STATE COLLEGE - Mifflin-Juniata counties night has twice brought a record crowd to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The 6,066 fans who came to see the regular-season home finale by the State College Spikes got their money's worth.
Batavia and State College traded runs in the ninth to keep a tie game knotted up, then went six more innings before it was decided. Just after midnight, fans saw the Spikes escape with a hard-fought, 12-11 walk-off win over the Muckdogs.
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER SHANNON
State College second baseman Brett Wiley tags out Batavia’s Kevin Grove before throwing to first base to turn a double play during the Spikes’ contest against the Muckdogs Friday evening in State College. State College shortstop Robelys Reyes watches the play.
"The guys never gave up," said exhausted, but happy, Spikes manager Oliver Marmol. "We talked as a staff last night and I told them I would really like for us to have a walk-off win before the season was over. You have a chance to make things to happen if you put in your mind that you can do anything regardless of the situation and that is what happened tonight. We got a little bit more than we asked for today, but it was a good win."
With the game tied at 9-9 after fourteen innings and the State College bullpen as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard, the Spikes were forced to use a pair of position players in Jake Stone and Kenny Peoples-Walls - both infielders - to finish the game on the hill. It looked like it would cost the home team a win.
Stone gave up four hits, including Felix Castillo's two-run single in the top of the 15th before he recorded two outs and then departed from the scene with an undisclosed injury. Peoples-Walls then loaded the bases with a walk before coaxing an inning-ending popout.
Now trailing by a pair, here come the gutsy Pinckney Division champions as they turned apparent defeat into a celebratory win.
The Spikes began the bottom of the 15th with a single by Chase Raffield. After a popout, Peoples-Walls helped his own cause with a base hit, and Luis Cruz followed with a single to left to load the bases.
Brett Wiley came up big when he collected two of his four RBIs for the game with a single to left to tie the game at 11-all, and Collin Radack became the walk-off hero with a base hit to right to chase Cruz home with the winning run. Radack pumped his arms in the air as he crossed first safely and the winning run score, and the team bolted from the dugout into center field, showering him with Gatorade.
"There was something about it because the guys had more life coming into that inning than any other inning," Marmol said. "They had just been struck with two runs, but they had some good life about them and they were able to put together a nice little inning."
Marmol feels that a win such as this one can be great for his team's mental approach as they head into the postseason.
"We were hoping for it and we got it," Marmol said about the energetic win. "We know where we stand at this point and now we are looking to move forward."
In pre-game ceremonies, the Spikes season awards were presented to Danny Diekroeger (Player of the Year), Will Anderson (Pitcher of the Year) and Nick Thompson (Community Service and Leadership).
"Thompson has done a very nice job for us to earn that leadership award, both on and off the field" Marmol said. "He is a guy who really cares about the community and he showed that by doing more than twenty hours of community service. He is just a guy who cares about making a difference.
"Diekroeger did a nice job silently during the first part of the season," Marmol continued. "If you look outside of his batting average he just made (opposing pitchers) work with some real quality at-bats. Toward the end here we are seeing him in the .290 range with a decent number of RBIs from a guy who has been a really good No. 2 hitter and at times a No. 3 hitter for us. His efforts were big in helping us to be where we are at this time.
"As for Will Anderson, I can't say much more about that guy because he has done a tremendous job," Marmol added. "He is a steady guy and you know what you are going to get from him every time he goes out there. He has great poise and mound presence and an excellent idea of what he needs to do to be successful. He has executed his plan very well every time out. All three of those guys have played a huge part in what we have been able to do here this season."
Spikes 5, Crosscutters 1
WILLIAMSPORT - Luis Cruz drilled a three-run homer in the eighth inning after his sixth-inning single tied the game, helping the State College Spikes to stay in a tie for the top playoff seed in the New York-Penn League with a 5-1 victory over the Williamsport Crosscutters on Sunday at Historic Bowman Field.
With the win, the Spikes (47-28) matched Tri-City's win over Vermont to keep the top seed deadlocked with one game remaining.
When Cord Sandberg picked on the first offering from Spikes starting pitcher Trey Nielsen for a solo home run to right field, it marked the first run the Cutters had scored against the Spikes spanning 29 innings.
The Spikes got some help from their depleted bullpen as they received RHP Kevin Alexander, RHP Tyler Dunnington and LHP Dylan Hawkins from Rookie-level GCL Cardinals after putting position players on the mound Saturday.
Dunnington and Alexander provided instant relief to the Spikes as they pair combined for four scoreless innings, allowing two hits while walking just one and striking out a half dozen.
The Cutters' 1-0 lead stood up through the first five innings until the Spikes broke through to score single runs in the sixth and seventh innings before Cruz belted his home run.
"That is the first we saw those two (Dunnington and Alexander) and we really needed that after using up our entire bullpen the night before," Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. "Dunnington found himself in trouble in the sixth, but he managed to work his way out of it. As for Alexander, he was just lights out in the ninth."