STATE COLLEGE - State College wasn't in position to take a Sawbuck Series lead Friday night.
But the Spikes, after dropping back-to-back games to Pinckney Division leader Williamsport, had to win the game to have any hope of winning the season series - not to mention staying over .500 and chasing a playoff spot.
So it would be fair to say that the Spikes didn't need to start the New York-Penn League game in a hole. But that's exactly where the visitors put them in the first inning, and that's where they stayed en route to a 7-6 Crosscutters win at Medlar Field.
The Cutters put three on the board in the opening stanza as Williamsport managed four hits from the first six batters, including a pair of doubles, off Spikes starter Tyler Waldron.
"The first inning, it's a pitch issue. The pitchers have to go out, they have to learn from their mistakes," Spikes manager Gary Robinson said.
Edgar Duran started the rally for Williamsport with a two-bagger in the No. 2 spot, then scored on a Miguel Alvarez single. Cameron Rupp made it three hits in a row for the Cutters with an RBI double, then scored on a base hit by Aaron Altherr to make it 3-0.
Another Williamsport run scored in the third when Alvarez reached on an error, stole second and was plated on a base hit by designated hitter Jim Klocke.
"We just got outplayed in every category. It's as simple as that. We played very poorly defensively, we got off the ball very slow, did not pitch well," Robinson said.
The Spikes finally got on the board on a triple that shouldn't have been in the fifth inning. No. 8 batter Matt Skirving had just the second hit for the Spikes to start the inning, and was followed to the plate by Cole White at the bottom of the order.
White sent a shot into deep left center, which Williamsport center fielder Kyrell Hudson caught. But Hudson collided with Altherr, playing left, and landed on the ground. Field umpire John Burzynski ruled no catch, and White was credited with an RBI triple. Video replay showed that Hudson not only caught the ball, but held it until after he landed on the ground. Although the run still would have scored, White should have been out.
White went on to score on a base hit by Mel Rojas Jr., leading to a Crosscutters pitching change. Reliever Lisaberto Bonilla got rid of Rojas with a pickoff throw to second, gave up a double to State College's Adalberto Santos - another fly to left, apparently misread by Altherr - then got out of the inning when Matt Curry went deep to right for the third out.
The Cutters got one of those runs back in the top of the sixth as Brooks Pounders, who took over for Waldron in the fifth, was the victim of a bouncing ball ruled an error after it went over the head of Williamsport's second baseman, allowing Domingo Santana, in for Altherr, to score after a base hit got him aboard. The other one came back in the seventh when Cutters catcher Cameron Rupp sent the ball over the center right field fence. Williamsport also scored in the top of the eight with back-to-back singles at the top of the order.
The run exchange continued in the late innings as State College matched the Cutters in the seventh with a home run from leadoff batter White over the nook in left center. Andy Vasquez, entering the game for Spikes' second baseman Walker Gourley, made a real comeback effort in the eighth with the second State College homer of the night, a two-run ball that cleared the 375 measure in right with plenty of room to spare. The second run was set up by a walk, and when Bonilla issued his second pass on the other side of the homer, he left the game.
The Cutters went on to escape what became a bit of a threat as a base hit by Matt Skirving put runners on the corners with one out, but Williamsport turned a double play to get out of the inning holding onto a two-run lead. Williamsport also had two runners on in the ninth when the Spikes turned a double play.
"I saw some good things from some guys coming off the bench, some gutsy performances," Robinson said. "But we did not defend all but one inning all night. When we scored, we let them score - and that's a problem. You can't stop their momentum if you keep giving it back."
A pair of base hits wrapped around two passed balls gave the Spikes a glimmer of hope in the fnal turn, but Chase Lyles hit a high fly that was caught for the final out with the tying run on first.
Notes: It was Mifflin-Juniata Counties Night at Medlar Field, and several local organizations were on hand in various capacities. Prior to the game, the Juniata Valley's history was featured in a video presentation. ... The attendance was 5,807, a franchise record.