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Closing out a comeback

YSU rallies from 6-0 deficit to finish series win over Wright St.

Correspondent photos / Robert Hayes YSU closer Gary Clift Jr. (17) reacts following the final out in the Penguins’ wild 11-10 win over Wright State on Sunday at Eastwood Field in Niles. Down 6-0 early, the Penguins fought back to win and took three out of four games on the weekend against their cross-state rival.

NILES — Youngstown State baseball coach Dan Bertolini walked out of the right-field clubhouse holding a large bottle of water, half empty, and the Penguins’ coach looked like he’d just run a marathon.

In reality, what YSU went though this past weekend wasn’t far from a marathon.

The Penguins beat in-state rival Wright State 11-10 on Sunday afternoon at Eastwood Field, finishing off a weekend series in which YSU won three ouf of four from the Raiders, who came into the weekend with a 12-0 record in the Horizon League. It was the first series win for YSU over Wright State since 2015.

“I’ll tell you what, I’m going to have to get some hair dye because my hair is going to be pretty grey after this weekend,” Bertolini said with a laugh following the win. “But I’m just really proud of our group, we just played so hard all weekend.

“We have a lot of respect for Wright State and what they do, and we’re just happy to find a way to win. It wasn’t pretty, we battled today and found a way to win.”

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Turner Grau hauls in a fly ball in the eighth inning, preventing the Raiders from scoring.

Down 6-0 after two innings it would have been easy for YSU to fold, but an RBI double off the bat of senior Jeff Wehler in the third and a four-spot in the fifth cut the deficit to 6-5.

Wright State kept its foot on the gas all afternoon, but YSU finally caught up to the Raiders in the bottom of the eighth, forging a 10-10 tie.

With two outs and Wehler on third, junior Steven D’Eusanio lined a ball past the shortstop. Wehler crossed the dish with his arms shaped like a Y and the Penguins’ first basemen gave a wide smile and a shrug toward his dugout following what turned out to be the game-winning hit.

It capped off a career day for D’Eusanio, who went 4-for-5 at the plate, with four RBI and a run scored.

“Just put the ball in play and hit the ball hard somewhere,” he said about his eighth-inning at-bat. “We were down early, but in the dugout we had great energy. We needed to come back and win this ballgame and it was going to be a dogfight until the end.

“It just happens, it’s baseball, you hit a ball hard you never know what’s going to happen. So anyway we can get that run in, we love it.”

Wright State (13-8, 13-3) didn’t make it easy on closer Gary Clift Jr. who had come on in relief in theeighth. He had to contest with runners in scoring position during each of the final two innings.

Clift was able to work his way out of trouble, as Lucas Nasonti (Champion) caught a fly for the final out with a runner on second base following a lead-off single.

A fist pump, a shout and overall excitement from the YSU closer followed the win as he looked toward his catcher Nick Caruso. The win was vindication after the Raiders swept the Penguins two weekends ago.

“Here’s the thing, we went into that weekend knowing we can do that, but baseball is a crazy game and they’re not four games better than us,” Clift said. “We should never get swept by them. It happened, we moved on, we played some great baseball after that and we had a great week of practice coming into this weekend.

“The environment, just the attitude on the team is just so different. You really have to like the direction the program is going in for sure.”

YSU (11-12, 6-6) is now 6-1 at Eastwood Field for the first time since the 2003 campaign, and has scored an average of 11.4 runs over its last five contests.

Chad Coles came in early for extended relief and gave YSU four innings out of the pen. Clift recorded his first win of the season. Turner Grau went 2-for-5 with an RBI double, and Blaze Glenn and Phillip Glasser recorded an RBI each.

Despite being down, it’s the attitude that helped Youngstown State secure the comeback.

“We started our season early, were in some close ones with LSU, and it was different, we expected to win those games,” said Nasonti, who went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs batted in “We went out here today and we expected to win.

“Just trying to win each pitch every single time. You can’t hit a seven-run homer, you just have to take each step and just go from there.”

The Penguins continue their homestand this week, welcoming in Illinois-Chicago (7-11, 6-6), which comes in following a sweep at Oakland. First pitch against the Flames is set for 4 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

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