State College ends 7-game losing skid on walk-off

STATE COLLEGE — Borrowing the words of the late Jim Valvano, “Whatever you do, never give up.”

Subscribing from Valvano’s philosophy, the State College Spikes snapped their seven-game losing skid Friday with a 6-5 walk-off win over the Williamsport Crosscutters before 4,421 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“It feels good, real good,” Spikes manager Joe Kruzel said. “You can hear them (Spikes players celebrating) in there and I am really happy for them because it was a total team effort. We fought to get back into the game and then they hit a couple of home runs against us to take the lead.”

Not necessarily thought of as a power hitting team coming into the season, the Cutters flexed their muscles for three home runs as they used the long ball to put the Spikes backs against the wall.

The Cutters jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Rafael Machan singled to center, stole second and on the 12th pitch of his at-bat, Alec Bohm chased Machan home on an RBI single to center.

Answering the call with two outs, the Spikes came right back with a run of their own in the bottom of the first.

Wadye Ynfante smacked a ground rule double to right, moved to third when Cutter pitcher Ethan Lindow was called for a balk and scored on an RBI single to left by Wood Myers.

With the tie holding through the second, Edwin Rodriguez took matters in his own hands in the third as he picked on a 2-2 offering from Jim Voyles and deposited it over the right field fence for a 2-run homer to give the Cutters a 3-1 lead.

Continuing to swing the big bats, Matt Kroon led off the fourth with a solo home run to right and Matt Vierling made it a hat trick of home runs for the Cutters with a solo blast just inside the pole in left field.

Trailing 6-1, the Spikes cut a pair off their deficit in the seventh and it could have easily been more.

Joe Gomez walked and later scored on a passed ball and Justin Toerner followed with a ringing double to left.

Nick Dunn plated Toerner with an RBI double to right and Edwin Figuera followed with a shallow single to left.

“We had the rally going in the seventh and a couple of base running decisions hurt us,” said Kruzel. “That ball came right off the wall and back to the catcher and that was just an fortunate for us.”

Guilty of running into some questionable outs in recent games Figuera was cut down trying to steal second for the first out of the inning and on a passed ball, Dunn was cut down at the plate on a rebound off the wall behind home plate.

Trailing 6-3, the Spikes wasted a golden opportunity in the eighth when they “juiced” the sacks, but came up empty on the scoreboard.

But then it happened as the Spikes picked up the big walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.

With one out, Figuera singled to center, but Infante struck out for the second out of the inning.

But that is when Brady Whalen, Wood Myers and Stanley Espinal came through with hits, Whalen’s an RBI single and Espinal’s the two-run walk-off single to win the game.

“They kept battling, even with first guy making an out (in the ninth) but we just kept battling and battling to come up with some big hits,” said Kruzel. “Whalen came up with a big hit, Myers with a big hit but none as big as Stanley’s walkoff pinch-hit.”

Espinal had hurt Williamsport earlier in the season with a two-run home run at Bowman field.

“Part of our decision was made on that,” Kruzel said about Espinal’s earlier success. “He got a good ball to hit and he put a good swing on it. The play was closer at the plate than I thought it could have been, but it is better to be on this side of things than the one we had been on for seven days.”

A monkey off the Spikes backs with the win to snap the losing skid?

“I am not sure if it was a monkey,” Kruzel said. “I think some of the guys might have thought it was a gorilla because they just kept coming up short despite battling and battling. With this win, maybe they can go out and play a little more relaxed now.”