Tension is the enemy of production in most sports. For some State College Spikes, opening day was their first time playing in front of a substantial crowd and the jitters were noticeable.
The end result was a 4-2 loss to the Williamsport Crosscutters in front of 5,155 on a beautiful evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The game was the Spikes’ first as a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate in the New York-Penn League since 2006.
“I thought it was a good night,” said Spikes manager Oliver Marmol. “Good day for everybody to just get rid of the nerves. Some emotions going on. First day, everybody’s a little anxious. So it’s good for these guys to get that out of the way”
The Crosscutters (1-0) looked comfortable at the plate for most of the night, amassing 13 hits to seven for the Spikes.
Mitch Gueller (1-0) earned the win, allowing just two unearned runs on three hits, one walk and three strikeouts in five innings.
Juan Bautista (0-1) gave up three runs (two earned), on nine hits, a walk and four strikeouts in five innings of work.
Bautista used his change-up to keep batters off balance, but eventually the Cutters paced the pitch.
“His change-up is his best pitch,” Marmol said of his 20-year-old pitcher. “Once in awhile, he got too comfortable with it and threw it too often, and those guys started to sit on it Once he starts to learn to pitch inside a little more and then use the change-up he’ll do a nice job for us.”
Offensively, first-game nerves seemed to hamper the Spikes at the plate. State College finally got its first hit in the fourth when Cesar Valera (1-for-4) laced a single to left.
The team stranded eight and went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Trevor Martin, 21, went 2-for-4 and was the Spikes only multi-hit player.
“I was definitely nervous,” said Martin, a 20th round pick in 2010.
The Seattle, Wash., native played for Marmol with Johnson City in the Appalachian League.
“It’s crazy, I never played in front of that many people before. Coming from Johnson City, you get maybe 1,000 or so.”
State College had its chances. Martin led off the seventh with a single up the middle and then took second when the Cutters’ Manny Martinez threw a wild pitch. However, when Alex De Leon (1-for-3) hit a shot to right that sent right fielder Dylan Cozens back peddling near the track to make the catch, Martin didn’t tag to third.
The inning ended soon after when Jimmy Bosco (0-for-5) struck out looking and Valera went down swinging.
Jhonny Polanco, an international free agent signee in 2009, pitched two strong innings of relief for the Spikes, striking out four and allowing just two hits.
The 21-year-old right-hander was consistently in the 90s with his fastball.
It was a cold night for the power part of State College’s lineup. David Washington (1-for-4) and Ronald Castillo (1-for-4) combined to strand six batters.
Hitters No. 4 through No. 7 in the Spikes order combined to leave 20 runners on base.
The defense was solid early, however, an error by Washington led to a run in the fourth and Valera made two errors in the ninth.
The Spikes will have a chance to bounce back quickly when they face the Crosscutters Tuesday in Williamsport. Game time is set for 7:05 p.m.
Chris Perry is slated to start for the Spikes. Drew Anderson will go for the Cutters.
Quick turnarounds. Oliver Marmol knows that could be the best medicine for his young team.
“That’s the beauty of pro ball,” he said.