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Spikes surge late, stay in playoff hunt

NILES, Ohio — Matt Duce collected four hits and Pedro Pages reached base five times to lead the State College Spikes’ offense, and the Spikes scored eight unanswered runs over the seventh and eighth to erase a deficit and defeat the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, 10-3, on Friday night at Eastwood Field.

The Spikes’ (38-35) victory enabled them to stay alive in the New York-Penn League playoff race, though barely. State College’s elimination number in the Pinckney Division is down to one after Batavia defeated West Virginia, meaning the Spikes need to win their last three games along with three losses each for Batavia and West Virginia to slip into the postseason.

Trailing 3-2 after Johnathan Rodriguez launched a two-run homer to left for Mahoning Valley (35-37) in the sixth the Spikes responded in a huge way with five runs in the seventh.

Pages started the rally with a leadoff single, then scored the tying run on Duce’s double. After Dariel Gomez was intentionally walked, Andrew Warner was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and new Spike Liam Sabino singled to left to bring in Duce with the go-ahead run.

Scrappers shortstop Brayan Rocchio then committed a fielding error that lead to Gomez and Warner crossing the plate, and one batter later, Luis Flores brought in Sabino with an RBI groundout to make it 7-3.

In the eighth, the Spikes kept up the pace as Pages doubled for third hit of the night and 17th two-base hit of the season, then scored on Duce’s single, his fourth hit of the game. After Stanley Espinal reached on a Texas Leaguer to center, Warner doubled both runners in to complete the scoring.

State College had taken the opening lead of the game when Gomez singled in Pages in the first. Gomez, who hit three home runs and drove in six runs for the series, was intentionally walked twice with first base open during the game.

In addition to his three hits, Pages added a walk and was hit by a pitch in the game. Duce’s four hits marked the fourth time this year a Spikes player collected four or more hits in a game, and the first since David Vinsky tied a franchise record with five hits against Staten Island on July 13.

Mahoning Valley tied it in the first when Bryan Lavastida produced an RBI single, but the Spikes jumped back out in front in the third on Espinal’s sacrifice fly to right field.

Spikes starter Scott Politz (4-3) earned the win after producing his first quality start of the season on the road. Politz, who has yielded just four earned runs over his last 32 innings at home, carried a 12.21 road ERA into the game before a six-inning performance in which he yielded three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out four batters.

Cameron Dulle retired all six batters he faced in relief, three via strikeout, before Eric Lex tossed a scoreless, one-hit ninth inning that included one strikeout to finish the game for State College.

Former Penn State pitcher Eric Mock (1-1) made his first appearance against the Spikes and took the loss. Mock, who was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 25th round this year after pitching for the Nittany Lions, who share Medlar Field at Lubrano Park with the Spikes, gave up five runs, three of them earned, on three hits, two hit batsmen, and one walk while striking out three batters over three innings.

Rodriguez’s homer in the sixth inning off Politz was his sixth of the season. Lavastida produced the only multi-hit game for the Scrappers.

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