Spikes battle back for late lead and win

GRANVILLE, W.Vir — Daniel Castano set the State College Spikes’ single-season strikeout record, and the Spikes’ bats came alive in the middle innings to give them a 10-6 comeback victory over the West Virginia Black Bears on Monday night at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Castano (8-3) got a called third strike against Sandy Santos in the second inning for his second strikeout of the game and 69th of the season to break the mark of 68 posted by Brad Furnish in the Spikes’ (35-31) inaugural 2006 season. The left-hander finished with seven strikeouts over six innings of work, running his total for the year to 74 whiffs

State College also kept pace as best as possible in the playoff hunt, as Mahoning Valley swept a doubleheader from Batavia to go 4.5 games up on both the Spikes and Black Bears in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division race with ten games left in the regular season. The Spikes also stayed 3.5 games back of Hudson Valley for the league’s lone Wild Card berth.

West Virginia (35-31) took the early lead by putting up four runs in the third on Bligh Madris’s two-run double and Tristan Gray’s two-run homer to right field, his sixth of the year.

The Spikes responded with a run on Zach Kirtley’s two-out double in the fourth, then tacked on another on Scott Hurst’s RBI single in the fifth. A double-play ball after Hurst’s hit then drew State College within a run before Madris bumped the Black Bears lead back to two with a solo homer in the fifth, his fifth of the season and fourth against the Spikes.

State College then blitzed West Virginia with five straight hits to start the sixth, including J.D. Crowe’s bases-loaded infield single to score one run and Brandon Benson’s double to plate two more and give the Spikes the lead. A wild pitch would then score Crowe to make it 8-5, State College. Yariel Gonzalez finished the surge by knocking in his league-leading 34th run of the year with a sacrifice fly to left field.

In the seventh, two-out RBI singles from Crowe and Benson capped the State College scoring. Julio De La Cruz finished the Black Bears’ offensive output with a run-scoring single in the eighth.

Benson went 3-for-4 with three RBI to record his second game with three hits or more as a professional.

Castano earned the win on the mound despite giving up five runs on five hits and two walks.

West Virginia reliever Hector Quinones (0-1) took the loss after giving up all five of the Spikes’ sixth-inning runs. Quinones allowed five hits and a walk without striking out a batter in his lone inning of work.

The loss was the Black Bears’ fifth in a row, with the last four coming at home.

The Spikes and Black Bears meet for the second game of their three-game series tonight at Monongalia County Ballpark. The 7:05 p.m. matchup will feature right-hander Paul Balestrieri (3-3) on the mound for State College, while West Virginia will go with right-hander Sergio Cubilete (3-6).

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