By Steve Wilaj
Youngstown State coach Steve Gillispie knows his bullpen is solid. Problem is, he usually has trouble showing it off.
“They’ve done good things all year, but we’ve had a hard time getting to them with a lead,” he said. “We’ve scuffled with the starting pitching.”
The heart of the Penguins’ bullpen received the game just in time on Wednesday against Pittsburgh and didn’t disappoint.
Behind a resilient offense and six shutout innings from a combination of Robert Switka, Alex Frey and Josh North, YSU defeated the Panthers, 7-6, at Eastwood Field.
It was the Penguins’ first win against Pitt since April 4, 2007.
“That is pretty much what we’ve seen out of [the bullpen] year-round,” Gillespie said. “That’s why we’re really hoping somebody will step up and take that third and fourth starter role because I don’t want to break up that bullpen.”
YSU (4-17) fell behind 6-3 after a four-run top of the third for Pitt, but scored in the next three innings to tie the game. Matt Sullivan had an RBI single in the third, Alex Larivee singled to drive in a run in the fourth and Kevin Hix blooped a run-scoring single to right field in the fifth.
“We were just trying to put the ball in play,” Hix said. “When you’re down, you just have to keep fighting and staying positive in each at-bat.”
The deciding run came in the seventh inning when Josh White led off with a double and advanced to third on Mike Accardi’s bunt single. White then scored on a wild pitch by Pitt’s Luke Curtis (0-1).
“We had a lot of plate discipline tonight,” Hix said. “There were a lot of curves in the dirt and usually people would be swinging at that. But we stayed disciplined, found our fastballs and drove it.”
That set the stage for the back end of the bullpen, which picked up for starter Ryan Krokos and reliever Jeremy Quinlan. They combined to allow six earned runs in three innings.
Switka pitched a flawless fourth and fifth innings and Frey worked a perfect 12/3 innings to set up North (1-0) for the final 21/3. He struck out five Panthers (15-13), including the side in the ninth inning.
“You gotta be proud of your team for hanging in there because there have been a lot of big run deficits early this season,” Gillispie said. “We just kept grinding and it was nice to see something go their way and for their efforts to be rewarded.”
Hix led the Penguins with three hits and two RBIs, while Lorenzo Arcuri also had two hits and scored two runs. Nick DiNello sparked YSU’s three-run second inning with a two-run triple.
“We’re gonna take this game and all the positives that we had and carry it over to the weekend,” Hix said.
Mooney grad Boo Vazquez went 1 for 3 with two walks and a run scored for the Panthers.