State College falls to Doubledays in series finale

Spikes handed first series loss at home

UNIVERSITY PARK – The Auburn Doubledays took the rubber game and the series with a 7-2 win over the State College Spikes Sunday evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

The Spikes (10-6) remain in first place in the Pinckney Division by a half game over Batavia, who lost 4-2 to Mahoning Valley. Auburn improved to 7-8 on the season.

Rafael Bautista, a former major leaguer on a rehab stint with Auburn, did the most damage, going 3-for-5 with an RBI, two runs scored and two steals.

State College lost its first series at home this season after winning the first two. The Spikes left nine runners stranded after leaving 16 on base in game one.

“We had a tough time putting the ball in play with runners on base this series. Like I said before, it’s early in the season and I’m not worried about it,” Spikes manager Jose Leon said. “The guys have been playing pretty good. We didn’t get the hits when we needed them, but I’m happy with how the guys played. That’s all that matters right now.”

Auburn drew first blood when Bautista reached on an infield single and advanced to third on a double by Jose Sanchez. Bautista later scored on a wild pitch by Spikes starter Scott Politz for the 1-0 lead in the first.

The Doubledays made it 2-0 in the second after Anthony Peroni doubled to left center, went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jake Randa, and plated on a sacrifice fly to right by Colton Pogue.

Auburn added two more runs in the fourth. Jake Alu cracked his second double of the game, scoring Pogue, who reached on a fielder’s choice. Bautista laced a single to left bringing home Alu.

State College broke through with a run in the bottom of the fourth when Matt Duce, who reached on a line drive to center, came home on a throwing error by Auburn relief pitcher Adrian Martinez.

“We’ve been playing well and as long as the guys go out, play hard and give it their all, I’m good with that,” Leon said. “Hopefully, we continue to play hard in the next series and do the little things we have to do to keep winning. We are still in first place. It’s early in the season and we need to keep up the effort.”

The Spikes cut the deficit in half in the seventh after Carlos Soto ripped a two-out triple off the wall in center and came home on a base hit to right by Duce, who went 5-for-8 in the series to raise his average to .452 on the season.

“I’m trying to keep it simple and hit the ball hard. Thankfully, they keep putting my name in the lineup, so I want to keep doing the best I can up there,” Duce said. “I’m trying to do my best to help the team. I want to have competitive at-bats and get myself in good counts to hit. We had a pretty decent homestand, we’re excited to get on the road and try to win both series. The team plays hard. We got some good guys in from the draft. I’m excited.”

Leon said if Duce keeps his hot hand he’ll stay in the starting lineup.

“He’s taking charge. We want to get more talent in the lineup and he’s doing the things he has to do to stay in the lineup. I’m going to keep him in there as long as I can,” Leon said. “Hopefully, he keeps doing what he’s doing.”

Bautista gave Auburn a run in the eighth when he singled with two outs, stole second, reached third on a throwing error and scored on a base hit to left by Sanchez. The Doubledays put the nail in the coffin when Jake Randa plated two runs with a triple to center field in the ninth.

State College failed to capitalize on golden opportunities to score in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, The Spikes had runners on first and third and couldn’t bring a run across. In the sixth, Donivan Williams, David Vinsky and Dariel Gomez all reached on singles to load the bases with one out, but Luis Flores hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

The Doubledays out-hit the Spikes 10-9. Duce, Williams and Jonatan Machado had two hits each for State College. Bautista led Auburn with three hits while Peroni, Sanchez and Alu had two hits apiece.

“One positive thing is we had (Moises) Castillo and Soto in the lineup for the fifth straight game and they continue to produce and do a good job,” Leon said. “We are looking for consistency from those guys. The bottom line is as long as the guys are doing the right thing and producing, we’ll be okay.”

Adrian Martinez (1-0) picked up the win for Auburn. Politz (0-1) suffered the loss for the Spikes.

State College begins a six-game road trip against second-place Batavia today. Game time is 7:05 p.m.

“We want to continue to play hard, give a hundred percent every night and whatever happens, happens,” Leon said. “As long as the guys are healthy and playing the right way, I’m okay with that.”