Williamsport Crosscutters pitcher David Whitehead posed for pictures with young fans near the Bowman Field bleachers with his father looking on to cap a memorable professional debut.
Whitehead pitched six no-hit innings to earn the win over the State College Spikes.
Outside the visitor’s clubhouse moments earlier, Spikes manager Oliver Marmol praised Whitehead’s performance and said games like State College’s 8-2 loss to the Crosscutters on Sunday are expected each season at this level.
“We don’t worry too much about games like these,” Marmol said.
Whitehead, meanwhile, was beaming after his dominant outing with his father in attendance on Father’s Day. The Spikes (2-1) managed just two walks off the hard-throwing right-hander, who waited more than a year for this day after undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring. Whitehead also had five strikeouts.
State College’s Rowan Wick recorded the team’s first hit in the seventh inning, and Nick Thompson drilled a two-run homer in the ninth to end the Crosscutters’ shutout.
Williamsport (1-2) broke it open with six runs in the sixth inning, but State College starting pitcher Ian McKinney took the loss after allowing two runs on four hits in five innings.
“Guys are going to play great a couple days in a row and then games like this are going to happen,” Marmol said. “You kind of expect it. You try to minimize them.”
Marmol and Thompson both said Whitehead located his pitches well to keep the Spikes off balance.
Whitehead walked Adam Ehrlich in the first inning and Alex De Leon in the second before retiring the final 14 batters he faced.
With his father watching from behind home plate, Whitehead was pumped up to make his debut after the Philadelphia Phillies took him in the 34th round out of Elon in 2013.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for it,” Whitehead said. “And with Father’s Day I was like alright let’s make it worth the year and a half that I waited to get it. So it was definitely fun.”
He got some help from Williamsport third baseman Jan Hernandez to finish his start without allowing a hit. State College’s Robelys Reyes laid a bunt down the third base line in the third inning, and Hernandez charged hard, barehanded it and fired across his body to beat Reyes for the out.
The Crosscutters put him in position to earn the win with two runs in the fourth inning before putting the game away with six runs in the sixth.
State College reliever Jeff Barkley started the sixth and allowed five runs on three hits in just 1/3 of an inning.
He walked Rhys Hoskins and gave up two singles to load the bases with no outs.
A sacrifice fly scored Hoskins. Barkley then hit Sean McHugh to reload the bases. After another RBI single, Barkley’s day was done.
“Days like that are going to happen,” Marmol said. “It won’t be the last time. It’s not the first time he’s got hit around, it’s not going to be the last time he’s going to get hit around. He’s got to get better, think about the things that kind of led to that and then improve on them.”
By the end of the sixth inning, Williamsport led 8-0.
The Crosscutters brought in reliever Frank Rivas. And Wick broke up the no-hitter with a single past a diving Malquin Canelo at shortstop.
Williamsport lost the shutout with one out in the ninth.
Thompson ripped a two-run home run over the left-field wall off reliever Keivi Rojas.
“Up 8-0, most guys are just going to throw fastballs,” Thompson said. “They’re not going to mess around and throw whatever else, sliders, changeups. They’re just going to attack hitters.
“I’m sure if we were up 8-0, we would be doing the same thing, just attacking hitters, and I just capitalized on a mistake.”
Marmol was pleased to see Thompson take a good approach at the plate and get a good swing in the loss.
But he’s come to expect the tough days and forgettable losses throughout a season.
Said Marmol: “It’s bound to happen at some point.”
Notes: Dailyn Martinez is set to start for the Spikes to close out the series against Williamsport on Monday at 7:05 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, while Feliberto Sanchez will start for the Crosscutters. … Catcher Brian O’Keefe, center fielder Collin Radack and shortstop Andrew Sohn made their first professional starts. All three were drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals out of college this year.