UNIVERSITY PARK — UNWalker Gourley wasn’t about to swing at just any pitch. But the State College Spikes’ leadoff hitter didn’t want to wait around to get his team’s offense going, either.
A night after the Spikes (31-34) put on a dreadful offensive display, striking out 13 times, Gourley sent the first pitch he saw on Saturday night into the far right corner of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for a leadoff double.
Samuel Gonzalez followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Gourley to third and D.J. Crumlich doubled to right to plate Gourley and the Spikes’ offensive resurgence — and the 5-0 rout of Jamestown (28-36) — was on.
“After a night like (Friday), you don’t want to go up there and be impatient,” Gourley said. “You don’t want to go up there and miss good pitches to hit. I felt as a team, we really did a good job tonight when we did get the fastballs, we put them in play hard.”
In turn, State College’s pitchers did their part to keep the Spikes longshot playoff hopes alive. They are 71/ 2 games behind Pinckney Division-leading
Auburn (38-26) and eight games out of the wild card race with 11 games to play.
Spikes’ starter Clay Holmes pitched five innings, rebounding after a slow start, to give up just two hits through five shutout innings. Holmes gave up a single to the second batter he faced, Jamestown’s Cody Keefer, and got behind on the first three hitters of the game.
But after Holmes threw wildly behind Anthony Gomez, a mound visit from catcher Jacob Stallings helped the Spikes’ ace settle in soon after. Holmes (5-3) retired 11 of the next 13 hitters he faced.
“I’ve had a couple of rough starts here and tried to not let that carry over,” Holmes, who had gone 0-2 with eight runs surrendered in his last two starts, said. “It got to a point where if I wanted to throw five innings, I needed to start getting ahead in counts and from there letting them put it play. I was able to do that and things started falling in place after that.”
In the meantime, Holmes got support from up and down the lineup.
Seven State College players notched hits while three batted in runs. After Gourley got them started, the Spikes did major damage in the second inning against Jamestown starter Drew Steckenrider (1-2).
After Chris Diaz flew out to begin the frame, Jon Schwind drew a walk before David Valesente and Jodaneli Carvajal followed with back-to-back singles. Schwind scored on Carvajal’s liner to right and Gourley reached on a fielder’s choice. Samuel Gonzalez roped a single of his own to plate both Valesente and Carvajal. Finally, Crumlich followed with a sacrifice that allowed Gourley to score, giving the Spikes a 5-0 lead.
“Situationally, we were very good tonight as a whole,” Gourley said. “My job at the top of the order is to get on base for those guys and D.J., he did a good job there situationally. We had Sammy with a big hit there with the bases loaded the next inning. Really, I think it was our aggression on the fastball tonight.”
Defensively, the Spikes were flawless again. Behind the playmaking abilities of shortstop Chris Diaz who notched seven assists, State College extended its errorless streak to 20 innings.
“He’s been good all year,” Holmes said of Diaz. “Every pitcher on the staff wants (balls hit) to shortstop. He’s solid out there. The rest of the defense, we’ve had a lot of great assists from the outfield. That helped me early in the game, especially keep my pitch count lower.”
Spikes’ relievers John Kuchno and Isaac Sanchez combined to hold the Jammers scoreless through three innings. Kuchno struck out two Jammers in the sixth before Sanchez allowed no runs on three hits.
Jamestown had a chance against Sanchez to dent the Spikes’ lead, however. With two outs in the seventh, Jamestown’s Michael Vaughn singled to right before Pedro Mendoza smacked a ground ball single to left.
Sharif Othman stepped to the plate as Vaughn took a generous lead toward third base. But Stallings caught him napping and threw him out at second before Othman could lunge back to the bag to end the Jammers’ frame.
The Spikes’ bullpen combined to retire six of the next nine batters the rest of the way to preserve Holmes’ win.
“We’ve had good pitching and pretty good defense all year,” Gourley said. “At the plate, we’ve been a little up and down but I think that tonight was a good example of what we need to strive for every night.”
Travis Johnson can be reached at 231-4629. Follow him on Twitter @traviswjohnson_