UNIVERSITY PARK — Samuel Gonzalez took one swing and sent a towering home run ball over the left field fence at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Gonzalez’s solo shot in the bottom of the ninth was the final highlight on a night of few for State College, which lost to Hudson Valley 4-2 on Wednesday night.
Instead, this opener of a three-game series with the Renegades (28-15) was full of coachable moments.
Hudson Valley broke open a 1-1 game in in the top of the eighth inning to take a lead it would never relinquish. The Renegades plated three runs off two hits and were aided by a costly throwing error from a Spikes player making his season debut in right field.
“The game was ours to win as well tonight, but we didn’t do that,” State College manager Dave Turgeon said. “We didn’t execute the small things. So when you’re not banging it and you’re not throwing shutouts every night, you can’t make those mistakes.”
Kyle Haynes relieved Lance Breedlove in the eighth, and after a strikeout to begin the inning, gave up back-to-back singles to Hudson Valley’s Thomas Coyle and Joey Rickard. Luke Maile followed with a single of his own to plate Coyle before Rickard scored on an errant throw from State College right fielder Jesus Vasquez. Maile would score on a Ryan Dunn sacrifice fly to end the scoring for the Renegades.
Vasquez finished with a hit in his debut for State College, one made necessary by injuries to all three of State College’s starting outfielders.
But Walker Gourley, Tyler Gaffney and Barrett Barnes aren’t the only State College players who have found themselves out of action recently.
The reality is the disabled list more closely resembles a normal Spikes lineup than an actual lineup card.
Pitchers Jordan Cooper and John Kuchno are all out, while catcher Ryan Hornback, outfielder Raul Fortunato and pitcher Jake Burnette all have had their seasons ended by injuries recently.
“It’s hard to replace six really good players and just say, ‘Ok, let’s just transition this thing,’” Turgeon said. “So, in the past we’ve had some skids, but this is one of those things for me that I’m exposing some other guys. I’m putting them in situations. They have to produce. If they don’t, they can’t say they didn’t have this opportunity. For me, this is very good character time. It’s not always going to be easy.”
In addition to Vasquez, who hit in Gaffney’s usual leadoff spot, Jimmy Rider made his first appearance at Medlar Field playing second base for State College.
While Rider and Vasquez give Turgeon options moving forward, the State College skipper anticipates more moves to come.
The Spikes made a move in the fifth inning when they opted to send Breedlove into the game to relieve starter Clay Holmes with the game tied.
Holmes battled Hudson Valley starter Sean Bierman, the Renegades lineup and himself for much of the night.
“Some nights you just don’t have your stuff and I felt like that was one of those nights for me,” Holmes said. “I didn’t have my command with any of my pitches so you’ve just got to find something, go from pitch to pitch and try to get outs and that’s what I was trying to do tonight.”
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ ninth-round pick in 2011, Holmes walked five batters, four of them on four pitches, and struggled with his command, tossing 40 balls to 38 strikes.
But the Renegades did minimal damage when Holmes was on the mound, earning just one run on two hits.
Still, Turgeon walked onto the hill and let Holmes know he didn’t have his best stuff.
“‘What you did was you grinded tonight and you’re going to have to do this many more times in your career,’” Turgeon said he told his starter. “‘So file this one. Learn from this one. I thought you did a great job of giving us a chance to win the game.’”
Hudson Valley tallied its lone run off of Holmes in the top of the second. After back-to-back groundouts, Deshun Dixon drew a walk before Jake DePew singled to left. Rickard notched his first RBI of the evening with a single to right to plate Dixon.
The Spikes battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth when D.J. Crumlich belted an RBI single up the middle of the field to plate Rider.
Holmes had numerous family members on hand who all wore T-shirts with Holmes’ name and number on the back.
The Spikes have lost four straight games and now third in the Pinckney Division and trail the first-place Auburn Doubledays by 3 1/2 games heading into tonight’s game.
“This is a point in our season where we do have a lot of guys hurt, on the DL, going through one of those stretches. I think if we can make it through this, get everybody healthy, this will be a big part of how our season goes I think.”