STATE COLLEGE - There was a fireworks display scheduled for later in the day at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, but the State College Spikes simply couldn't wait for the evening show. They provided a lot of fireworks early.
Exploding for a club-record 10 runs in the third inning, the Spikes welcomed Batavia to the stadium for the first time this season by demolishing the Muckdogs, 13-2, before 3,379 fans.
"An inning like that changes the game completely," Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. "The guys did a good job of jumping on top early in the count. We had some great at-bats and they were able to string them together. We were able to take advantage of a couple of errors, but offensively, it was a great day for us."
Sentinel photo by STEVE MANUEL
State College Spikes second baseman Bruce Caldwell gets the force at second and throws to first for a double play during Thursday’s game against Batavia at Medlar Field in State College.
Spikes' starting pitcher Andrew Pierce, a recent draft choice out of Southern Mississippi University, was on a short leash when he returned to the hill after that.
At 44 pitches after three innings, Pierce started the fourth, and although he retired the first two batters in the inning, he gave way to Willie Paulino, who only needed two pitches to end the inning.
"He (Pierce) did a great job," Marmol said. "He did a real good job of keeping the ball down and getting some ground balls. He was able to give us a strong three and went out for the fourth. We tried to string him out through four, but he really competed well tonight."
Pierce also felt good about his effort.
"I felt really good," said Pierce, taking a minute or two from eating his post-game meal to talk to the media. "There was a matter of hydration last night coming in late because this was a day game and it is hot here. Being from Mississippi I am kind of used to that."
So what led to his early success?
"I was able to get ahead early (in the count) and when you throw first-pitch strikes, it makes it a lot easier to pitch," Pierce said. "My fastball was working good and my breaking ball was working really good."
As for what happened in the fourth, Pierce didn't feel it was a matter of fatigue.
"It wasn't so much my being tired as the long time I had to sit through the big inning," he said. "That kind of got to me and when Rosco (pitching coach Dernier Orozco) came out, he reminded me that I hadn't been in a stretch for a while. I know they (Cardinals organization) are really taking it easy with us with the 50-pitch count so when Paulie came in and got me out of that jam, that was pretty big."
On the heels of Pierce's strong starting effort, Paulino came out of the bullpen to throw an equally strong 4.1 innings to pick up the win.
"He (Paulino) did an awesome job," Marmol said. "The longer he went the stronger he got and he was really efficient with his pitch count. He is going to really help us out. He is the type of guy who we might consider throwing into a piggyback situation as the season goes on."
Scoreless into the bottom of the third inning, the Spikes blew the game wide open.
Walks to Alex DeLeon and Steve Ramos led to RBI singles by Jimmy Bosco, Cesar Valera and Bruce Caldwell and just like that it was 3-0 State College with nobody out.
Mason Katz juiced the sacks when he was plunked by a pitch from Helpi Reyes and on his first offering from Reyes, David Washington quickly made it 7-0 when he barreled a fastball for a grand slam home run over the right field fence.
The grand slam home run by Washington was the eighth in Spikes history and the fifth at Medlar Field.
"It was a slider breaking toward the inside of the plate," Washington said of the home run pitch. "It felt real good off the bat and I knew it was gone. It was really nice to get the first one to get the monkey off my back. Hopefully I can continue to hit the ball like I know I can."
In addition to Washington, Cesar Valera (.367), has been on fire lately. In the lopsided win, Valera went 2-for-3 with a double good for an RBI and and a pair of runs scored.
"Those two guys are playing the game with confidence," Marmol said. "David is starting to gain a little bit of confidence and as for Valera, his confidence level is through the roof right now. He is developing the ability to slow the game down, and if he continues to do that, he is going to have a really good year for us."
The two teams will be right back in action in State College tonight with a 7:05 first pitch. Batavia will send Jarlin Garcia (0-1) to the mound, while the Spikes will counter with Juan Bautista (0-2).
Notes: The 4th of July home game marked the first time the Spikes were home on Independence Day in three years. Going into the game, the Spikes were unbeaten at home on the 4th of July. Overall, the Spikes were 6-1 on the holiday. ... Spikes reliever Mitch Harris has surrendered the fewest number of baserunners per nine innings pitched with a 3.86 mark. Harris, a graduate of the Naval Academy, was involved in pregame activities on a day that the Spikes helped raise money for wounded war veteran Sgt. Adam Hartswick, a State College Area High School graduate and United States Army medic who lost both of his legs after stepping on an explosive device while tending to a wounded soldier in Afghanistan. ... The Muckdogs' starting pitcher, Reyes, is no stranger to the Spikes. His start Thursday was the sixth of his career against a Spikes team.