Crosscutters first baseman Rhys Hoskins knew it was gone immediately.
Hoskins went into his home-run trot down the first base line as the ball soared over the left-field wall for a grand slam. The Williamsport fans rose to their feet, and the Crosscutters players spilled out of the dugout to greet their teammates.
The two-out grand slam off State College starting pitcher Austin Gomber gave Williamsport a commanding five-run lead in the second inning. The game-changing homer was set up by Spikes second baseman Robelys Reyes’ error on a ground ball the previous at bat.
“We left some pitches up,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’s a completely different ballgame if we make that play at second base, followed by that grand slam. It’s a tie game right now, we’re still playing.”
State College couldn’t overcome the early deficit in their 8-4 loss Saturday night at Bowman Field. Williamsport exploded offensively, pounding out 14 hits and ripping three home runs. All nine Williamsport starters reached base, seven recorded hits and six scored in the game.
State College right fielder Rowan Wick cracked his 10th home run of the season to tie the Spikes’ single-season record set by David Washington last season. Wick finished 2-for-4, scored two runs and drove in two to pace the offense.
Gomber took the loss, allowing five runs on six hits in two innings. Spikes reliever Jeff Barkley gave up three runs on seven hits in four innings.
In the first two innings, State College made four different visits to the mound.
Spikes pitching coach Dernier Orozco went to the mound twice, catcher Brian O’Keefe walked out and shortstop Leobaldo Pina offered some encouragement to Gomber.
Gomber escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, but he failed to do the same in the second, allowing the two-out grand slam to left field to Hoskins. Matt Shortall started the scoring by sending a towering home run to left field on the first pitch he saw to leadoff the inning.
“I’m not sure if he got comfortable,” Marmol said. “He left some pitches up, got hit, some hard contact. He didn’t have his best stuff today but battled and gave us what he had.”
The Crosscutters led 5-0 after two innings and added another in the third on an RBI single by Derek Campbell.
Wick scored on an error by Williamsport second baseman Derek Campbell to get State College on the board in the fourth. He then crushed his record-tying 10th homer to left-center field off Crosscutters reliever Frank Rivas in the sixth.
The homer cut State College’s deficit to 7-2.
The Spikes went into the seventh down by six runs, but they had a chance to get back in the game when they loaded the bases with no outs.
Jake Stone popped out in foul territory down the third base line. Alex De Leon popped up weakly near the mound. With two outs, Wick singled off Hoskins’ glove, and Ronnierd Garcia was hit by a pitch to cut the deficit to 8-4.
Nick Thompson then lined out to end the inning. And the Spikes were still playing from behind despite making a dent in Williamsport’s lead.
“That’s what makes it tough,” Marmol said. “It does add a little bit of pressure and almost came up with the big hit there with Thompson. If that drops, it’s a different ballgame, it gives us a better shot.”
Instead, Thompson’s liner stayed up long enough to become a harmless out.
Williamsport was out of the inning with a four-run cushion intact. The two-out grand slam by Hoskins in the second gave Williamsport all the insurance it needed for the win.
“It’s always tough to come back down five runs,” Marmol said. “Not ideal. We gave it a shot, came up short.”