UNIVERSITY PARK — Lowell’s Aaron King stepped to the plate with his team trailing 3-2 in the sixth inning after coming up empty during previously undisciplined at-bats.
King atoned with a two-run home run off Jhonny Polanco, after the State College reliever hung a first-pitch change-up over the plate that King crushed over the fence in right-center field.
“I had been making poor decisions and swinging at bad pitches out of the zone so mainly I was just trying to see a good pitch to hit,” King said after the game.
The blast not only gave the Spinners the lead, but also the momentum needed to hang on for a 4-3 win, despite being outhit 14-9 in front of 3, 034 fans Thursday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Steven Ramos led the Spikes with his fifth multi-hit game in six starts. The centerfielder went 4-for-5, and is now 22-for-40 in his last 11 games. Carson Kelly went 3-for-4.
State College (15-14) accumulated enough hits to win, but couldn’t muster the timely ones needed to secure victory. Base-running blunders hampered threats even when they did.
“The timing of base hits wasn’t there and we made a couple of mistakes on the bases that hurt us in key situations,” said State College manager Oliver Marmol. “We definitely outhit them but they weren’t at opportune times.”
State College went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Simon Mercedes (2-1) got the win in relief for the Spinners.
Polanco (0-2) took the loss in relief of starter Andrew Pierce, who perhaps had his strongest outing in State College.
An eighth-round pick in 2013, Pierce went five innings and gave up one run on four hits in his longest outing this season.
The right-hander from Southern Mississippi said Marmol had been on him to get through four innings because his previous best was 3 2/3.
“I’m learning,” Pierce said. “It’s definitely a new thing here, but to come out knowing you did well is something to definitely build off next time.”
The usually stout State College bullpen recovered nicely after a hiccup.
After Polanco gave up three runs on two hits and three walks in the sixth without recording an out, Jacob Booden came in and sutured the bleeding.
The 6-foot-7, 235-pound right-hander struck out five of the six batters he faced. Victor De Leon also pitch two scoreless innings and struck out three. The damage had been done however.
“We finally came through with a couple of timely hits,” said Lowell manager Bruce Crabbe. “That’s something we haven’t been doing real well lately and our pitching has been keeping us in ballgames.”
After starter Corey Littrell gave up three hits in two innings of work, Mercedes pitched a strong five innings of relief, scattering nine hits, striking out five and giving up two runs.
The Spikes looked poised to challenge Mercedes in the seventh after Ramos and Caldwell (2-for-5) both singled with one out and the score 4-2. But Caldwell was nailed easily at second trying to stretch for a double and Ronald Castillo followed with a strikeout on three pitches.
“If you’re going to make a mistake I’d rather you make an aggressive mistake and that’s what that was,” Marmol said of Caldwell. “But also understand the importance of your run.”
Matt Maloney (1), on rehab assignment with the Spinners after four years of major league experience with the Reds and Twins, got the save after giving up one unearned run on two hits and three strikeouts.
The Spikes and Spinners will conclude the three-game series Friday night at 7:05 p.m. when right-hander Juan Bautista (0-2) goes for State College and Lowell starts right-hander Jamie Callahan (1-1).