NORWICH, Conn. - Tyler Gaffney reached base five times and set a State College Spikes record for times hit by pitch in a season while Barrett Barnes homered to help the Spikes complete a three-game sweep of the Connecticut Tigers with a 9-4 victory at Dodd Stadium on Friday night.
State College (23-16) had already completed a 6-4 win over the Tigers earlier in the night, and got an early jumpstart on the final game of the series thanks to Gaffney. The Pirates' 24th round draft choice in 2012 led off the game by getting hit by a pitch for a team record-tying ninth time in the first inning, then advanced to second on an error and scored on Barnes's double to right field to make it 1-0, Spikes.
After Danry Vasquez singled in a run for Connecticut (16-23) to tie the game in the bottom of the first, Barnes struck again in the third. The Texas Tech product swung away at a 3-0 pitch with Gaffney on base, and parked it over the left field wall for his team-leading fifth home run of the season to bump the lead up to 3-1.
The Tigers rallied to tie the game at 3 in the fifth inning, scoring runs on a Jordan Dean single and an error by State College reliever Josh Smith (1-1). However, the Spikes blew up for four runs in the seventh inning to put the game away, with a triple by Gaffney plating the first run. Barnes then walked, and after D.J. Crumlich was hit by a pitch, a wild pitch scored Gaffney and Jacob Stallings cleared the bases with a two-run, line-drive single to left field.
In the eighth inning, Gaffney set the Spikes' record for times hit by pitch. However, the situation turned ugly when Connecticut reliever Angel Nesbitt, who had been warned for throwing behind Gaffney already, plugged the Spikes' right fielder with his next pitch to earn an ejection from home plate umpire Jorge Teran. Tempers briefly flared as members of both teams came out of the dugout, but cooler heads quickly prevailed and neither team engaged in any physical contact.
The Spikes would make the Tigers pay, though, when Gaffney and Jodaneli Carvajal executed a double steal to second and third, respectively. Both runners scored on Alex Fuselier's two-run single to complete the State College scoring.
Connecticut scratched a run across on a sacrifice fly by Devon Travis in the eighth inning for its final run.
Gaffney went 3-for-3 on the night with two stolen bases, and finished the series 8-for-9 at the plate. From an on-base standpoint, Gaffney went 13-for-14, during the three-game set, only missing a perfect series by grounding out in the fifth inning on Thursday night. Barnes contributed a 2-for-3 performance, and added a pair of walks.
Smith earned the win for State College with three innings of relief, allowing two runs, one of them earned, on three hits. The left-hander also struck out a batter. Spikes starter Clario Perez yielded hits to the first three Tigers batters of the game, but did not allow any more after that. The right-hander gave up a run and walked one batter while striking out three.
Connecticut relief pitcher Efrain Nieves (1-1) took the loss after being tagged for all four of the Spikes' seventh-inning runs. Nieves gave up a total of four hits and a walk while collecting four strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings.
The three-game sweep was the Spikes' fourth of the season, setting a new team record. With Brooklyn's loss to Batavia on Friday night, State College is now tied for the Wild Card lead in the New York-Penn League.