UNIVERSITY PARK — In his first start with State College, Brett Wiley paid immediate dividends with three game-changing RBIs that helped the Spikes complete a three-game sweep of Tri-City Thursday.
Wiley’s two-run triple in the fifth gave State College the lead, then the 13th-round pick in 2012 drove an insurance run home in the seventh to give the Spikes a three-run lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 4-1 win over the Valley Cats at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“Wiley did a nice job in our affiliate in Johnson City,” said Spikes’ manager Oliver Marmol. “He’s a guy that can hit in the middle of the lineup, but jumped in the nine hole today.”
The win was the Spikes’ sixth in a row at home and keeps them a half game back of Lowell in the New York-Penn League wild card standings.
Kevin Herget earned his NY-PL leading fifth win. Jacob Booden earned his first save. Tanner Bushue (3-2) was efficient early, but took the loss for the ValleyCats, who have now lost seven straight.
For the second night in a row, State College (23-19) got little production from the top of its order but was carried by its lower half.
The first six hitters combined to go 1-for-20. The last three went 5-for-9 and drove in all four runs.
Wiley went 2-for-3 with three RBIs batting ninth. Luis Perez hit seventh, went 2-for-3, scored two runs and drove in another. Luke Voit, who batted eighth, singled in the seventh with two outs, which kept the inning alive for Wiley to drive in the final run.
His team’s ability to strike from any spot in the order led Marmol to a simple conclusion about his squad after the game.
“That it’s well put together,” he said. “Whenever the middle doesn’t do it other guys find ways to score some runs.”
Herget (5-0) and the bullpen did their parts and stifled the ValleyCats’ offense. Picked in the 39th-round in June, the right-hander stands alone atop the NY-PL wins list.
“It feels good,” he said with an ear-to-ear grin. “That was another one that I earned. I didn’t vulture it.”
Herget went five and two-thirds, gave up four hits, struck out four and gave up just one run.
Herget said his first three wins came mostly in a mop-up role after his offense lavished him with run support. His last two outings, however, were both quality wins.
A strong showing was necessary Thursday because Bushue was dealing for Tri-City until trouble found him in the fifth.
The 6-foot-4, second-round pick in 2009 worked efficiently, retiring 12 straight after Jimmy Bosco singled in the first.
The 1-0 lead his team gave him after Tony Kemp opened the first with a triple, held until Bushue walked Carson Kelly in the fifth and then hit Mason Katz.
Perez made him pay with a single that scored Kelly. Wiley followed with the two-run triple that Ronnie Mitchell angled toward poorly in right.
Wiley was at it again with an RBI single in the seventh after Perez and Voit singled with two outs.
The second baseman just hopes to stay hot.
“I was really excited to get the chance to move up and keep playing,” Wiley said. “I knew I was coming to a pretty good team that was playing well at the time. I’ve been swinging it well and hopefully will continue to do that and help the team win.”
There were no nerves in his first start. To him, it’s simple.
“Not really,” Wiley said. “It’s just baseball. Just keep playing. It’s the same game no matter where you go.”
Friday, the Spikes begin a three-game series against the Vermont Lake Monsters (Oakland Athletics). Right-hander Arturo Reyes (0-1) will start for State College, while left-hander Brent Powers (4-1) is set to start for Vermont.