A fine line exists between a good late-inning team and one that misses opportunities throughout the game, which necessitates desperate heroics.
On Thursday night, that line was actually a drive by Mahoning Valley’s Josh McAdams that broke the game open in a five-run fifth that helped the Scrappers snap State College’s 10-game win streak at home 7-2.
The Spikes (31-23) received help in the playoff chase from Jamestown and Lowell, which both lost, but a 1-for-10 night with runners in scoring position and 13 left on base is still reason for concern for State College.
“If you continue to do that you lose ball games,” said Spikes’ manager Oliver Marmol. “You can’t miss that many opportunities and expect to win. It’s something that needs to change and it better change quick.”
Kyle Blair (1-0) got the win for the Scrappers (23-30). Jhonny Polanco (3-3) took the loss.
Brett Wiley went 3-for-4 and Cesar Valera went 2-for-4 for State College.
Robel Garcia and Claudio Bautista had two-hit games for the Scrappers and Juan Romero added a two-run home run in the fourth.
However, it was McAdams — mired in a 4-for-34 slump coming in — who broke the game open with a two-RBI double after the Spikes intentionally walked Garcia to load the bases with one out.
“I’ve been put in that situation a few times where a guy has been intentionally walked in front of me,” McAdams said. “A little bit of pressure going up to bat at a time in the game where we needed a run and a few times I couldn’t come through.”
McAdams turned on an inside fastball by Polanco and roped it down the leftfield line, which scored Bautista and James Roberts, who singled and got hit by a pitch respectively.
Nellie Rodriguez started the scoring with a sacrifice fly after falling behind 0-2 in the count, which scored Joel Mejia from third and gave Mahoning Valley a 3-2 lead.
In total, 11 batters came to the plate in the Scrappers’ five-run eighth, which was punctuated by Manuel Boscan’s sand wedge flop shot that plopped to the turf between three Spikes’ infielders, scored two more runs and made it 7-2.
“We’ve struggled all year not hitting in situations like that,” said Scrappers’ manager Ted Kubiak. “McAdams had a big hit there to drive in a couple … we did some good things at the right time, and that hasn’t happened very often.”
Starting pitching was stingy early on both sides.
Caleb Hamrick, 19, who was drafted in the eighth round in 2012, pitched around six hits, three walks and two hit batters to only give up an earned run in six innings.
Hamrick needed just six pitches to retire the Spikes in the first, a good sign for the right-hander who entered the game 0-3 on the road this season with a 5.70 ERA.
Arturo Reyes also had to pitch around danger. The 40th-round pick in June gave up four hits and walked two, but also struck out five in a season-long six innings.
However, it was the Spikes offense that struggled to capitalize early for the second night in a row.
The Spikes threatened in the second after Carson Kelly lined the team’s first hit to left with one out. Luis Perez followed with a long at bat that eventually led to a hit by pitch on the ninth offering.
But Luke Voit flied out and Michael Schulze hit a liner, which Kelly had to limbo under, right into Roberts’ glove at short.
In the third, back-to-back two-out hits by Valera and Wiley respectively were also squandered after David Washington drew a walk, and Kelly popped up to Bautista at second. Kelly went 1-for-5 and also left eight runners on base.
After Romero’s two-run opposite field shot off Reyes made it 2-0 in the fourth, Perez and Voit each led the home half with two big swings with nobody on that resulted in two towering pop ups.
“It looks like guys are trying to do too much,” Marmol said. “Rather than just allow situations to happen, it looks like they’re a little more anxious than they need to be.”
The offense did tally once in the fifth when Wiley tripled home Valera, and then again in the sixth when Bosco doubled home Perez to tie the game at two, but most opportunities went begging.
And with an important two-game set starting Friday at Jamestown, the Spikes need to find more balance.
“I could care less if we’re playing Jamestown tomorrow,” Marmol said. “To me, they’re another team … we’re just going to go there and play the same baseball that we’re capable of playing. There’s no extra pressure, it’s just if we execute, we’ll win.”
Right-hander Willy Paulino (2-2) will start for State College for the 7 p.m. start at Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park. Shane Carle (1-0) will start for the Jammers.