Spikes rally to victory in extras
UNIVERSITY PARK — If you like your baseball with lot of hits and runs, Medlar Field at Lubrano Park wasn’t the place to be Sunday evening.
Auburn and State College battled each other through the raindrops and nine innings of scoreless baseball before the Spikes made the most of the spot-runner situation by starting each extra inning with a runner on second base to pull out a 3-2 win in 10 innings.
“You have to give a lot of credit to our kids man. They really hang in there and compete,” Spikes manager Joe Kruzel said. “In the top of the tenth inning we had an unfortunate non-play and when we thought we had an out, the call went against us. (Justin) Toerner throwing that guy at third base for the first out was a huge play after they had scored two runs.”
Going into the bottom of the tenth trailing 2-0, it was time for the Spikes to do their thing.
“(Wadye) Infante’s big hit to get the guy in and then (Matt) Duce’s big bunt for a sacrifice was big. He ended up getting on base which was a plus. We had some at-bats and a couple of good base-running decisions that made it happen,” Kruzel said. “For a while the way the game was going, I didn’t think we were going to get a runner on second base until the tenth when you start with a runner there. We didn’t cash in on the few opportunities we had but by the same token, we made the most of them when they counted.”
Maybe the biggest quality the Spikes posses is they refuse to lose.
“That has been the approach with these guys all year and that is a great quality this group has,” Kruzel praised. “We have had that attitude for pretty much the whole year because when they get themselves into a predicament, sooner or later they are going to come through.”
In the 10th, the Doubledays scored a pair of runs to go on top 2-0 and then it was the Spikes turn to record their third walkoff win of the season.
After loading the bases with nobody out, it appeared that their efforts might go for naught. However, when the Doubledays decided to issue an intentional pass to Brady Whalen, that brought Lars Nootbaar to the dish.
On the second pitch offered to Nootbaar, he was “plunked” on the shoulder with the pitch, allowing Brandon Benson to trot home with the game-winner.
Jake Dahlberg was the story for much of the day for the Spikes as the lefty started and worked the first seven innings.
Dahlberg scattered five hits, walked two and struck out a career best eight Doubledays.
“That was the same thing from him (Dahlberg) that we have been seeing from him all year,” Kruzel said. “The way he continued to pitch when he didn’t get any run support was big and he made some really quality pitches when they had runners on third with less than two outs. He did real good job of executing his game plan of keeping their hitters off balance and then when he needed them, he got some really big outs.”
As for Dahlberg’s assessment of his success, he simply turned to his being able to execute the game plan.
“To me, being successful is about being consistent,” Dahlberg said. “I try not to being my previous outings into the one at hand because every day is a new day for me and every inning is a new inning. I have a job to do and I understand what I am good at so I just go out and try to play my game and the results speak themselves. That being said, I just try to do whatever I can do to help the team win.”
So what was Dahlberg’s plan going into the game?
“We understand what pitches I have and we like to work in and out to different hitters,” Dahlberg said. “I just try to mix things up by working above and below the zone to keep the hitters off balance. As I see hitters more and more during the game, I try not to start them with the same pitch all the time. Basically our game plan is to pitch ahead and stay ahead and today things work well for me.
Although he didn’t figures into the decision, Dahlberg was quick to point out the importance of the team getting the win.
“It always feels good to see the guys come back regardless of how many runs we need,” he said. “They never back down and one at-bat after another, they just keep battling and eventually it paid off for us. It really feels good to have gotten this win before we head out on a road trip.”
The Spikes now embark on a road trip that takes them to Connecticut and Lowell before returning home for their next homestand on July 30.