WILLIAMSPORT - At six feet and 195 pounds, Jeremy Hamilton may not fill out today's mold for a professional baseball player.
But as the game evolves in what baseball hopes is a post-steroids era, his glove and his eye may make him the new first base prototype.
"All I try to do is play to my strengths," Hamilton said after his sixth-inning double and eighth-inning scoop helped the Williamsport Crosscutters to a 7-3 series-clinching victory over the State College Spikes at Bowman Field Wednesday.
Hamilton laced Wilson Ortiz's offering down the right-field line to drive in the go-ahead run in a three-run rally that gave Williamsport a 3-1 lead after six innings.
Then he snagged Cody Overbeck's low, running throw on a sacrifice bunt, limiting damage as B.J. Rosenberg worked two innings to secure his first save and preserve Justin De Fratus's first win. It was the first pair of back-to-back wins for Williamsport (4-5) this year, over a State College (2-6) team that drops to last in the Pinckney Division.
"It was really important," Hamilton said. "Really important. Hopefully we can get another one tomorrow."
He may never hit for power. And as a left-hander without exceptional speed or arm strength, it's hard to imagine a conversion to another position.
But with home run totals and ERAs already dropping from 2006 levels in the major leagues, what's a dilemma now may not be in five years.
"He's awful good defensively, and it would be hard to move him from first base,' said 'Cutters manager Dusty Wathan said. Hamilton is 5-for-30 in his first nine games, but also has a team-leading 10 walks, including two in a 1-for-2 night Wednesday.
"If he can hit for a high average," Wathan said. "All of the sudden he becomes a 1980s-type first baseman. Which is what the game is going to be in two or three years, I think. It's already going that way."
De Fratus will be glad to keep Hamilton for now.
The 20-year-old went seven innings for his first victory, striking out eight and allowing one run on five hits and no walks, five days after allowing an unearned run in a six-inning, no-decision debut.
De Fratus looked headed for another misleading result in the fifth, when Chris Simmons singled in Ciro Rosero from third to make it 1-0.
But after singles from Brandon Haislet and Bryan Frew started off the sixth, Travis D'Arnaud and Scott Thomas each hit sacrifice flies, sandwiching Hamilton's RBI double and giving De Fratus a shot at the win he deserved.
"I love it," said De Fratus of Hamilton's presence. "When a throw goes over to first, I don't have anything to worry about. He may save 10 errors this year, which is awesome. And as a pitcher, having an unearned runner, that does something to you upstairs."
Maurice Bankston was also deserving, but the Spikes pulled him after four scoreless innings in favor of Ortiz (0-1), who allowed three earned runs in two innings of relief. Williamsport scored its fourth run off him in the seventh when Tim Binkoski came home on a fielder's choice after singling and moving around on a groundout and Brandon Haislet's single.
The Spikes' pitching staff can relate after seeing its defense commit nine errors in the past two games. A missed catch by catcher Chris Simmons and some questionable fielder's choices led to three more Williamsport runs in the eighth.
That's not to say the offense didn't deserve it. Cody Overbeck went 2-for-4 with a double and Brandon Haislet went 2-for-4 in his fifth multi-hit game. But it was Hamilton's scoop that prevented a similar rally for the Spikes.
After Chad Rice homered, Simmons and Matthew Payne singled, and moved to second and third when Butch Biela laid a bunt down toward third. Overbeck charged, picked up and fired low. And Hamilton picked it out of the dirt, keeping the runners in place before B.J. Rosenberg struck out Matt Hague to end the threat.
"That was definitely huge," said Rosenberg, who allowed two runs - one earned - in two innings. "If that play hadn't happened, the wheels may have really come off. Plays like that are what save rallies."
Rosero went 3-for-4 for the Spikes, while Hague and Simmons each went 2-for-4.