After the State College Spikes suffered their third straight loss Tuesday night, manager Oliver Marmol felt his players were tired coming off their longest road trip of the season.
The Spikes endured a six-game trip that started in Burlington, Vt. last Wednesday and ended in Troy, N.Y. on Monday night. They left State College with a five-game win streak and took two out of three against Vermont, but they managed just three runs combined in losses in their last two games to Tri-City.
The offensive woes continued in a 3-1 loss to Mahoning Valley at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. State College had runners in scoring position in each of the first seven innings, but the Spikes went 1-for-10 in those opportunities.
“I think a lot of it, just to be honest with you, is just fatigue,” Marmol said. “I’m tired. The road trip was a bit of a grind — nine hours there. We got in. I didn’t go to sleep until about 6:30 in the morning. We didn’t get in until about 5:15, so a lot of it’s fatigue.
“And that’s part of the grind of minor league baseball. These guys have to adjust to it.”
It is the Spikes’ longest losing streak of the season. State College had been hot in July, winning 15 of 17 games before the last three losses.
State College starting pitcher Trey Nielsen took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits in four innings.
Nielsen threw four no-hit innings in his first start last Wednesday, but he wasn’t as sharp against the Scrappers.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, so I was battling through most of the game,” Nielsen said. “First inning I was happy with. As the game went on, I lost a feel for a couple of my pitches, my breaking ball and changeup and my sinker honestly wasn’t even there tonight as well, so it made things a little tough.”
Jake Stone gave Nielsen and State College a 1-0 lead in the third inning with an RBI single to right field.
But Stone’s single proved to be the lone Spikes’ hit with runners in scoring position all night. And Mahoning Valley responded with two runs off Nielsen to move ahead in the top of the fourth.
The Scrappers evened the score after three straight singles to start the inning, with Leo Castillo lining the third single into left field to score Bradley Zimmer. Castillo then advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a groundout.
Another wild pitch brought him home to give Mahoning Valley the lead for good.
The 1-2 pitch by Nielsen bounced in the dirt and ricocheted off catcher Brian O’Keefe’s arm on a backhanded attempt to corral it. The ball then cleared the protective net behind home plate and landed in the hands of a fan four rows behind the Spikes dugout.
“I know for a fact the curveball that went off O’Keefe’s arm into the stands, I definitely overthrew that pitch,” Nielsen said. “I made him work tonight. That’s the one thing — your catcher already works hard enough, you don’t want to make him work extra.
“I made a few mistake pitches and was definitely overthrowing at times.”
The Scrappers led 2-1, and State College failed to capitalize on its opportunities.
In the bottom of the fourth, Jhohan Acevedo doubled to right field with two outs. But Robelys Reyes later grounded out to end the inning.
One inning later, Danny Diekroeger walked and moved to second after Nick Thompson drew a two-out walk. But O’Keefe popped up in foul territory by first base to Mahoning Valley’s Castillo. In the sixth, Darren Seferina singled up the middle and stole second base with two outs, but Reyes grounded out again.
And De Leon drilled a triple to right-center field with one out in the seventh, but Stone popped out to the shortstop and O’Keefe struck out swinging.
“Situational hitting is what wins games,” Marmol said. “That and defense, and we did a poor job in both areas today.”
But Marmol isn’t worried about his team.
The Spikes were rolling through their competition just days ago. And they still sit in first place in the Pinckney Division with a comfortable seven-game lead.
“I think the guys will be fine to be honest with you,” Marmol said. “We’re not panicking. Yeah it would have been nice to win a couple of the last three games, but no one’s panicking. These guys are going to get their rest, and we’ll take our best shot tomorrow and see what happens.”