By STEVE Wilaj
At this point of the season, Youngstown State coach Steve Gillispie is well aware of his team’s tendencies. And in a first-year campaign that has seen far more losses than wins, Gillispie is unfortunately more accustomed to the negative habits of his Penguins.
In Tuesday’s regular-season home finale against Canisius, familiar problems arose once again for YSU.
With the game tied at 2, the Penguins allowed three runs in the fifth inning after retiring the first two Golden Griffins batters. It proved to be the deciding factor in Canisius’ 5-3 victory over YSU at Eastwood Field.
“Call it bad luck, misfortune or whatever,” Gillispie said. “But we just weren’t able to close out that inning and that’s been an issue with us all year.”
Penguins reliever Erik Okleson recorded the first two outs on groundballs to shortstop Phil Lipari. He then allowed four Canisius hits and a walk as the Golden Griffins (38-13) took a three-run lead.
“A couple balls rolled through and we didn’t locate as well as we could have or should have,” Gillispe said. “They got decent contact on a couple balls and it went their way.”
As for the rest of the contest, YSU (14-38) threatened but couldn’t break through. The Penguins left two runners on base in the fifth inning and then stranded one in the seventh and two in the ninth. In all, YSU left eight men on base.
“We had eight hits and when you do that you’d like to see a little more than three runs,” said third baseman Drew Dosch. “All day we got people on and we struggled to get them over and get them in. That’s something going into this next weekend and into the [Horizon League] tournament that we have to clean up.”
Gillispie was particularly frustrated with two failed sacrifice bunt attempts.
“We did have opportunities, but we didn’t execute our short game at all,” he said. “We had two bunt attempts that we popped up and that’s just not championship baseball or winning baseball.”
Gillispie said the inability to execute offensively is another negative tendency that has plagued the Penguins.
“That’s been a struggle for us,” he said. “So today was just kind of an extension of how the season has gone. Hopefully we can turn the corner in the next three games before the tournament. Obviously, it has to be better than that.”
Rohn Pierce (3-1, 5.02 ERA) worked six innings to earn the win for the Golden Griffins. They were paced by Jesse Puscheck’s three hits and two RBIs.
Dosch, Kevin Hix and Josh White each had two hits for YSU. Other than Okleson’s rough inning, Robert Switka, Russ Harless, Alex Frey, Josh North and Nic Manuppelli combined for eight innings while allowing only two runs.
The Penguins travel to Valparaiso for their final regular season series beginning Thursday. They will then return home for the Horizon League Championship, which begins May 22 at Eastwood Field.
“This last series is crucial and the biggest thing is for all of us to start hitting together,” Dosch said. “We have to do a better job as an offense putting it all together as a team.”