The State College Spikes appeared to have a victory locked up, but an errant throw with two outs in the ninth inning kept Aberdeen alive.
The error by third baseman Ronnierd Garcia was part of the Spikes’ collapse Friday night. The State College bullpen blew a three-run lead in a 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the IronBirds at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The loss revealed flaws for State College despite its comfortable nine-game lead in the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division.
“We need to be better,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “That’s not good enough.”
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Kyle Grana took the loss after allowing two runs in 1 1/3 innings on another lackluster performance by the bullpen. Grana also walked four. Joe Scanio gave up two walks that turned into two runs in the seventh inning on a double given up by Jeff Rauh.
State College relievers have now combined to allow 21 runs in 27 innings in their last eight games. Aberdeen scored four unanswered runs after walks en route to the comeback.
“They need to be better,” Marmol said. “Rauh came in, gave up that big hit on a hanger. He tried to bury his split, stayed up in the zone and got hit for two runs. Then Grana came in, you can’t walk the leadoff guy two innings in a row.
“Those guys score most of the time, so we just need a better job, better effort, better execution out of the pen.”
The bullpen couldn’t protect a 4-1 lead after the Spikes capitalized on a bases-loaded opportunity in the sixth.
With one out, Jhohan Acevedo sent a single through the right side of the infield to score two runs and push State College ahead 3-1. Robelys Reyes followed with a foul ball to the left side taken by Aberdeen third baseman Austin Anderson.
It carried far enough for Brian O’Keefe to tag and score from third.
The Spikes scored all three runs against Aberdeen reliever Luc Rennie, but the right-hander shut State College down the rest of the way. Rennie went six innings, giving up three runs on four hits in six innings to earn the win.
“That was huge,” Marmol said of Reyes’ sacrifice fly. “That gave us a lot of momentum. I thought the guys would build on that and they’d continue to add some runs off that guy, but he did a better job of locating his pitches, we didn’t do a whole lot more.
“I was kind of surprised to see him in there in that last inning to be completely honest with you.”
The IronBirds started their comeback in the top of the seventh.
With one out, Scanio walked Tad Gold and Justin Viele. After they moved to second and third on a groundout, Marmol turned to Rauh to end the inning.
But IronBirds third baseman Austin Anderson cracked a double to center field to pull Aberdeen with 4-3.
Grana entered to close in the ninth, but he struggled with his command. He walked pinch hitter Jay Gonzalez to start the inning.
Gonzalez advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt before Grana struck out pinch hitter Tanner Murphy to move the Spikes one out away from the win. Alex Murphy then sent a chopper to third for Garcia, but his throw went wide and into the tarp to allow Gonzalez to score the tying run.
With the teams still knotted 4-4 in the 10th, Grana gave up another leadoff walk to Riley Palmer. Jamill Moquete brought him home on a towering triple to the left-center field gap.
It was Grana’s first appearance since Monday, when he took the loss to Mahoning Valley.
“Even if we had a bigger lead today, we were gonna try to get him in there,” Marmol said. “You never want a guy (to go) three our four days without pitching, but today wasn’t his day.”
Notes: State College starting pitcher Austin Gomber allowed one run on six hits in 4 1/3 innings against Aberdeen on Friday night. … State College continues its homestand with a three-game series against Hudson Valley starting Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Daniel Poncedeleon (1-2, 3.10) is set to start for the Spikes, while Enderson Franco (4-1, 3.54) will be on the mound for Hudson Valley. … State College sits atop the Pinckney Division with a nine-game lead, while Hudson Valley is in first place in the McNamara Division with an eight-game lead.