WILLIAMSPORT - There is an old saying in the game of baseball that good pitching can many times have the upper hand on good hitting.
Sunday afternoon at Bowman Field, the State College Spikes learned that painful lesson as after two solid wins to open the season, their bats were manhandled by the pitching of Williamsport right-hander David Whitehead in an 8-2 loss to the Crosscutters before 3,181 fans on Father's Day.
Whitehead was dominant. He worked the first six innings, not allowing a single hit, walking two and striking out five. He retired the final 13 batters he faced before giving way to 'Cutter relievers Frank Rivas and Keivi Rojas.
"We have been working hard on fastball command and that was big for me today," said Whitehead following his pro debut. "I have been waiting a long time for this and it was a lot of fun out there. My father was here so I said let's make it worth the year-and-a-half I waited for it to happen. It was definitely fun."
After watching his team outscore the Cutters 16-5 in posting the pair of wins to begin the season, mild-mannered Spikes manager Oliver Marmol was quick to point out that games like he just saw his team wade through are all a part of baseball.
"Games like this one happen, especially at this level," said Marmol. "The guys are going to play great for a couple of days and then games like this one are going to happen at some point. You kind of expect it to happen, but you try to minimize it to where there are a lot of games in between this type of game happening."
As for Whitehead's success, Marmol felt that basically it was just a matter of being able to throw strikes.
"He did a real nice job of throwing strikes," Marmol said. "He was able to locate his fastball on both sides of the plate and when you are able to do that, you give yourself a shot. He kept us off balance and the defense behind him made some nice plays. His third baseman (Jan Hernandez) made a real nice play on the bunt to keep his no-hitter moving."
In addition to Williamsport's Whitehead, the Spikes also had a number of guys making their professional debuts.
"O'Keefe (Spikes catcher Brian) settled down after the first couple of innings," Marmol said. "On their first day out, all of those guys are going to be nervous. That is expected and they will settle down during the next couple of days and be OK. We don't worry too much about nerves at this point."
Wilson Garcia was plunked by a pitch and Wilmer Oberto chased Garcia to third with a double high off the boards in right field.
Garcia scored on an RBI groundout by Robinson Torres before Sean McHugh plated Oberto with a sacrifice fly to left for the 2-0 Williamsport lead.
Up 2-0, the Cutters added on in the sixth when they sent ten men to the plate to score six runs and break the game wide open.
Big hits in the Williamsport uprising were RBI singles by Cord Sandberg and Malquin Canelo, a 2-RBI ingle by Jiandido Tromp and sacrifice RBI flyouts by Torres and Jan Hernandez.
After Whitehead retired 13 Spike hitters in a row, Cutter reliever Frank Rivas retired the first two men he faced before Rowan Wick broke up the two-man no-hitter with a sharp single to left field.
Still showing goose eggs on the scoreboard in terms of runs scored, Nick Thompson took care of that matter as on the heels of Andrew Sohn reaching on a Williamsport error, Thompson picked on the second pitch from Rojas and deposited it over the left-field barrier for a two-run home run.
"He threw me a first pitch fastball away," said Thompson. "When a team is up 8-0 you usually tell your pitchers to go out there and throw strikes. I was looking for a fastball, he threw me one middle-in and I didn't miss it."
As for Whitehead, Thompson felt the key to his success was locating not only his fastball, but all three of his pitches.
"He did a good job of locating the ball," said Thompson. "He stayed down in the zone for the most part and he was able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes. As a result, we didn't hit too many barrels."
Although the Spikes lost 8-2 and didn't play exceptionally well at times, there are usually some things that can be taken from the game to build on.
"Even when you have games like this, you want to see the guys have good approaches to show development on things they are working on," Marmol said. "To see Thompson go out there in the four hole and take a good swing, then hit the ball out of the park is a big plus. That continues the process of hitting the ball and gives him some confidence."
Spikes starter Ian McKinney (0-1) took the loss, allowing two runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batsman. McKinney's five strikeouts were the most for a Spikes pitcher in any of the first three games of the year.
The two teams will wrap up the roller-coaster four-game series tonight with a single game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. First pitch for that game is set for 7:05 p.m.
The Spikes will send Dailyn Martinez to the bump while the Cutters will counter with Feliberto Sanchez.