Tech’s baseball team got the season off to an impressive start over the weekend, sweeping the Youngstown State Penguins in their three-game series. With the win in the season opener, Tech’s season opener all-time record moved to 59-47-3 and 11-4 under Head Coach Danny Hall, who begins his No. 15 season at helm.
“Getting the first game jitters out the way is important…When you win three games on top of it, I think that’s an added bonus,” Hall said.
In the first game of the series, the Jackets dominated the Penguins, shutting them out, 14-0. The Jackets started the hitting and bringing in the runs early on. In the bottom of the first inning, the Jackets put three on the board with junior Luke Murton knocking in two runners with the bases loaded and sophomore Tony Plagman hitting a sacrifice fly to bring junior Charlie Blackmon across the plate.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Jackets put four more runs on the board. Sophomore Jeff Ussery knocked in three and got to third base, but Ussery was unaccredited for the RBI’s and the triple because two fielding errors occurred during the play. The first was in center field when the ball was dropped and the other was at second base. Sophomore Jay Dantzler brought home Ussery on the next play, but the run was also unearned.
Of the 14 runs the Jackets scored in the first game, only nine were earned and the Jackets were only credited with 11 RBI’s because of the four errors committed by Youngstown State. The Penguin’s starting pitcher Lucas Engle gave up six of the runs to the Jackets, two earned, in four-and-two-thirds innings. He was replaced by Ryan Wackerman in the bottom of the fifth, who proceeded to give up one unearned run in his one-third inning pitched.
In the bottom of the seventh the Jackets were able to score seven runs off of only four hits. Plagman brought in a run after being hit by a pitch. Junior catcher Jason Haniger brought two runs across the plate in the next at-bat. Freshman Thomas Nicholas brought in two more runs in the next play, picking up a triple in his first collegiate at bat. Another first happened in the next at bat as Dantzler gained his first collegiate home run and brought in two RBI’s.
“They were throwing us a lot of fast balls which allowed us to score runs…As the game progressed, they were throwing more off speed pitches which changed our approach a little bit,” said junior Chris House.
Junior pitcher David Duncan picked up the win for the Jackets. Duncan had a great outing on the mound, only giving up two hits in seven innings pitched. He faced only 23 total batters and gave up 2 walks. Freshman Deck McGuire relieved Duncan at the start of the eighth, putting the Penguins away in just three at bats. Junior Michael Hutts closed the game out for the Jackets in the ninth by only allowing one hit.
“We just have to keep pitching [to keep the success coming]. We have a lot of older guys [on the staff] so it is a lot more calm…Everybody is having a good time and knows their roles this year, so if we keep doing the same things, I think we’ll be alright,” Duncan said.
Tech’s offensive productivity decreased in the second game, but the squad still managed to shut out Youngstown State, 1-0. Junior pitcher Eddie Burns picked up the win for the Jackets, pitching six innings and giving up no runs and six hits. Junior pitcher Chris Hicks came in for the ninth to close the game for the Jackets and picked up his first save on the season.
The Jackets’ only run of the game came in the second inning when Plagman got a single and was able to advance to third after a wild pitch and a passed ball. Freshman Jeff Rowland knocked in the unearned run for the Jackets. The Jackets went 11 innings starting from the eighth in the first game of the series to second in the third game of the series without an earned run.
The Jackets defensive play stepped-up to compensate for the change in offensive play. The Jackets got out of the third unscathed with Youngstown State leaving the bases loaded. The Penguins left a total of nine runners on base during the second game, which helped to neutralize the 10 hits they picked up.
In the third game, Tech completed the sweep of Youngstown State, topping the Penguins, 5-1. Tech started four freshmen on Sunday. Nichols continued his success from Friday, picking up a single and double in his first two at-bats. This meant he had a triple, a double and a single in his first three collegiate at bats.
“All four of [the starting freshmen] are going to be good players for us and I felt like they deserved to play today,” Hall said.
In the top of the second, Youngstown State scored their first and only run of the series as Sean Lucas got a single to bring Mike Turjanica across the plate. This ended a nineteen-and-two-thirds innings long scoreless streak for the Penguins. The Jackets answered in the bottom of the second with Plagman hitting a solo-shot on his first pitch of the at bat. It was Plagman’s first home run of the season.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Jackets rallied to break the tie. Freshman Chase Burnette led off the inning with a single. A sacrifice bunt by House sent Bernette to second. Blackmon brought Burnette in for the run. Sophomore Curtis Dupart brought Blackmon and Murton across the plate for two more runs. Then sophomore Patrick Long got the final RBI of the game by bringing Dupart home.
“[Seeing more strikes] allows you to be more aggressive. The more strikes you see the less you have to think and you can just let your swing go,” House said.
Sophomore Zach von Tersch got a no-decision, pitching six innings, giving up four hits and one earned run. Tech’s other three pitchers, Hicks, senior Brad Rulon and sophomore Andrew Robinson, collectively gave up only one hit and two walks in three innings. Brad Rulon was credited with the win as he was the pitcher in the game when Tech rallied in the eighth.
“The pitching [was the highlight of the series]. Anytime you give up one run in three games, that says a lot about what I think is a very good pitching staff,” Hall said.
Tech looks to improve on their season from last year as the Jackets went 32-25, missing the NCAA tournament for only the second time since Coach Hall took over the Jackets.
The Jackets next play Rutgers in a weekend series. The first game is today at 4 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium.