O’Brien leads YSU to first NCAA tournament win

Bloomington, Ind. — Youngstown State fifth-year senior Patrick O’Brien pitched 6.1 strong innings, and the Penguins beat Indiana State 5-2 for the program’s first victory in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon in the Bloomington Regional.

YSU (17-37) will advance to play at 1 p.m. on Sunday against the loser of Saturday night’s game between Stanford and Indiana. Indiana State, which entered the tournament ranked 21st in the RPI, finishes the season 35-18.

O’Brien allowed a run in the first inning, and he escaped a jam in the fourth to preserve a 3-2 lead. The Penguins scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth to go up 5-2, and O’Brien, Josh North and Alex Frey maintained that lead the rest of the contest.

Josh White went 2-for-4 and was one of five Penguins with an RBI. Phil Lipari, the MVP of the Horizon League Tournament, singled, walked and scored twice. Three players had a pair of hits to lead Indiana State.

The upstart Penguins continued their late-season hot streak to knock off the Sycamores, who earned an at-large berth into the field of 64 out of the Missouri Valley Conference. Youngstown State went 4-0 to win the Horizon League Tournament as the No. 6 seed and has now won five of its six games in the postseason.

Curry doubled on O’Brien’s first offering of the game, and he scored on a wild pitch with two outs to give the Sycamores a 1-0 lead. The fifth-year senior right-hander worked around a pair of two-out singles in the top of the second, and the Penguins offense started to click in the bottom half of the inning.

White led off with a single to right, and Kevin Hix replaced him on the bases with a fielder’s choice and an error on a double play attempt. Hix was thrown out at the plate on a great throw by Curry in center on Shane Willoughby’s single, but Arcuri followed with a single to right that scored Willoughby with the tying run.

The Penguins then took a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish with two runs in the third inning. Lipari walked to start the inning, and Larivee singled on a grounder to right when the hole opened due to Lipari running on the pitch. Lipari then came in on Gillespie’s sacrifice fly, and Larivee scored four batters later when Willoughby was hit by a 1-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded.

Indiana State got a run back in the top of the fourth on three hits, one of which was an RBI single to right by Connor McClain, to make the score 3-2. The Sycamores had runners at the corners with one out, but O’Brien escaped with the lead intact by retiring the next two hitters out on a safety squeeze and a ground out to Willoughby at shortstop.

The Penguins capitalized on O’Brien’s big outs and answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Kurt Laver led off with a walk, and he went to third on Lipari’s single to right. Larivee plated Laver on a sacrifice fly to deep right, and Lipari scored on White’s two-out single up the middle off reliever Kurt Kudrecki to put YSU up 5-2.

All five of YSU’s runs were charged to Indiana State ace David Stagg, who had only allowed five runs in two of his first 14 starts of the season coming into the regional matchup. Stagg allowed six hits and walked three batters while striking out five in 3.2 innings.

O’Brien won his second straight postseason start, allowing two runs on eight hits and three walks in 6.1 innings of work. North came in with two runners on in the seventh and got back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning, and he worked around a leadoff single in the eighth. Frey earned his first career save by pitching a scoreless ninth.


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