Wild win at home
YSU outscores Wright State at Eastwood
NILES — Like a WWE wrestler, Youngstown State’s Nick Caruso walks out of the clubhouse at Eastwood Field with a flashy belt hung around his right shoulder.
Faux-gold plated grommets and all, the belt, titled “Freak of the Week,” goes to the YSU baseball player who had the best week in the weight room during the offseason — during the season it goes toward the player of the game.
The Penguins needed a few freaks at the plate Friday evening in their series opener against Wright State, a team that swept YSU two weekends ago and came into the contest with a 12-0 record in Horizon League play.
Undefeated in conference play no more, Youngstown State took game one over the Raiders, 12-10, in a wild offensive contest.
Caruso’s bases-clearing triple down the right field line in the fifth inning was one of several big moments at the plate for YSU as they built an 11-3 lead.
“We competed start to finish. They brought in a sidearm lefty, so it was a completely different view from what they were throwing in the beginning,” Caruso said about WSU pulling starter Jake Schrand for Bradley Deboutte in the fifth. “It was a kind of different view, tough to see. He came in on me on a couple fastballs, but he didn’t have anything to beat us, so we were sitting on it.”
The senior catcher had a huge reaction following the hit, along with a high-five with coach Dan Bertolini, before he scored on a single to right center off the bat of senior Lucas Nasonti (Champion).
Met with a big welcome after scoring, Caruso jumped with excitement alongside junior shortstop Phillip Glasser, who had rocked a solo shot toward the Penguins’ bullpen to kickstart the inning.
“I just slowed everything down and I knew that I didn’t have to do too much because they guys behind me were hitting, and just tried to put a good swing on the ball,” said Glasser, who’s batting a team-high .371 for YSU.
It wasn’t all good news for the Penguins. Senior pitcher Colin Clark (6 1/3 innings, 6 earned runs, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts) gave up a three-run shot to Wright State’s Tyler Black before being pulled in the top of the seventh, ahead 11-6. A mix of Kenny Misik (Fitch) and Dalton Earich allowed the Raiders to cut the lead down to 11-9.
The play of the game came from sophomore left-fielder Turner Grau who nailed Sammy Sass at the plate on a one-hopper on a Raiders single to help the Penguins escape the inning with a 12-10 lead after Wright State (12-6, 12-1) already had plated a run and threatened to score more.
Following Caruso’s tag at the plate, the Penguins, including pitcher Chad Coles, erupted with emotion, after what possibly saved the day for YSU.
“Oh man, what a huge play,” Bertolini said following the game. “I’m almost thinking, give up two there, but just the way the ball bounced up, it came perfectly and he (Grau) was in rhythm.
“It was a perfect throw, they wouldn’t have got to second there, the ball took a one-hop, and I call (Grau) noodle-arm sometimes because he told him he didn’t have a great arm,” Bertolini said with a laugh. “But he’s worked every day on his throws from the outfield and that was a huge play in the game.”
For the first time in program history, YSU (9-11, 4-5) is 4-0 at Eastwood Field since calling what was then named Cafaro Field their home in 2000. Since then, the Penguins have also spent time at Bob Cene Park in Struthers, while going full-time at Eastwood during the early 2010s.
Caruso, who was 3-for-5 with five runs batted in, said he thinks the Penguins play their best at home.
“We are really good statistically at the ‘Wood,” Caruso said. “I mean we love coming out here every day, the fans have been great this year, and we know the ‘Wood likes to eat some other teams up. We just take advantage of it and we keep the pedal going.”
Senior Dominick Bucko also was 3-for-5 and had a pair of RBI. Every Penguin batter recorded a hit except for junior Steven D’Eusanio, who did have a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh.
Clark is now 2-3 on the season, and redshirt senior Gary Clift Jr. recorded his fifth save of the campaign.
YSU continues its series this afternoon with a doubleheader against Wright State. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.