By Joe Catullo Jr.
After losing an early lead to Wright State, Youngstown State got an opportunity to get back into Wednesday’s game and capitalize on a throwing error.
Jason Shirley pinch-hit for Jake Kucek, giving YSU a left-handed batter against Trevor Swaney, and representing the tying run.
“You can maybe sense something was building there,” YSU coach Steve Gillispie said.
But Shirley got what appeared to be a sinker and grounded into an inning-ending double play. Gillispie said that play was the nail in the coffin.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Sam Picchiotti, who committed the error, hit a leadoff home run off Alex Frey and the Raiders went on to beat the Penguins, 6-3. Swaney closed the door in the ninth and earned a two-inning save for the Raiders (23-28).
“That’s just a comfort run because that guy’s not their normal closer,” Gillispie said. “It allowed him to pitch with a three-run lead to where he can make some mistakes.”
Despite playing in their home park, the Penguins (14-42) batted first because they’re the lowest-seeded team in the Horizon League Tournament.
YSU sored three runs in the first two innings, but Gillispie said the problem was closing out innings. Another problem was fielding. Shortstop Phil Lipari committed two of the Penguins’ three errors.
Lipari’s throwing error in the third inning scored Michael Timm and later Garrett Gray. His fielding error to begin the fourth inning led to another run.
“It was all me out there,” Lipari said. “It’s unacceptable.”
Lipari also had the challenge of replacing Drew Dosch in the lineup. Lipari batted third, collected two hits and scored a run.
“It’s hard to say that anybody in the Horizon League can replace [a player like] Dosch, but Phil filled that spot,” Gillispie said. “He gave us an opportunity to score and maybe create some plays down in the bottom of the order.”
Kevin Hix replaced Dosch at third base. He made five at the position and collected a base hit.
“It’s been a while since he’s been over there, but he’s just a steady-Eddie, ham-and-eggs kind of player,” Gillispie said. “He made some very nice plays and was very accurate with his throws.”
Dosch injured his leg in Friday’s game at Valparaiso and is out for the tournament. Dosch, a two-time Horizon League Player of the Week this season, leads the conference with 98 total bases, 36 walks, 68 hits and is tied with 40 runs.
“He’s a great baseball player,” Lipari said. “It hurts us, but we have backups that come in and do a good job.”
The Penguins will play at 7 tonight against the winner of the UIC-Valparaiso game, which begins at 11 a.m. Left-hander Blake Aquadro will start with the Penguins one loss from elimination.
“Is it more difficult now? Yes, but we will be catching tomorrow’s loser on the rebound game, so we gain an advantage there,” Gillispie said. “It’s got to be a mindset of good baseball. We just got to play better baseball, and that will give us an opportunity to win the game.”