UNIVERSITY PARK — The State College Spikes use the comeback with such regularity that it’s almost possible to see the momentum shifting before it eventually engulfs an opponent.
The Jamestown Jammers were victimized yet again, as the Spikes scored six unanswered runs over the final four innings to take a 6-4 win and sweep a critical three-game series as the New York-Penn League playoffs loom.
The win reduces the Spikes’ magic number to clinch at least a wild card playoff spot to one and puts them four games up on the Jammers (41-29) in the Pinckney Divison. The magic number to win the division and to earn the top seed for the playoffs for State College (45-25) is also one.
Victor De Leon (5-2) earned the win and Jacob Booden got his third save. Andrew Otamendi (2-2) took the loss.
A night after Cesar Valera treated the home crowd to its eighth walk-off win this season, 5,063 patrons at the final regular-season contest at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park saw the Spikes mount another late comeback.
“Yeah, you can see the difference in our team (late),” said centerfielder Steven Ramos, who went 2-for-5 to increase his league-leading batting average to .357.
“We don’t really panic,” he continued. “…Especially since how many times we’ve done it. We’re kind of used to it and it’s not that big a deal anymore.”
Maybe the comeback’s writing was scrawled on the wall because of the pressure State College consistently put on the Jammers.
The Spikes were 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position — a poor percentage — but the number of attempts was telling.
“Especially early in the game when we had so many runners on base and we left them on,” said Spikes manager Oliver Marmol. “But we had runners on and missed some opportunities so it was just a matter of time before we capitalized.”
Michael Schulze led the team with a 3-for-4 night, making him 11-for-18 in his last five games.
Mason Katz hit a clutch two-out, two-run double that gave the Spikes the lead for good in the seventh. Luke Voit followed with another two-out RBI when he doubled home Ramos in the eighth.
For the Jammers, it was another error-filled, late-game collapse that manager Dave Turgeon attributed to the Spikes’ play and his team’s youth.
“Essentially our core is 17 through 19 years old and the rest of the cast are first-year pros,” he said. “So we’re really gaining experience whereas I really believe the Spikes have that experience.”
Turgeon, who managed State College last season when it was a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate, said he appreciated his team’s competitiveness, but saw them falter “under the lights” late.
The Jammers committed nine errors during Thursday’s doubleheader, and committed four more miscues Friday.
Jamestown jumped on State College early with a run in the third off starter Jimmy Reed, who gave up four runs (one earned) on eight hits and three strikeouts.
Three more followed in the fifth after Reed gave up three straight singles with two outs, which chased Reed and led to De Leon.
The hard-throwing right-hander relinquished a two-run single to Adam Landecker, but composed himself and struck out four in more than two innings of work.
The Spikes responded immediately when Valera’s fielder’s choice scored Schulze, who singled to start the fifth.
Schulze hurt the Jammers again with an RBI single with the bases loaded in the sixth after Ronald Castillo singled, Carson Kelly reached on an error and Mason Katz walked.
Another fielder’s choice by Bosco a batter later cut the deficit to 4-3 and paved the way for Katz’s go-ahead, two-run double in the seventh.
Ramos manufactured an insurance run in the eighth by singling into center and then swiping second base. Voit’s two-out double to left-center scored Ramos and gave the Spikes a 6-4 lead.
Booden retired the Jammers in order in the ninth.
The Spikes, who finished with a franchise-record and league-best 30-8 mark at home, travel to Auburn on Saturday for a two-game series with the Doubledays before the final three games of the regular season at Jamestown.
Kevin Herget (6-0) starts for State College and is bidding to become the first Spikes pitcher ever to start a season 7-0. Auburn will go with left-hander Joel Barrientos (1-5).