The State College Spikes and Hudson Valley Renegades came into their three-game series sitting comfortably atop their respective divisions in the New York-Penn League standings.
State College held a nine-game lead, while Hudson Valley led by eight games.
The showdown between first-place teams ended in a sweep of the Spikes. State College fell 3-2 Monday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, extending its losing streak to four games — its longest slide of the season.
The Spikes went scoreless in 20 straight innings against Hudson Valley until scoring in the fourth inning. They’ve only scored in three of their last 31 innings during the four-game losing streak.
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“You just got to find a way to win a ballgame at this point,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “We’re scratching for runs, there’s not a whole lot we can do. Just got to go out there and continue to do what we do, prepare the same way that we do. I don’t got a magic wand or anything like that, so just keep doing what we’re doing and it will turnaround.”
Chase Raffield went 2 for 4 with a home run, driving in both runs for State College. Spikes starting pitcher Jeff Rauh went 4 1/3 innings and allowed three runs in the loss. It was Rauh’s first career start as he filled in for scheduled starter Ian McKinney. McKinney was placed on the 7-day disabled list and Marmol said he will miss his next start.
Kyle Grana struck out six in 3 2/3 scoreless innings, and Josh Lucas pitched one scoreless in relief for the Spikes.
Hudson Valley (36-15) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after Bralin Jackson led off with a single and came around to score on a groundout by Casey Gillaspie. Gillaspie pushed the Renegades lead to two runs with a solo homer to right in the fourth.
Rauh’s night came to an end after Hudson Valley’s Alec Sole singled up the middle to push the Renegades’ lead to 3-1 with one out in the fifth.
“I felt like I gave us a chance to win,” Rauh said. “I brought back my curveball today, so that was the first time I’ve thrown it in five months since spring training.”
Raffield accounted for all the Spikes’ firepower offensively.
In the bottom of the fourth, Raffield ripped a laser down the right field line for a one-run double to pull State College (32-19) within one run and end the team’s 20-inning scoreless streak.
Three innings later, Raffield belted a solo home run to the right-field bleachers to cut State College’s deficit to one again.
But Raffield was more concerned with team’s fourth straight loss than his standout individual performance.
“It’s never a good feeling when you lose, and that’s the main goal,” Raffield said. “I’m out there, I’m not playing for myself. I’m playing to win. I’m playing for the team and that’s what we’re all doing. We want to win, so it’s bittersweet.”
State College’s previous season-long slide lasted three games from July 20-22.
Before that streak, the Spikes were on a roll, winning 15 of 17 games to open up their comfortable lead in the division.
After their third straight loss July 22, Marmol said his team wasn’t panicking. Raffield echoed that sentiment Monday.
“We understand every team goes through this,” Raffield said. “Nobody can win every game. That’s not possible. That’s not baseball. Baseball’s a game of failure, so we’re just going to go out there and we’re going to keep competing and that’s what we got to do.”
The sweep magnified State College’s recent offensive struggles.
It’s been a challenge since Rowan Wick was promoted to Single-A Peoria on July 23. Wick remains the New York-Penn League leader in home runs (14) and RBIs (38) two weeks after his final game for State College.
In 13 games since Wick’s departure, the Spikes have gone 6-7 — scoring 13 runs combined in the seven losses.
Despite the sweep and four-game losing streak, State College remains in first place in the Pinckney division with an eight-game lead. But Marmol isn’t caught up in the standings at this point.
“I’m worried about developing players,” Marmol said. “Once we get to the end of August, we’ll see where we’re at with that lead, but that’s the least of my worries to be completely honest.”
Notes: Brett Wiley made his season debut for the Spikes after serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Amphetamine last September. He went 1 for 4. … Josh Lucas returned to State College on Monday after making eight appearances for Single-A Peoria. … Spikes reliever Joe Scanio was placed on the temporary inactive list. … State College has an off day Tuesday before starting a six-game road trip at Lowell on Wednesday. The Spikes also play a three-game series against Connecticut during the trip. … Will Anderson is scheduled to start for the Spikes on Wednesday.