The State College Spikes entered Friday evening having lost five straight games on the road, and had earned just three wins when trailing after seven innings all season.
Some sparkling pitching and one huge eighth inning improved both of those statistics.
Spikes pitchers combined to give up just two hits and State College put up an eight-run eighth inning for an 8-1 victory over the Auburn Doubledays at Falcon Park.
The win, the third straight for State College (36-25) and second in a row scoring eight runs, reduced the Spikes’ magic number to clinch a New York-Penn League playoff spot to eight. The team scored at least eight runs in a game for the 12th time this season.
Danny Diekroeger, Brian O’Keefe and Jhohan Acevedo each had a pair of hits while Chase Raffield clubbed a three-run home run to cap the big eighth inning.
State College’s mound men had big nights, not allowing a baserunner over the final five innings. Daniel Poncedeleon had his longest and best outing as a professional, striking out three, walking two and allowing just two hits and a run over six innings. Josh Lucas (1-1) earned the win with two innings of relief and Jacob Booden struck out two of the three batters he faced as each delivered 1-2-3 innings.
Mario Sanchez (5-1) was tagged for six runs and four hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief for the loss, after Robbie Dickey and John Feliz combined for six innings of shutout baseball.
A Destin Hood RBI double in the third inning accounted for the lone Doubleday run, and it stood all the way to the eighth inning. The Spikes entered that frame with a 3-17 record when trailing after seven.
A pair of singles preceded a Diekroeger sacrifice fly to tie the game, with Acevedo trotting home after right fielder Brian Langlois made a diving catch of the fly ball. A Jake Stone single with the bases loaded brought home the go-ahead run, and when the ball was bobbled in left field by Garrett Gordon, a second run scored.
After an intentional walk, an O’Keefe single brought in a run with another crossing on an error, and Raffield capped the rally with his fourth homer of the season, a high blast over the right field wall.
The game opened a three-game series between the teams, with another meeting set for 7:05 p.m. Saturday. The Spikes will send right-handed pitcher Trey Nielsen (3-2, 2.43 ERA) to the hill to face righty Anderson Martinez (1-1, 3.65) for Auburn (26-33). The teams will meet again Sunday afternoon before taking two days off for the league’s all-star break.