UNIVERSITY PARK — With highlights like State College batters hitting a pair of triples and a pair of homers, you expect good results.
But it was the opportunities that were missed, like having the bases loaded with no outs in back-to-back innings and only one run to show for it that proved more important.
An absolutely horrendous ninth inning turned out to be too much to overcome for the Spikes as they stumbled and bumbled to a 10-8 defeat to the Auburn Doubledays in front of 4,380 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Auburn scored six runs thanks in large part to three State College errors in the top of the ninth in what looked destined to be a 5-4 Spikes win.
It ruined a big night for Tyler Gaffney, who clocked two triples and a double, and Jesus Vasquez, who belted a pair of solo home runs. Jacob Stallings also homered for State College.
The loss may have proved most costly in the Spikes’ slim hopes of winning the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division as they dropped both games in the two-game series to fall 51/ 2 games behind the Doubledays.
“We’re in short-season A, there are a lot of mistakes that are going to be made,” Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said. “We committed four errors, (struck out) 15 times and had the tying run come to the plate in the ninth inning. That shows the kind of team that doesn’t really stop playing. We gave them an outstanding finish.”
The ninth was just miserable for State College, with the first eight Doubleday batters of the inning reaching base and a total of 10 stepping to the plate.
With Kyle Haynes, who had been 6- for-6 in save situations this season, brought in to shut the door to start the ninth, he instead allowed a walk and single to open the frame. Narciso Mesa then hit a bouncer to shortstop Chris Diaz that was bobbled to leave everyone safe and score a run.
Mike McQuillan then put down a bunt that Haynes picked up and sent high over third base to bring another run home, and Tony Renda chopped a single up the middle to score two more. Brandon Miller was next and hit a comebacker to Haynes that he couldn’t quite corral for a single, and Estarlin Martinez bunted the ball back to reliever Josh Smith that was thrown all the way to the right field corner to bring home two more.
A double play and ground out finally ended the misery.
“We had it set up,” Turgeon said. “We had our guy out there, but it’s not going to happen for (Haynes) every timeout there. … Next save situation we’re going to run him right back out there.”
The Spikes at least put up a good fight in the bottom of the ninth, with Gaffney doubling to finish 3-for-3 with two walks. He scored on a D.J. Crumlich one-out double, which was followed by Stallings’ home run over the left-field fence. Vasquez then singled with two out to bring the tying run to the plate, but Samuel Gonzalez popped out to right field to end the game.
Gaffney’s first triple bounced just short of the wall in dead-center field, right in front of the 399-foot sign, and he scored on a Walker Gourley groundout. In the third, he laced a two-out shot to the gap in right-center, then raced home when Gourley’s grounder to third was thrown away.
Vasquez turned on a 3-1 pitch to lead off the sixth, depositing the ball over the fence in left-center to tie the game, and wrapped his other homer around the left-field foul pole to start the eighth.
The Doubledays got to starter Luis Heredia in the fourth, with the righty issuing a pair of full-count walks, then a Wander Ramos grounder that appeared destined to be a double play instead only got the runner at second as shortstop Diaz’s relay throw was in the dirt and bounced away from first baseman Gonzalez to bring in a run.
Auburn then pounded five straight hits to chase Heredia, including an RBI double just inside the third-base bag by Wes Schill and a two-run single from Spencer Kieboom that skipped just inside first base.
Dalton Friend was brought in for early relief with runners on the corners and put out the fire with a strikeout and groundout.
Heredia, who entered the game unbeaten with a 1.88 ERA, gave up an uncharacteristic six hits and four earned runs in 31/ 3 innings with two walks and two strikeouts. He was frequently
behind in the count and his pitches were up, giving the Doubledays more flyouts than he usually gives up and eventually that string of hits.
“Hopefully he can learn from his experience today and grow from it,” Turgeon said. “He was up in the zone a little bit, especially in that last inning. I’ve seen him compete better than he did today.”
The Spikes loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, but Vasquez grounded to third to get a runner erased at home plate before Gonzalez bounced into a double play.
State College loaded them again without any outs in the fifth, and after a Gourley strikeout D.J. Crumlich drew a walk to force in a run. Two more strikeouts, however, doused that fire with the ball never being put in play in the inning.
“You can look at the inning where it was somewhat of a meltdown out there (in the ninth),” Turgeon said. “But there were a lot more things with panicky-type of at-bats, pressing at-bats early in the game that really cost us in the big picture.”
Notes: Left-handed pitcher Justin Ennis was promoted Saturday back to full-season Class A West Virginia. Ennis was 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA, pitching nine innings over eight games. … State College will hit the road for five games, visiting Williamsport to start a two-game series at 5:05 p.m. today, then returning to Auburn for three more games. Jason Creasy (0-4) will pitch for the Spikes against Ulises Joaquin (1-2). … State College has only 10 home games remaining on their schedule. … Monar, a 12th-round draft pick last year from Indiana University, was making his second start against the Spikes in eight days, pitching four shutout innings in a no-decision on Aug. 10. … The Bald Eagle Area VFW Teener League 15- 16-year old team was honored on the field before the start of the game after capturing the state championship earlier this month.