STATE COLLEGE - If the current trend continues, State College Spikes manager Gary Robinson is going to totally dislike scores of 5-3 in his team's games.
Friday night at Bowman Field, the Spikes scrapped and battled, only to come out on the short end of a 5-3 final to the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Twenty-four later at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, once more the Spikes battled, but again the result was the same, another 5-3 loss to the Cutters, the home debut for State College at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"That's what happens. That is baseball and we are certainly not going to panic," Robinson said about his team. "They are doing some things better than we are doing right now. The little things that add up to runs, but we'll straighten it out. We'll take care of it."
Although his club has come out on the short end of both games, Robinson likes what he sees from his pitchers.
"Honestly, we are pitching pretty well," he said. "Our young guys are up in the zone a little bit, but they are learning. We don't have them getting but about five hard contacts tonight and that is a positive. But they are getting the bat on the ball and they aren't striking out as much as we are. It is just one of those things. We have a young club so we have to keep plugging away and working hard to get better."
Although the Spikes could only muster a half dozen hits off four different Cutter pitchers, Chase Lyles had a multiple hit game with a pair of singles while driving in the Spikes second run of the game.
"He is going to help us," Robinson said. "He is a hard working kid, but then, they all are. He in particular takes what he does very seriously and works real hard to improve his skills."
The Spikes scored their first run of the game in the second inning and with a little luck or a different bounce of the ball, it might have even been more.
Gerlis Rodriguez walked, Kelson Brown singled to right and Justin Bencsko bounced into a fielder's choice. Ardury Acevedo dropped a ball that appeared to be on the left field foul line, but was called foul.
"It didn't hit the line," Robinson admitted. "That ball was foul. ... He got that play 100 percent right."
Acevedo eventually went down on a called third strike, but Rodriguez scored when Miguel Mendez bounced into a RBI fielder's choice.
The Cutters took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the second inning. Domingo Santana walked and scored on a RBI double by David Doss and Jeff Cusick, who had singled prior to Doss' double, scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Jeff Lanning.
Trailing 2-0, the Spikes tied the game with single runs in the second and third innings on the fielder's choice RBI by Mendez and a RBI single to left by Lyles.
"We left some (runs) out there, but we did get one in," Cutters manager Chris Truby said. "We missed out on that opportunity, but the guys swung the bats good and came up with some big hits."
The Cutters regained the lead in the fifth on a single by Cesar Hernandez and a RBI single to center by Miguel Alvarez following a Hernandez steal of second, but the Spikes answered right back.
Mendez doubled off the glove of third baseman Jake Smith, went to third on a passed ball charged to Cutter catcher Jeff Lanning and scored on a RBI single to right off the bat of Melbin De La Cruz.
But that is when the Cutter bullpen went to work to shut down the Spikes over the final four innings while the Williamsport offense scored single runs in the seventh and eighth innings for the 5-3 final.
Notes: A record standing-room-only crowd of 5,775 fans filled Medlar Field for Saturday's home opener. The game marked the second consecutive record-breaking crowd at the ballpark. The Spikes (0-2) hosted the Crosscutters (2-0) in front of 5,757 fans in last season's home finale on Aug. 30, 2009.
Crosscutters 3, Spikes 0
WILLIAMSPORT - The baseball was destined for center field, rolling slowly up the middle of the infield with Williamsport Crosscutters pitcher Chase Johnson watching helplessly.
Best-case scenario with the Cutters holding a two-run lead and a State College runner on first base, maybe shortstop Edgar Duran could knock the ball down and keep it in the infield. But nobody, not even Cutters manager Chris Truby, expected Duran to snare the ball while diving full extension, flip the ball to second baseman Cesar Hernandez, and then have Hernandez fire to second base to complete a big double play.
But that's exactly the play Duran and Hernandez turned Sunday evening at Bowman Field. It was a huge double play to stop any Spikes scoring opportunity before it started. It helped cap off the Cutters' 3-0 win over State College and complete a three-game sweep to start the season.
It's also the first time the Crosscutters' franchise has had a 3-0 start since the team came to Williamsport in 1999. The Cutters also were the lone team in the NYPL to go undefeated through the first weekend of play.
"You don't see that kind of a play at this level," Truby said. "If that ball gets through you have first and second and nobody out and you don't know what happens after that. Those are the things that don't show up in the box score, but that was the ball game right there."
The play capped off an incredible season-opening series for Duran and Hernandez in the field. The two natives of Valencia, Venezuela were as slick as could be in turning three double plays during the series. But none were as slick or as important as Sunday's.
"I thought (Duran) had a shot to knock it down. But I didn't think he had an opportunity to turn a double play," Cutters catcher Jim Klocke said. "That's a play you don't expect to be made. But when it is made, everyone is really excited."
"These two guys up the middle are special," Truby said. "It's fun for us to sit here and watch because these guys have been playing in the Gulf Coast League and Venezuela they're getting the chance to play in front of people and they enjoy it. It's fun. They're better now than they were in Florida, and they were pretty stinking good in Florida."
It was a play that capped off a flawless defensive game for the Cutters which backed another good outing from the pitching staff. Eric Pettis threw five scoreless innings in his first professional start allowing just four hits.
The Spikes finally got to the Cutters' bullpen when they scored a pair of runs off Chad Poe in the seventh inning. It was the first two runs the Cutters had given up in the series. Pettis got off to a slow start, working his way out of trouble in each of the first two innings.
But the UC-Irvine product faced just three batters in each of his final three innings of work before he reached his pitch count limit. Pettis finished with four strikeouts and no walks.
The Cutters used its team speed and baserunning to manufacture runs Sunday night. With the Williamsport leading 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning and Carlos Alonso on second base, Duran lifted a foul popup into right field. With Spikes right fielder Andury Acevedo, second baseman Gift Ngoepe and first baseman Gerlis Rodriguez all converging on the play, Acevedo somehow came up with the grab before all three collided.
Alonso immediately tagged up and went to third and started down the third-base line as Acevedo trotted with the ball toward the infield. Alonso suddenly broke toward the plate and Acevedo's throw got past catcher Matt Skirving giving the Cutters a 2-0 lead.
The Cutters tacked on another run when Kyrell Hudson walked and stole second - one of three stolen bases for Williamsport in the game - and then scored on a throwing error by Spikes third baseman Chase Lyles.
Sentinel correspondent Mitch Rupert contributed to this story.