Spikes top Crosscutters in extras

WILLIAMSPORT — Evidently, the 2018 State College Spikes baseball team just can’t get enough action from the regulation 9-inning encounters — or at least it seems that way.

After dropping the season opener to Williamsport by a 3-2 score, the Spikes rebounded to take the final two games of the series, winning 7-6 in 10 innings Saturday night at Medlar Field before capping the weekend with a 2-0, 10-inning win Sunday evening at Historic Bowman Field.

“I thought that both sides played extremely well today and it appeared as though everyone was making the routine plays,” Spikes manager Joe Kruzel said. “If you look closely at it, neither pitcher gave the other team anything good to hit. It was just a well played, well pitched ball game.”

The game featured outstanding starting pitching from both teams as State College’s Angel Rondon and Cutter Manuel Silva matched each other pitch-for-pitch over the first six-and-a-half innings. Rondon’s final line had him with just two hits allowed in seven innings of work, while Silva finished with six innings on the bump, the lefty also allowing the Spikes only a pair of hits. Rondon walked one while striking out seven, while Silva totaled five strikeouts while not issuing a single free pass.

“You really have to tip your hats to the pitchers,” Kruzel said. “They all threw well and with the exception of one pitch, they couldn’t have done much better.”

In the early stages of the 2018 campaign, the Spikes skipper is still getting to know his players in a completive, on-the-field situation.

In the two extra-inning wins, Kruzel learned one thing about the club: This edition of the Spikes is a group of gritty players who grind things out and never even think of losing the game.

No less than four times did the Spikes trail in the 7-6 win, but each time they battled back until they walked off the field with the season’s first victory. Then on Sunday, with goose eggs all over the scoreboard, the game went to the 10th inning and the Spikes wasted no time at all to take care of business.

To begin the frame, Justin Toerner was inserted at second base in line as the minors adopted the international tie breaker rule from softball that is designed to increase scoring opportunities and end extra-inning games more quickly.

Brady Whalen executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Toerner to third and after taking a strike, Stanley Espinal picked on a fastball offering from Luis Ramirez and 416-feet later, cruised around the bases with a two-run home run for a 2-0 State College lead.

“Both teams battled, but you had to like what you saw from our ball club,” said Kruzel. “They really hung in there and got out of a couple of jams late in the game. Espinal came up with the big blow there after Whalen’s sac bunt. You have to be proud of those guys for getting the job done.

“When that happened, I think it took a little bit out of their dugout, but that is just kids reacting to a situation. The big thing about Whalen’s bunt is that maybe it restricts the pitcher of being able to go with a certain pitch, afraid of bouncing on in the dirt for a wild pitch. It looked like he (Luis Ramirez) just left on up (in the strike zone) and out of all the pitchers, that was really the only mistake made during the day.”

With their opportunity to answer, Williamsport had no luck at all as Cory Malcolm came on to slam the door shut on the Cutters to preserve the 2-0 win.

Ramirez took the loss for Williamsport; Gabe Gentner picked up the win for the Spikes.

Now 2-1 in the early going, the Spikes return to Medlar Field tonight to begin a three-game series with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. First pitch for that game is set for 7:05.