting pitching does.”
Penguins starting pitcher Blake Aquadro had a tough outing. He was roughed up for 10 runs (seven earned) in six innings. He allowed 10 hits and three walks.
“He just wasn’t as sharp as he’s been,” Gillispie said. “They did a good job with an approach to him that a lot of teams haven’t really done so far this season.”
Still, as has been the usual this season, the YSU offense fought back. A bases-loaded walk by Dan Popio with two outs in the seventh made it 10-5. Marcus Heath followed with another walk to cut it to 10-6.
“We know we’re never out of it,” Dosch said. “We have a good offense and we’ve been more consistent lately. It’s always about staying with it the whole nine innings.”
Second baseman Neil Schroth kept the rally going with a two-run single that cut the deficit to 10-8. The UIC lead was then cut to one when Heath scored on a wild pitch. However, the rally ended with Dosch’s questionable strike-three call.
“I give our guys credit for hanging in there and clawing back,” Gillispie said. “It’s just too bad it was such a big hole.”
Russ Harless allowed five runs in three innings of relief. Just two of those runs were earned.
The Flames’ Tomas Michelson earned the victory as he pitched 6 2/3 innings while allowing six runs.
Jason Shirley and Josh White each had three hits for YSU. White and Dosch each had two RBIs for the Penguins. Dosch hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning.
Game two of the series is set for 1 p.m. today. Sunday’s finale has been changed to a 12:10 p.m. start.