Katz home run propels Spikes

STATE COLLEGE – Returning from a disastrous 0-5 road trip, State College snapped its losing skid Wednesday night with a win over Lowell.

Bouncing back from a frustrating loss to the Spinners Thursday night, the Spikes took the rubber game of the series Friday night with a 4-2 win before 3,009 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“We kind of needed this win to take a series, especially after the trip we just got back from,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “Wins like this one are really important for these guys to gain some confidence and it is also important to take a win like this one into the next series.”

The Spinners wasted no time getting on the scoreboard as Tzu We-Lin went shopping at the right-centerfield gap for a double and scored on a ground out by Forresst Allday.

Already up 1-0, the Spinners doubled their lead with two outs in the second inning when Jose Colorado, on his first at-bat with Lowell, took a Jose Bautista fastball and lined it into the seats in right field for a solo home run.

Bautista worked the first six innings to pick up the win. After struggling in the early part of his outing, he settled in and got stronger as the game wore on. He finished by allowing the Spinners just three hits and two earned runs. He walked four, but struck out six.

“The first thing I did is that I didn’t give up,” Bautista said. “I just kept my head on straight after getting out of that first inning and I knew I had to get back to attacking the hitters. I have gotten stronger mentally and I knew I was going to do whatever it took not to give up any more runs. After I gave up the home run, I told myself, OK, no more because I have to stop it here and give my team a chance to win the game.”

Marmol liked what he saw from his right-hander.

“That is really good pitching from him,” Marmol said. “That is the one thing with him that we have been trying to stress is to limit damage because when teams score on him, it seems like the runs come in bunches. He was able to regroup today which is something we haven’t seen in his previous starts. He is developing mental toughness and he pitched a strong five innings after that first one.”

Down by the pair, the Spikes cut their deficit in half in the fourth when they juiced the sacks with one out on singles by Carson Kelly, Mason Katz and Trevor Martin. Dante Rosenberg chased Kelly home with State College’s first run on an RBI groundout to short.

Still trailing by one, Mason Katz gave the Spikes a 3-2 lead when he belted a two-run home run just inside the left field foul pole, with Ron Castillo scoring in front of Katz.

“It was a changeup that was up and in,” Katz said. “I was just trying to get Castillo in scoring position for the next guy. I was able to put a good swing on it and I hit it high enough to carry a few extra feet. I wasn’t sure if it was going to get out, but I hit it good. I think the wind helped me out a little bit.”

When the ball cleared the fence by a mere three feet, it was only fair by two feet.

“I knew it had a chance,” Katz said. “I thought it might blow foul, but I hit it on the barrel really well. I just got under it a little bit so I just kept my eye on it to make sure that it got out.”

Nursing the one-run lead, Spikes reliever Kyle Webb came on in the seventh, immediately dug himself a hole by giving up a pair of hits, but was able to do some clutch pitching to work his way out of the jam to keep the Spinners off the scoreboard.

Mitch Harris came on in the eighth and duplicated Webb’s effort as he had runners on second and third with one out, but came up with a strikeout and a ground out to avoid trouble.

Spike closer Jeff Rach also had some problems in the ninth as he allowed a pair of baserunners with nobody out before battling his way out of trouble.

“Giving me some nerves there might be an understatement,” Marmol said. “They all did a good job of getting out of it (trouble), they showed some mental toughness to be able to just regroup, slow the game down a little bit and get things going again.”

Looking for a little insurance, the Spikes got just that in the eighth inning.

A double by Bruce Caldwell, a single by Castillo, an RBI double by Kelly and just like that, the State College lead grew to 4-2.

Kelly, who has been hitting the ball well lately, finished with a 3-for-4 night that included a pair of singles, an RBI double and a run scored.

“With the early work I am doing, I am just making some small adjustments,” Kelly said. “Right now I am concentrating on staying locked in and continuing with my routine.”

The Spikes will continue their current homestand tonight when the Connecticut Tigers come to town. The Tigers will send Buck Farmer (0-1) to the hill while the Spikes will counter with Chase Brookshire (0-0). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.