One week after State College pitcher Will Anderson worked with catcher Brian O’Keefe to baffle Williamsport in a record performance, the Spikes’ battery mates put together another efficient seven innings against Jamestown.
Anderson recorded a team-record 10 strikeouts last Sunday, getting the Crosscutters to chase his offspeed pitches time and again. The Jammers showed more restraint, but he used all three pitches to keep them off balance and allowed just two runs on five hits in seven innings.
“Tonight they were a little more aggressive in the zone and not so much outside the zone,” O’Keefe said. “So we kind of had to change our plan up a little bit and go to, instead of trying to punch guys out or get the strikeout, let’s get big with them, keep them off balance and weak contact.”
The plan worked as State College rode Anderson and O’Keefe to a 5-2 win, completing a three-game sweep of the Jammers at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Sunday night. Anderson struck out four and walked none in addition to limiting Jamestown to two hits in his final four innings. O’Keefe blasted a two-run home run to left-center field in the fourth inning to give the Spikes the lead for good in their fifth straight victory.
Anderson and O’Keefe have quickly developed chemistry.
“They work well together,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “He did it again (Sunday), threw seven strong. We’ll see that matchup of O’Keefe and Anderson moving forward.”
Anderson and the Spikes fell behind early as the Jammers (8-15) broke through in the top of the second.
Jamestown’s Michael Suchy led off with a triple off the top of the right-field wall and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Chase Simpson. They pushed their lead to 2-0 after Erik Lunde singled, stole second base and scored on Carl Anderson’s single up the middle in the third.
The Spikes (16-7) shut down Jamestown from there.
O’Keefe rifled a throw from his knees later in the third to gun down the speedy Anderson on his attempt to steal second.
After State College cut the deficit to 2-1 on Jake Stone’s RBI single in the third, O’Keefe delivered at the plate with a deep, two-run shot over the left-center field wall to push the Spikes ahead 3-2 in the fourth.
“I was just looking for something to drive, and I got a 2-0 fastball and I didn’t miss it,” O’Keefe said.
It was O’Keefe’s first home run of the season and as a professional, and pushed his season RBI total to four.
“I know he’s had a little bit of trouble recently,” Anderson said. “That was a no-doubter as soon as I saw it. (It was a) big hit for us and put the team ahead.”
That was all Anderson needed as he preserved State College’s lead through seven innings. Marmol said he considered sending him out for the eighth before turning it over to relievers Tyler Bray and Kyle Grana to close it out.
Anderson said he and O’Keefe didn’t click on every pitch call earlier in the season — O’Keefe’s now caught all four of Anderson’s starts — but the pitcher now trusts his catcher.
“We’ve worked it out and we’re on the same page,” Anderson said.
It’s shown in his last two starts.
After allowing eight runs — two earned — on 13 hits in 10 innings in his first two outings, he’s allowed just two runs on eight hits in the last 14 innings.
The difference, Marmol said, has been his ability to command his pitches to keep hitters off balance.
“He’s located his fastball early in the count, which has allowed him to use his offspeed later on,” Marmol said. “And he’s felt comfortable enough with his offspeed where he can start people off with it and then go back to the fastball inside and put them away. It’s just having a little bit more command of all of his pitches has allowed him to go deeper into the game.”
O’Keefe called Anderson’s changeup the “difference maker” — a pitch he’s been able to throw to right- and left-handed hitters in any count.
“The last two starts, he’s had his stuff working, three pitches he can throw at any point in any situation, which is huge,” O’Keefe said. “That gives me the confidence to put down any sign and that really allows us to keep them off balance throughout the course of the game. His last two starts, he’s been fantastic.”