STATE COLLEGE - The State College Spikes made the most of the few opportunities presented to them by Jamestown's pitchers and then rode the arm of starter and winner Andrew Pierce to a 6-0 win Sunday to advance to the championship series for the New York-Penn League.
After dropping the opener of their semifinal in Jamestown, State College outscored the Jammers 18-4.
The best-of-three finals begin Tuesday at Tri-City in Troy, N.Y. Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3 will be played at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. State College had a losing 3-5 seasonal record against the Valley Cats. However, the Spikes had the best record in the league at 48-27, including a 31-8 record at home, while Tri-City posted a 44-32 mark.
The Valley Cats have reached the playoffs three of the last four years and won the 2010 New York-Penn League Championship. Tri-City swept Aberdeen 2-0 in the other semifinal.
In his last two starts against Jamestown, Pierce (3-2) pitched 18 consecutive scoreless innings. Sunday evening he allowed four hits, walked none and struck out seven. Pierce threw 91 pitches, 57 for strikes.
"I certainly had my teammates behind me tonight," Pierce said after his stint on the mound. "I managed to have all my pitches working and got a lot of run support that allowed me to pitch so effectively. It's a big win for us and a big win for this organization and we couldn't be more proud of the effort showed during the playoffs that allowed us to accomplished what we did this season."
During the regular season the Spikes (50-28) went 8-2 against the Jammers (44-34) and were surprised by Jamestown 6-5 in the first of their best-of-three series. The playoffs are the first in State College's history and Sunday's win marks the first division title in club history.
After the Jammers went 1-2-3 to begin the do-or-die game, the Spikes quickly took an early 2-0 lead. Cesar Valera looped a base hit to right field and David Washington followed with a booming home run over the right field wall on the first offering from the Jammers' Cody Dickson. It was Washington's 11th home run of the season but the first against the Jammers in 10 games, including the playoffs.
State College made it a 3-0 in the second on the benefit of a hit batter, a base hit by Mason Katz to right-center and a double play off Jimmy Bosco's bat.
The Jammers threw away a golden opportunity in the top of the fourth on back-to-back base hits from Harold Ramirez and Adam Frazier. Following a strikeout, Edwin Espinal flew out to left field with Ramirez drifting a little to far off second base and was gunned down on a Perez-Valera-Katz relay throw for an inning-ending double play.
The old adage that speed kills came in to play for the Spikes in a two-run bottom of the fifth. Jimmy Bosco drilled a double just inside the left field line and Luis Perez double high off the wall in right field for a run. The Jammers' center fielder, Austin Meadows, saved a run with a diving catch of a line drive off the bat of Steven Ramos.
Valera grounded back to the pitcher for an easy out but the Jammers were caught napping when Perez never stopped running and manage to score from second base on a comebacker to the pitcher to give the Spikes a 5-0 lead.
Mitch Harris replaced Pierce on the mound to begin the eighth inning and tossed hitless ball over the final two frames, walked one and struck out two to complete the shutout.
The Spikes tacked on another run in the eighth inning, but just barely, when Ramos led off with a booming triple. Two strikeouts followed but Washington chased the run home with a base hit to center field for a 6-0 lead into the ninth inning.
With the crowd on its feet, cheering and clapping in rhythm, the Jammers went meekly on a strikeout, infield ground out and a season-ending fly ball to left field to end the game.
State College was unable to pop any champagne for the victory celebration since all of the Spikes players save Harris - a Navy man who is perhaps the oldest in the league at 27 - are underage. Instead, the locker room was filled with the sweet smell of youth, innocence and sparkling grape juice.
Spikes 12, Jamestown 4
STATE COLLEGE - After losing 6-5 in the opener of the best-of-three semifinals for the New York-Penn League championship, the State College Spikes bounced back in a big way at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Saturday evening with a convincing 12-4 win over Jamestown to even the series at one game each.
But before the fans had relaxed from watching Penn State's football team dismantle Eastern Michigan across the street, the Jammers surprised the Spikes with a 2-0 first-inning lead.
The Jammers' Elvis Escobar drilled the first pitch to right-center for a standup triple to awaken the crowd that was still settling in the their seats. Following an out, Jamestown received three straight base hits from Adam Frazier, Austin Meadows and Edwin Espinal (RBI) for the two runs.
The Jammers were held scoreless for two innings by Jimmy Reed and in the meantime the Spikes erupted for two runs in the second to tie the game and a pair in the third to take a 4-2 lead that State College would never relinquish.
Jamestown's Michael Fransoso drilled a one-out home run to right field in the fourth and the Jammers added their final run in the seventh in an RBI single by Wyatt Mathisen.
Meanwhile the Spikes' Carson Kelly delivered a solo home run and had three RBIs while Michael Schulze collected four hits and also added a pair of RBIs as State College scored four runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and two more in the eighth to complete the rout.
Luke Voit tied a Spikes club record by walking four times in one game, and added a single in the sixth to reach base five times on the night. Cesar Valera also had a productive night, notching two hits, including a double, and a stolen base while reaching base four times.
Chase Brookshire (1-0) earned the win in relief for State College as he yielded two runs, one earned, on five hits while striking out four batters over 3 1/3 innings. Starter Jimmy Reed was limited to three innings on the mound, and gave up two runs on five hits and two walks. Reed struck out five batters, though, as the Spikes staff recorded a season-high 15 strikeouts on the evening.
Jamestown starter Dovydas Neverauskas (0-1) took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits and two walks over 2 2/3 innings. Neverauskas, who struck out three in the effort, was the only one of the Jammers' five pitchers during the night to go longer than 2 1/3 innings on the hill.
Saturday's marathon was the second-longest nine-inning Spikes game in ballpark history at three hours, 40 minutes. It ended after 11 p.m. as the start was pushed back to 7:35 to allow football traffic to dissipate.