Penguins Battle Back But Fall 4-3 in Series Opener at UIC

Drew Dickerson (Photo by Rob Hayes)
Drew Dickerson (Photo by Rob Hayes)

Chicago, Ill. - The Youngstown State baseball team battled back to erase a three-run deficit, but ultimately fell 4-3 to UIC in the opener of three-game series on Friday at Curtis Granderson Stadium.

The Flames scored three times over the first four innings to grab the lead before the Penguins used a three-run sixth to even the score. UIC plated what proved to be the winning run on two hits in the bottom of the seventh.

With the victory, UIC improved to 22-20 overall and 14-10 in Horizon League play while YSU dropped to 12-35 and 6-16.

UIC out-hit YSU 8-5, and the Flames' bullpen held the Penguins without a hit over the final three innings. Youngstown State's first hit did not come until the top of the fifth inning. All three of the Penguins' runs and three of their five hits came during the three-run rally in the sixth.

Drew Dickerson led YSU with two hits including a game-tying two-run double in the sixth. Lucas Nasonti, Phillip Glasser and Trevor Wiersma each added base hits for the Penguins.

UIC starter Jacob Key retired the first 11 hitters he faced while holding YSU scoreless over the first five frames. Key allowed three runs on four hits and struck out seven over 5.1 innings in a no decision. Ryan Hampe and Derrick Patrick each had two hits to pace the Flames offensively.

UIC jumped in front 1-0 after a pair of two-out hits in the bottom of the first inning. Scott Ota doubled and Hampe walked to set up an RBI single by Joshua Figueroa. Patrick led off the bottom of the third inning with a base hit, and came around to score on a one-out RBI single by Hampe that pushed the Flames' lead to 2-0. After Hampe's base hit, YSU starter Colin Clark got Figeuroa to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning with minimal damage.

UIC's third run came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Alex Dee was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and crossed the plate on an RBI single by his brother Sean Dee.

YSU had a great scoring opportunity in the top of the fifth when Wiersma and Dickerson hit consecutive singles to begin the inning, and after a strikeout, advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch. However, the Penguins would come away with nothing to show for it as Key fanned the next two batters to end the threat.

The Penguins loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the sixth after Nasonti and Glasser hit back-to-back singles and Blaze Glenn walked. Jeff Wehler brought home Nasonti with a groundout, and Wiermsa followed with a walk to fill the base paths again. Dickerson then hit a two-run double down the right field line to tie the score 3-3.

YSU sent nine batters to the plate during the rally, and had a chance to take the lead. After Dickerson's double, Zach Lopatka drew a one-out walk to load the bases for the third time in the inning. However, UIC reliever Sam Menegat came out of the bullpen and got Dylan Swarmer to pop out and Cameron Murray to bounce into a fielder's choice. The Penguins left a total of nine runners on base in the contest.

The Flames regained a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh when Ryan Lin-Peistrup hit a one-out triple to left center and scored on an RBI single by Patrick. Clark had retired eight straight batters before Lin-Peistrup's three-bagger.

Clark suffered the loss after surrendering all four of UIC's runs on seven hits over 7.1 innings. The sophomore left-hander faced the minimum in three different frames, and settled in to allow only one run on two hits over his final 3.1 innings. Chad Coles came on to get the final two outs of the eighth inning.

Jordan Krueger, who took over for Key in the sixth inning, allowed Dickerson's two-run double and issued two walks without retiring a batter. After he departed, Menegat, Mark McCabe and Alex Padilla did now allow a hit while recording the final 11 outs for the Flames. Menegat was awarded his second win of the season, and Padilla earned his sixth save.

The Penguins and Flames will play game two of their three-game Horizon League series on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. ET. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and WatchESPN.