UNIVERSITY PARK - Auburn's offense didn't really do significant damage until the sixth inning Wednesday - but a two-run second on no hits gave the Doubledays an early lead, one they held on to in a 6-1 win over the State College Spikes.
The New York club took advantage of Spikes starter Nelson Pereira, who walked three, plunked one batter and was on the hill for a fielding error as Auburn scored twice - both with two outs - to take the early lead. State College answered those with a run in the bottom of the frame, but didn't produce any more scoring.
In fact, the Spikes (5-8) didn't even have an opportunity after that until the sixth, when consecutive base hits by Aaron Baker and David Rubenstein left runners on second and third - but with two outs. Pat Irvine struck out to end that threat.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?BAST
Auburn’s Chris Hopkins (2) steals second base while State College shortstop Andy Vasquez covers in the fifth inning Wednesday in University Park.
The Spikes also came face to face with a pitcher in Scott Gracey who simply was not going to allow the offense much wiggle room.
"What we have to do tonight is tip our hat. He had good command of his fastball, he jumped ahead of us, every time we started to cheat he was able to throw a changeup or breaking ball for a strike," Spikes manager Gary Robinson said. "Gracey set the tone of the baseball game."
Auburn (5-7) scored three runs on five hits across a two-inning span in the middle of the game to cement the win.
The Doubledays got all the runs they needed without earning any. Jack Murphy drew the first walk with one out, then after a second out was recorded, Pereira beaned Lance Durham and gave a pass to Kevin Nolan. Jimmy Gonzales hit into an error and two runs crossed.
The visitors added one in the fifth as Chris Hopkins singled and stole second, then was plated by a Welinton Ramirez base hit. In the sixth, Durham and Hopkins singled before Eric Eiland smacked a two-run double. Kyle Gilligan scored the final run for Auburn when he was struck to get on base, then Durham doubled.
State College scored its only run with two down in the second, when Edward Garcia tripled and a Ty Summerlin hit drove him in. Summerling and Miguel Mendez - who walked - were stranded, and were the last two Spikes on the bags until Baker and Rubenstein in the sixth.
"That's discouraging. We just have to keep talking about approaching those situations," Robinson said. "We had a situation where we had two runners in scoring position, we took two fastballs and swung at a breaking ball. That's a learning curve."
The Spikes had three batters reach in the bottom of the ninth - and almost loaded the bases when a line drive bounced off Auburn pitcher Josh Wells - but he made the third out and preserved his own save in the process. The frame started with another Baker single, then Rubenstein boarded on a fielder's choice. Garcia had a hit before Mendez hit into the final out.
"I thought we had a pretty good approach at the last guy," Robinson said. "But you've got to score a run. You cant miss the pitch that you've got to hit. And that's again a maturity issue."