UNIVERSITY PARK — State College seems headed in one direction. Tri-City, for now, is certainly headed in the other.
After jumping ahead early, it appeared the Spikes squandered an opportunity when the ValleyCats took a late lead.
However, Oliver Marmol’s group rallied late and eventually outlasted Tri-City for a 7-4 win on Matt Adams bobblehead night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The win was the fifth consecutive for State College (23-19) at home, while Tri-City (26-18) dropped its sixth straight overall.
“That’s exactly how I felt the whole way through,” Marmol, the Spikes manager said. “I felt like if we didn’t score a couple runs there they were going to come back and we were going to lose that game.”
Instead, the offense supplied timely hits and the pitching staff shut the door.
Jhonny Polanco (1-2) earned the win in relief. Jeff Rauh got his team-leading third save.
Kevin Comer (2-4) took the loss.
The bottom half of the Spikes lineup did most of the heavy lifting offensively.
Luke Voit and Matthew Young each went 2-for-4 hitting eighth and ninth respectively. Mason Katz went 2-for-3 with two doubles hitting sixth.
Leadoff man Steven Ramos (2-for-5) was the only other Spike with multiple hits.
After struggling for most of the season, Young extended what he hoped was a clandestine hit streak to ten games.
“I knew, but I was kind of hoping nobody else would notice,” Young said with a sly smile. “Not much has changed. I’ve just tried to shorten my movements at the plate to make it easier to see the ball.”
Young hasn’t exactly been crushing hits to all fields so the streak has actually flown under the radar. Even Marmol reacted with surprise when told of its existence.
But after struggling for so long, Young isn’t picky about his hits.
“…Yesterday I had two of probably the ugliest hits of the day and I will take them gladly, with pride,” he said.
For Tri-City, it seems its manager wants his players to take ownership to halt the current losing skid and get back on track.
“I can’t stop it. They have to stop it,” said manager Ed Romero when asked if he could stop the streak from getting into his players’ heads. “They’re the ones who have to play so they are the ones who have to perform.”
Juan Bautista performed well for most of his start until succumbing to crooked-inning woes that have plagued him all season.
Bautista went five and two-thirds, gave up five hits, four earned runs and four walks. He pitched around two early leadoff walks and kept the ValleyCats off the board.
The Spikes struck first when David Washington singled home new Spike Juan Herrera from third.
After Tri-City got one off Bautista in the second, State College answered in the bottom half when Katz doubled to lead the inning and later scored on a Voit single. Voit would later score on an error.
However, the Spikes’ offensive stalled and allowed the ValleyCats to take a short-lived lead with two runs — with two outs — off Bautista in the sixth.
A two-run inning for State College in the seventh seized the lead and two more in the eighth added insurance.
“Those insuarance runs are huge,” Marmol said. “You want to get to the point where even if a guy gets on a home run doesn’t beat you. So those insurance runs are huge.”
The bullpen combination of Kyle Webb, Polanco and Rauh did the job, allowing just two hits and striking out a combined five hitters.
With the win, State College stays a game behind Lowell (24-18) in the New York-Penn League wild card standings. The Spikes also took a game back from Jamestown (27-15), who lost to Staten Island. State College is now just four games back of the Pinckney division leaders.
The teams will conclude the series Thursday at 7:05 p.m. when Kevin Herget (4-0) starts for State College. Tanner Bushue (3-1) is scheduled to start for Tri-City.