STATE COLLEGE - For many, it was just another New York-Penn League baseball game featuring the State College Spikes and Lowell Spinners. But for many people from the Juniata Valley area, it was a chance to "strut their stuff" in Mifflin-Juniata County Night sponsored by the Lewistown Sentinel.
As for the activities, there were some of the "old" along with some of the "new".
Prior to the start of the game, the Mifflin County School District Cheer Squad made its first-ever appearance, generating spirit from the crowd to support the Spikes in their battle with the Spinners with two nifty precision routines.
Sentinel photo by TIM SHUMAKER
Spikes’ shortstop, Ashley Ponce, right, slides into home safely to score a run past Lowell catcher Jayson Hernandez Sunday evening in State College. The Spikes won 4-2 on Mifflin-Juniata night.
With the game presented by The Sentinel, city editor Brian Cox had the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
"It was just nice to have an opportunity like this," said Cox. "To be able to represent the newspaper and be out here with my family plus throwing out the first pitch meant a lot to me. It was the first (first pitch) of my life and I was a little more nervous than I thought I might be. I was just hoping to get it somewhere close to the plate and I was able to do that."
Like George Jefferson, Cox has moved up through the ranks to his present position with the newspaper. Cox began his newspaper career with The Express in Lock Haven before making his way to Lewistown.
"Being with the paper has given me a lot of opportunities to grow," he said. "Starting at Lock Haven, the company has allowed me to get my career started and who knows where it will take me."
Based on Cox's ceremonial first pitch, if he had a future in professional baseball, consider it to definitely be on a "holding" pattern. After carefully rubbing down the baseball, Cox toed the rubber and uncorked a pitch that might not have had enough velocity to break the average pane of glass.
"In my baseball life, I think I had two innings pitched," said Cox. "Even when I played, I was never a pitcher so my thought was just get it to the plate and don't lollipop it. One thing for sure is I never lit up an radar guns in my lifetime. But today, at least I got it there without bouncing it."
The Field of Dreams Team aspect of baseball has been an ever-growing feature in minor league entertainment and the Reedsville Giants represented the area as they accompanied the Spikes onto the field prior to the start of the game.
Members of the Giants team making their way onto the field were Jase Dillon, Zach Dillon, Gavin Hall, Zach Williams, Brendan Colwell, Matt Hugendubler, Brodie Schnell, Adam Sheetz and John Hurlburt.
"I think this was a lot of fun for the kids," said manager Dave Sheetz. "For them to be able to come here, meet some guys who might have a chance of making it in the major leagues and to be able to run out on the field with them was a great experience for them. I am sure they enjoyed it."
The final pre-game attraction was an outstanding rendition of the national anthem presented by the Indian Valley Ensemble. For the group, it was their final appearance representing IV with the new Mifflin County jointure becoming a reality when school begins for the 2011-12 school year.
As for the ball game, the Spikes scored two runs in the first inning and added a single tally in the second for a 3-0 lead. Although Lowell crept back to cut the State College lead to 3-2 with single runs in the fourth and seventh innings, the Spikes hung on for a 4-2 win.
"It is always good to get on top first," said Spikes manager Kimera Bartee. "It doesn't matter who you are playing because when you can put up a tally first, it sends a message (to your opponent) and it also gives your guys some energy. It works the same against when you when you get down early and Lord knows, we have had enough of that this season."
In the first Alex Fuselier was plunked by a pitch, Alex Dickerson doubled to left and both Fuselier and Dickerson scored on a two-run double to right by Chris Lashmet.
In the second, Ashley Ponce led off with a single to right, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Taylor Lewis.
Lowell got on the board in the top of the fourth on a leadoff solo home run off the bat of Jose Garcia.
Unable to add on, the Spikes saw their advantage cut to a single run in the seventh when with two outs, Lowell tallied its second run of the game on a single by Drew Turocy followed by a RBI double by Matty Johnson.
With the game hanging in the balance, Sammy Gonzalez barreled a 2-1 fastball over the left field fence for a solo home run, his first home run of the season.
The Gonzalez home run gave the Spikes a 4-2 lead and although the Spinners had the tying runs on base in the ninth, Emmanuel De Leon retired Matty Johnson on a ground ball to second to save the game, his second of the season.
"We have been on Sammy a lot to keep his head in there," said Bartee. "He is our best 4-hole hitter from the right side that we have. He can wear out that hole a lot when he is disciplined enough to do it. One pitch in every at-bat he (his head) flies out. Tonight a blind rat found a little bit of cheese and he got one. He has a good feel for the barrel and now we have to get him back to doing what he needs to do every time he goes up there."
Nick Kingham, who worked five strong innings to pick up the win. Kingham scattered four hits, walking one while striking out three.
"He (Kingham) competes enough not to get behind the count that much and that is good to see," said Bartee.
The same two teams will wrap up the series tonight with a single game set for a first pitch at 7:05 p.m.