Spikes win two, sweep ’Cutters

UNIVERSITY PARK — It was bonus baseball time at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Monday night as State College and Williamsport treated the fans to 14 innings of baseball.

It took 4 1/2 innings to complete the suspended game that was eventually won 3-0 by the Spikes, while it took an extra inning to decide the night cap with the Spikes prevailing 5-4 in eight innings to complete the sweep.

The Spikes’ offense was present right out of the gate in the first game as they parlayed three hits and a base on balls into three runs.

Nick Dunn — now with Peoria — gave the Spikes the initial lead in the game when he picked on a Manuel Silva fastball and deposited it into the bleachers in right field.

On the heels of Dunn’s round tripper, Brady Whalen walked, Stanley Espinal singled to left, Kevin Woodall chased Whalen home with an RBI double to right and Alexis Wilson plated Espinal with an RBI ground out.

Jacob Schlesener was brilliant for the first four innings of the first game before the rain came and forced the suspension.

Unable to come back and finish the game, Schlesener only allowed two runs while striking out 10 Cutter hitters to tie the Spikes record of ten punch outs.

“I think the thing that people might forget about is the job Schlesener did to begin that game,” Spikes manager Joe Kruzel said. “For us to get those three runs and then hold on was huge. They (Cutters) had some opportunities to dig into our lead, but our pitchers (Michael) Baird and (Kevin) Hamann did a good job of limiting them and not giving them any big chances to score. In the end, it was our pitching and defense that really helped us win that game.”

In the second inning of game two, the Cutters did something they couldn’t do in the first game as they scored a run. Ben Aklinski ripped a triple off the boards in center and with Jake Holmes at the dish, Aklinski scored when Diego Cordero uncorked a wild pitch.

Keeping the bats rolling, Seth Lancaster followed suit to Aklinski when he ripped a leadoff triple to right and scored on Jesse Wilkening’s RBI single to make it 2-0 Cutters.

“We did some really good things early in the game that might not have shown up on the score sheet,” Kruzel said. “Cordero did an outstanding job for us. He gave up a leadoff triple in the first and wild-pitched a guy in and then he gave up another leadoff triple and a base hit scored their guy. After that, he threw zeros up. Instead of letting the game get out of hand, he kept it at a point where we had a chance.”

Trailing 2-0, the Spikes warmed up their bats in the fifth inning as they combined a double by Wadye Ynfanti, an RBI single by Delvin Perez, an RBI single by Imeldo Diaz, an RBI fielder’s choice by Lars Nootbaar and an RBI triple to left field by Edwin Figuera that produced four runs.

“We had some really good at-bats there,” Kruzel said. “We drove some guys in and after (Winston) Nicacio gave up the big home run, he gave us a chance to get the winning run in. Those guys did some real good things for us.

“It seems like we play a lot of extra-inning games against Williamsport,” Kruzel continued. “Tonight was the third or fourth time we went into extra innings with them. Our intention was to go out there and get the runner to third, but I changed my mind. He (Whalen) placed it perfectly over the shortstop’s head to give Espinal an opportunity to score.”

Trailing 4-2, the Cutters again warmed up their bats to tie the game in the sixth. With one out, Edwin Rodriguez singled to center field and one out later, Seth Lancaster went yard to right for his first home run of the season.

The four-all deadlock prevailed after the regulation seven innings and that meant even more bonus baseball for the fans.

Williamsport placed Alec Bohm on second for its designated runner, but a pair of strikeouts and a pop out to second kept Bohm there for the duration.

For the Spikes Stanley Espinal was the designated runner and after one out and an intentional walk, Kruzel called on Brady Whalen and Whalen delivered with a single to center and Espinal sprinted home ahead of the throw for the winning run and the 5-4 final.

“The plan always stays the same as far as hunting the fastball,” Whalen said. “Knowing that first base was open, it was in the back of my mind that he was going to throw me some breaking balls. When he threw the first one for a strike I thought he might come back with another one and he did. It jammed me and I broke the bat but I was able to put it in the right spot for the hit.”

With the win, the Spikes have now won 12 of their last 14 games overall, including 12 in a row on the road.

“Winning is contagious and playing well is contagious and it is not about how your start, but how you finish,” Whalen said. “We didn’t start (the season) the way we wanted to, but we are picking it up now and we are going to finish strong.”