By Joe Catullo Jr.
Energy arrived at Eastwood Field on Friday and lines were packed as 1,200 local area students tried to get a glimpse of the Youngstown State baseball team during the third annual School Day Game.
“That’s something you see like in a big league game,” Drew Dosch said. “They look up to you so much. They were asking to take pictures with them, sign their shirts and their arms, balls, whatever they could find for us to sign.”
Overall, 1,306 fans attended the game. YSU’s normal attendance is about 30 per home contest.
“The stadium looks a lot better when you’ve got a lot of people in it, and the energy’s a lot better when there’s people in it,” YSU coach Steve Gillispie said.
After a 50-minute delay due to an umpires’ scheduling conflict, Wright State needed just 20 minutes to put the game away in an 18-4 victory.
Kieston Greene began the game reaching base on a Phil Lipari error. After John Brodner walked, Garrett Gray attempted a sacrifice bunt. YSU starter Blake Aquadro committed a throwing error that scored a run.
“Things started snowballing out of control,” Dosch said. “Rather than composing ourselves and getting back on track, we kind of let it keep going on us early instead of keeping it right there.”
The Raiders (19-22, 7-9) then scored eight more times in the first inning. All nine runs were unearned.
“I had to go to damage control, and I didn’t do that,” Aquadro said. “Things just got out of hand. I got behind, and other times I left the ball over the plate and they’d hit them.”
Aquadro pitched three innings, allowed 12 runs (three earned) on 11 hits and one walk. He picked up his seventh loss this season.
“We tried a lot of different things,” Gillispie said. “Coach (Rob) Cooper had them 100-percent committed to an approach to be successful against Blake because he has done nothing but beat them his entire career.”
After YSU (13-33, 7-9) scored twice in the bottom of the third inning, the Raiders scored eight more times in the fourth and added one more in the fifth. Gillispie said those nine runs were a bigger disappointment than the nine scored in the first inning.
“If you follow an error with a walk or a walk with an error, obviously you’re putting several men on base and putting them in a good position,” he said. “Regardless of that, we didn’t compete in the moment after that point.”
YSU entered Friday tied for second place in the Horizon League with Valparaiso. Riding a five-game losing streak, the Penguins and Raiders will play the second game of their three-game series today at 1 p.m.
“Tomorrow will be a test for us to see if exactly did everything just go right [for them],” Gillispie said. “Was it perfect-storm innings or did they really bear down and compete against Blake? I think we’ll see early on in the first three or four innings exactly where we are with their confidence and ours.”
Today’s game is expected to have a distinct local flavor, with two former local high school standouts scheduled as starting pitchers. Boardman’s Patrick O’Brien (3-4, 4.34) will start for YSU, and Canfield’s Joey Hoelzel (3-3, 4.82) will counter for Wright State.
The first pitch is set for 1 p.m. at Eastwood Field.