Hudson Valley starting pitcher Enderson Franco needed 20 pitches to get through the first inning Saturday night.
State College pushed two runs across on two hits and a walk to take an early lead. In the next six innings, Franco threw just 60 pitches to keep Spikes off the board.
State College went hitless in its last four innings against Franco. The right-hander’s efficient performance on the mound helped Hudson Valley to a 5-2 win at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park in a New York-Penn League showdown between first place teams.
“He pitched off the changeup, kept us off balance, a lot of soft contact for what was it, eight innings or so?” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “It seemed like he was out there for nine.”
Franco walked two and struck out four in seven innings to earn the win, while Edgar Gomez pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the save.
Spikes reliever Brandon Lee allowed three runs on seven hits in three innings to take the loss.
Hudson Valley (34-15) came into the night with a league-leading 79 stolen bases and added five more Saturday. The Renegades used a double steal to add their final run in a three-run eighth inning.
“They have some guys that can really run and took advantage of that,” Spikes first baseman Jake Stone said. “They got some good jumps and we’ll look forward tomorrow and make the adjustment in that to try to hold them the best we can.”
State College (32-17) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning after Stone’s two-run ground-rule double.
Hudson Valley’s Grant Kay doubled to get the Renegades on the board in the third. One inning later, Hudson Valley tied it on a sacrifice fly by Wilmer Dominguez.
The teams remained knotted 2-2 through the next three innings.
Meanwhile, the Spikes couldn’t break through against Franco.
He allowed one baserunner in his final four innings — a walk to Alex De Leon in the sixth. Stone followed the walk by sending a ground ball to second base that turned into a double play.
“He had some really good stuff, threw a lot of strikes and he located pretty well,” Stone said.
Hudson Valley finally broke the tie with three runs against Lee in the eighth.
Renegades designated hitter Hunter Lockwood, who struck out four times and left four on base, started the inning with a one-out infield single. Lockwood moved to third after Jace Conrad singled through the right side of the infield.
Coty Blanchard dropped a bloop single into right field to give Hudson Valley the lead, and Bralin Jackson’s slow roller down the third base line scored Conrad to make it 4-2.
“That’s the nature of this game,” Marmol said. “They’re going to have days like that. They’re going to have days they hit the ball hard. Today, not a lot of hard contact against us, still managed to lose the ballgame.”
The Renegades tacked on their fifth run with a double steal.
With Dominguez at the plate, Jackson took off and stole second base. Blanchard then broke for home and scored easily before Darren Seferina’s throw home.
Blanchard leads the league in stolen bases with 18, Conrad is second with 16 and Jackson ranks third with 15. All three stole one base Saturday, while Braxton Lee also stole two. Blanchard was caught stealing by State College catcher Brian O’Keefe in the sixth inning.
The effort from Lee continued the bullpen’s struggles one night after the relievers faltered in a loss to Aberdeen. Jacob Booden also pitched three innings in relief, allowing one run on two hits and walking two.
“They need to do better,” Marmol said. “We need to have somebody that can come out of that ‘pen and do the job.”
On Saturday, the offense couldn’t get the job done, either.
After two hits in the third inning, State College didn’t record another until Danny Diekroeger’s single to leadoff the ninth inning.
For much of the night, it was Hudson Valley’s Franco who held the Spikes in check.
“We tried to make the adjustment the best we could,” Stone said. “But sometimes, you just got to tip your cap.”