UNIVERSITY PARK - Twenty-four hours after playing one of their better games of the season in a 2-1 win over the Tri-City Valley Cats, the State College Spikes decided to turn the other cheek.
Surrendering a pair of runs in the first inning that led to a four-run deficit, the Spikes fell to the Valley Cats by the final of 4-1 before 4,352 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Sunday evening.
While the Valley Cats weren't guilty of knocking the cover off the ball in scoring their first three runs, the Spikes didn't collect their first hit of the game until the fourth, when Adalberto Santos lined a single to left.
Trailing 4-0, the Spikes posed their first threat in the sixth when Gift Ngoepe doubled and Santos followed with a base on balls with nobody out.
But that is when the call went to the Valley Cat bullpen, and Travis Blankenship came on to strike out Matt Curry, Pat Irvine and Walker Gourley to kept the Spikes off the scoreboard.
Although Blankenship cut down the Spike hitters to stop the bleeding, Mitch Fienemann and the rest of the Spikes' staff was strong as well as they shut out the Valley Cats over the final three innings to give the Spikes a chance to win the game.
"I thought the bullpen did a really good job tonight keeping the team in the game," Fienemann said. "Sometimes it just happens that you don't get the runs you are hoping for, but next week, it might be a different story. It always seems to come around and turn around like that."
After stranding a pair of runners in both the fifth and sixth innings, State College scored their only run of the game in the seventh - and it could have been more.
Kelson Brown led off with a double and scored on Mel Rojas Jr.'s RBI single to center. Following Rojas's hit, Ngoepe and Santos both reached to load the sacks, but that is where the threat ended when Matt Curry bounced into a fielder's choice.
"When you get guys on like we did tonight, you want to score those runs," Santos said. "Sometimes we just try to do too much instead of just going up there, playing ball and having fun. We just need to get back to doing that and if we can do that, we'll be all right."
Brown, who made numerous outstanding plays in the field, was chosen as the Spikes' Player of the Game.
"You like to keep everything the same, regardless of how the game is going," Brown said about his strong defensive effort. "Whether you are winning or losing, you have to stay in the game both physically and mentally. I felt real good today defensively and I didn't let the fact that our team was down effect me. I thought my defensive approach was pretty good and as a result, I felt I made some pretty good plays."
As for the loss, Cole White says it is one of those things you have to just put behind you and move on.
"Once again, it is one of those things you just have to let go of it at midnight and move on for the next day," White said.
As for the team being able to make a move over the final 26 games of the season?
"Oh yeah," continued White. "This team is so talented that at any moment, we can make things happen. We just won three in a row and we are still on a good stretch. Tonight is just what it was and we aren't going to let that get us off our stretch. The team is feeling good and once we combine the pitching with the offense, it is going to happen."
The two teams will wrap up the three-game series and current homestand tonight with first pitch set at 7:05 p.m. The Spikes will send Tyler Waldron (2-4) to the bump, while the Valley Cats will counter with Andrew Robinson (0-1).