WILLIAMSPORT Mitch Walding shifted his weight onto his left knee and waited for the only pitch Justin Ennis could throw in a precarious situation.
The pitch, predictably a fastball, sailed through the humid air, enlarging as it reached the 19-year-old
Williamsport Crosscutters third baseman.
The pitch selection and result demonstrated the State College Spikes plight in Wednesdays 13-1 loss.
Walding crushed the fastball off the center-field wall at Bowman Field, an expansive 86-year-old ballpark tucked in Williamsports West End.
The 400-foot, two-run single occurred in a seven-run fourth. Ennis, who started throwing a knuckleball just three weeks ago, replaced professional
newcomer Dalton Friend. Experimenting with a knuckleball with a 3-1 count? Not recommended.
The inning represented an only-in-the-minor-leagues moment: A left-hander learning a knuckleball entering the fourth inning of a 5-1 game with the bases loaded.
By the end of the fourth, the Crosscutters led 9-1. Whether it was a 19-year-old appearing in his first New York-Penn League game, a former college standout making his professional debut or a knuckleballer, the Crosscutters hit nearly everything they faced.
One guy starts it off and the whole mood gets better, Walding said. Momentum goes your way and it picks up. Everyone seems to be hitting the ball.
The Spikes, on the other hand, almost hit nothing.
Raul Fortunatos first-inning triple to right field was their only hit. Fortunato scored on Barrett Barnes sacrifice fly.
The 1-0 lead didnt last long as the Crosscutters used three hits and a throwing error to score twice in the bottom of the inning.
Only four Spikes reached base against the strike-throwing quartet of Jordan Guth, Hoby Milner, Matthew Sisto and Zach Cooper. The last time the Spikes finished with one hit was Aug. 4, 2010 against Staten Island.
It was competitive for about four, Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said. We were right in there. When it got out of control, they didnt have quality at-bats. They had out-of-control type of at-bats and immature at-bats, which is good now. We are going to have something to talk about at work.
Williamsport had quality at-bats throughout the game. The Crosscutters scored in four of their eight chances.
The fourth was the Crosscutters signature inning. They scored seven runs on six hits. Friend, a 12th-round round pick from Jefferson (Mo.) College, failed to retire any of the six batters he faced.
Friend threw primarily fastballs. Ennis, who allowed four hits and two runs in two innings, worked off a developing knuckleball and fastball.
I have faced a handful of knuckle-balls, but never a left-handed one, Walding said. You definitely have to take a second look at it because its very awkward and very weird. Once you see it the first time, it grows on you. The only thing you have to be careful of is not looking for the knuckleball because you will get blown away by the fastball.
Friend and Ennis followed 19-year-old Jake Brunette, who allowed four hits and two runs before reaching his strict pitch count after the third. Friend was one of four newly-drafted pitchers making his professional debut for the Spikes. Pat Ludwig, a 10th-round pick from Yale, and Josh Smith, a 25th-round pick from Wichita State, threw scoreless innings. Lance Breedlove, a 23rd-round pick from Yale, allowed three hits and three runs in the seventh.
They will be fine, Turgeon said. Those guys needs to get back on the horse, get some innings under their belt and make a few adjustments.
Walding was one of five Crosscutters to finish with multiple hits. Chris Serritella went 3-for-4, and Roman Quinn, Brock Stassi and Larry Greene each had two hits.
The Spikes should receive help soon. Infielders D.J. Crumlich, a ninth-round draft pick from UC Irvine, and Chris Diaz, an 11th-round draft pick from North Carolina State, were added to the active roster Wednesday. Both players should receive prominent roles when their respective careers begin.
(Today) is a new season, Turgeon said. We will have plenty of stuff to work on.
Note:Turgeon said we are just taking it a day at a time with outfielder Alex Fuselier, who suffered a concussion after running into Crosscutters manager Andy Tracy during batting practice on Tuesday. Fuselier didnt participate in any baseball-related activities Wednesday. Turgeon said Fuselier must pass testing before being cleared for action.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy