Nootbaar leads Spikes’ comeback

STATE COLLEGE — In the greatest comeback in State College Spikes history, Lars Nootbaar set a franchise record with seven runs batted in to help the Spikes charge back from a 7-0 deficit in the first to defeat the Auburn Doubledays, 11-10, Friday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The Spikes (34-32) knocked the Doubledays (35-31) out of first place in the race for the New York-Penn League’s only Wild Card berth with the win, and climbed fourth place just 1 ¢ games back of new leader Staten Island with 10 games remaining in the 2018 regular season.

Nootbaar’s record-setting evening began with the 14th grand slam in Spikes history on a 1-1 pitch off Tanner Driskill in the fifth to bring State College within 7-5. The blast was also the first professional home run for the USC product.

The following inning, Nootbaar gave the Spikes their first lead of the night when his two-out, two-run single to left put State College up 9-7. In the eighth, Nootbaar capped off his heroics with a sacrifice fly to right field to allow the Spikes to retake the lead at 10-9.

Nootbaar surpassed the previous State College record of six RBI in a game, set by Kyle Morgan on July 12, 2009 against Jamestown and matched by Brandon Benson on July 6, 2017 at Williamsport.

The Spikes also had to escape a late jam, as after Delvin Perez followed Nootbaar’s sacrifice fly with an RBI single to make it 11-9, Auburn surged in the ninth. Following a walk to Jamori Blash and a Jose Sanchez single, Ricardo Mendez doubled to left field. However, the ball bounced over the outfield wall for a ground-rule double, holding Sanchez at third and keeping the Spikes in front at 11-10.

Edwin FIguera then turned a game-ending double play at third, fielding a ground ball, tagging Sanchez and throwing Cody Wilson out at first to preserve the win.

Auburn had taken a huge lead early, sending 13 batters to the plate and plating seven runs on just four hits while knocking Spikes starter Chris Holba out of the box after just 1/3 of an inning. The Doubledays also took advantage of three walks, an error and a hit batsman to grab the advantage in the opening frame.

Spikes reliever Troy Montemayor (3-1) picked up the win after recording all three outs in the eighth. Montemayor, who yielded the game-tying run on the only hit he allowed, a single by Jacob Rhinesmith, recorded one strikeout in the victorious effort.

Edgar Gonzalez (2) earned the save by closing out the game in the ninth. Gonzalez gave up one run on two hits and a walk while striking out one batter.

Auburn reliever Aaron Fletcher (0-1) took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits and a hit batsman over 2 1/3 innings. Fletcher, the only one of the Doubledays’ five pitchers to go more than two innings in the contest, also struck out three batters.

Doubledays pitchers hit a total of five batters in the game, while State College hurlers also hit a pair of Auburn batsmen.

The win ran the Spikes’ record over the last 18 games to 15-3.

State College now seeks a sweep of the three-game set against Auburn at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park in a 7:05 p.m. matchup tonight. Left-hander Diego Cordero (2-3) will get the ball for the Spikes, while the Doubledays have not yet finalized their starting pitcher for the game.