Lorain, Ohio - An early offensive barrage - highlighted by a four-run first inning - proved to be just enough, as Butler held on for a 7-6 victory over Youngstown State in the opening round of the Horizon League Baseball Championship on Tuesday (May 19) afternoon at The Pipe Yard.
The win sends the seventh-seeded Bulldogs into the double-elimination portion of the tournament, where it will face No. 3 seed Wright State on Wednesday (May 20) beginning at 3:00 p.m.
Butler wasted little time in jumping out to a big lead on YSU, touching home four times with two outs in the first inning.
Luke Duncan got things started with a one-out single to center before moving to third on a single to right center by Grant Fillipitch. YSU starter Phil Klein got one out closer to ending the threat, recording a strikeout for the second of the inning, but Kyle Schultz kept the inning alive by walking on four-straight pitches to load the bases.
Colin Ziegel followed Schultz's suit, working a 3-2 count before driving in the first run of the game with a free pass. Two more would cross the plate after Alex Montagano lined a single through the right side that allowed Fillipitch and Schultz to scamper home and put runners on first and third for Jason Jamerson, who doubled down the left field line to bring Ziegel in with the fourth run.
The Bulldog lead would grow to 5-0 in the third, as Schultz and Jamerson walked to put runners on first and second with two down before Bobby Mosser delivered an RBI single to left.
Youngstown State cut into the lead an inning later, scoring a single run on a sacrifice fly in the fourth before adding another in the fifth on an RBI single to left, but starting pitch Jeff Sinkiewicz managed to limit the damage.
Butler earned the runs back in the top of the sixth. After Rick Betsch drew a one-out walk, Fillipitch belted a 1-1 offering over the fence in center field for his team-leading seventh home run of the season and a 7-2 Bulldog advantage.
The comfortable five-run lead became much less inviting an inning later, however, as the Penguins pulled to within two runs after Eric Marzec launched a three-run homer down the left field line in the bottom of the sixth. A solo shot to right center in the seventh by Anthony Porter closed the gap to 7-6 and put the Butler lead in jeopardy, but Jared Wagoner and Ryan Kruszka combined for scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to preserve the win.
Butler made the most of its eight hits and took advantage of seven walks by the Penguins, who finished with 13 hits but failed to draw a single free pass. Fillipitch picked up three of the Bulldogs' hits and posted two runs scored and two RBI.
Sinkiewicz picked up the win, striking out six and walking none in five innings of work. Wagoner allowed just one run and struck out three in three innings of relief, while Kruszka worked a scoreless ninth for the save.