State College’s Alex De Leon entered Wednesday night mired in a slump like much of the Spikes’ lineup.
De Leon was 0 for his last 18 at-bats. He was 4 for 38 and drove in one run since Aug. 1, a stretch that saw the Spikes lose 10 of 11 games as their offense faltered.
Before the Spikes took on Mahoning Valley, State College hitting coach Ramon Ortiz reminded De Leon he’d gotten away from his plan at the plate. It was time to slow down, stick to the basics and look for a pitch to handle.
De Leon broke out of his slump to lead the Spikes to a 5-4 win over Mahoning Valley at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. He finished 3 for 4, scored one run and drove in three, and the Spikes snapped a season-long six-game losing streak.
“I’ve been struggling,” De Leon said. “The whole team’s kind of been struggling, but it was good to get the bats going. Pretty much everyone started swinging the bats tonight. Hopefully we could continue that and keep that up the rest of the season.”
State College finished with 12 hits, paced by De Leon and Collin Radack, who also went 3 for 4. The effort produced the Spikes’ first win at home since July 31.
State College starting pitcher Dewin Perez threw 5 1/3 innings and allowed three runs to earn the win. Kyle Grana pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save.
The Spikes got on the board in the first inning to take the early lead on De Leon’s two-out double that scored Nick Thompson.
“We got the lead and it’s like, ‘Let’s do this today. We got this,’” De Leon said. “So it definitely gave us the confidence.”
The Spikes (34-25) extended their lead to 3-0 in the third inning when De Leon and Luis Cruz recorded back-to-back RBI singles.
After the Scrappers (25-33) scored in the fourth, De Leon crushed his eighth home run of the season.
The solo shot to the Pepsi Picnic Pavilion in left field gave State College a 5-1 lead.
“Whenever you’re in a funk when you’re not winning, it’s always tough when you go down early, try to come back,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’s a lot of effort, so to be able to jump to an early lead and then build on it was big for us.”
The homer was De Leon’s first since July 25, a night in which the Spikes scored a franchise-record 17 runs in a win over Auburn.
That offensive production disappeared in August.
The Spikes combined to score 22 runs in their 10 losses this month, an average of 2.2 runs per game.
Besides De Leon’s two-out double and homer, Radack injected energy into his team with two infield singles.
Radack beat out a ground ball to Mahoning Valley shortstop Yonathan Mendoza in the second and seventh innings.
“When you’re not winning, it’s easier to dog those balls and not run them out just because just overall energy’s down,” Marmol said. “But to see these guys, the way it’s been going lately, and for him to run that ball out twice and beat it out, it just gives your guys a little bit more energy.”
On the mound, Perez limited the Scrappers to one run until running into trouble in the sixth. Marmol replaced him with Nick Lomascolo with one out.
Perez allowed three runs and finished his night with the Spikes ahead. Lomascolo, Brandon Lee and Grana combined to preserve the win.
“The game got away from him a little bit there in his last inning,” Marmol said. “He easily probably could have thrown another one if he didn’t run into that trouble. If we would have had a little bit more of a lead, I would have left him in there.
“But he did his job for us and handed it over to the ‘pen and they did theirs.”
And the offense finally produced enough to get the Spikes back on track for a night.
“It was a good win,” De Leon said. “Definitely needed that to get back on track and a general sense of just getting that confidence back and that swagger that we had at the start of the season.”