YSU takes pair from Golden Grizzlies
NILES — Less than 48 hours before the first pitch Friday afternoon, Youngstown coach Dan Bertolini and his daughter were creating snowmen outdoors.
Eastwood Field looked more like a winter wonderland, less like a stadium fit for the boys of summer.
It’s been a wild and wacky spring, the weather fully included. Luckily for the Penguins, Friday’s doubleheader versus the visiting Oakland Golden Grizzlies couldn’t have been played on a more picturesque day.
In a way, it was homecoming for a YSU team that has spent the last two series on the road, taking two over Oakland, 4-3, 12-6.
Coming off a walk off fielder’s choice thanks to sophomore Turner Grau, which scored Phillip Glasser to end the first game, the Penguins didn’t take long to light up the centerfield scoreboard again to start game two, as senior Jeff Wehler belted a solo shot to lead off the contest.
What ensued was another high-scoring affair for the Penguins, but not before trouble arose.
After exchanging leads, senior Chad Coles relieved starter Collin Clark in a 5-all tie in the top of the fourth, but a flurry of off-speed pitches kept Oakland at bay.
He fanned the side, all three hitters called out with their bats still posted on their shoulders.
“What was working for me was the curveball today, I rely on that heavy when it comes to late in the count, with a full count or 2-2,” Coles said. “I rely on that curveball to hopefully just get a batter to roll on a ground ball or hopefully punch them out or catch them swinging, just try to do my best to get batters out.”
To kickstart the top of the fifth, Coles left Oakland’s Brenton Phillips out to dry on yet another called strikeout three, eventually punching out the side again, only allowing a base runner by a fielding error.
YSU’s offense went to work, with one out and bases juiced, redshirt junior Padraig O’Shaughnessy (Poland) came in to pinch hit, knocking a grounder through the right side, scoring Nick Caruso and Steven D’Eusanio to solidify a lead for good.
“The biggest thing was that coming off the bench is never easy, but having the team with the energy we do makes it a little bit easier,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Just looking to get a ball to the right side, something that can get the runs in, luckily it was two runs, but anything to the right side, you’re looking at least one or two.
“Going up there, first ball I saw that was more middle-in, I was definitely going to swing at, which I got lucky.”
The 12-run performance marked the second time this season that the Penguins have hit double figures in scoring, also marking the first time that YSU has recorded 20 wins since 2010.
Senior Dominick Bucko (averaging .304 this season) had a huge game, going 4-of-4 with three RBIs, along with a walk and a run scored. Wehler (.319 average), finished 2-of-3 with four RBIs and a pair of runs scored. Senior Blaze Glenn (2RBI) and Grau (RBI) also played a factor during the scoring outburst.
Coles’ seven strikeouts is a new career high, along with his first win of the season.
For Wehler and the Penguins, even after building a lead, it’s about keeping the foot on the gas, something that has helped YSU (20-17, 15-11) find success this season.
“When you’re seeing the ball that well as a team it’s real easy to get complacent and I think a lot of the guys take pride into continuing to work on their craft during games like these,” Wehler said. “We always preached all year to stick with our plan, and to execute, having quality at-bats, hit the ball hard and that translates into the game.
“If you’re hitting the ball hard and squaring it up, they’ll end up falling. Baseball is a weird game, so we’ve been sticking with the approach of hitting the ball hard and hitting the ball to right field.”
YSU has found ways to fire up the grill and stirrup some home cooking, posting an 11-3 record at Eastwood Field this season.
With two more contests to go this weekend, Bertolini looks onto a field that isn’t covered in snow, but bears the marks of a doubleheader’s worth of ware.
There’s just something special about home.
“It’s just about being comfortable,” Bertolini said. “When you get a chance to practice somewhere every day, you get to understand where to play, the hops, the speed of the field, you just feel comfortable. Our crowds have been great, I think that’s a big advantage too, they’ve added a lot of energy, and looking forward to hopefully getting that first one tomorrow.”
YSU is back in action this afternoon against Oakland (9-20, 3-15), first pitch is at 1 p.m.