It will take the last game of the regular-season to determine whether the State College Spikes will finish first, second or third in the New York-Penn League playoff seedings.
Entering Sunday’s games in a three-way tie for the No. 1 seed, the Spikes (47-28) stayed at the top with a 5-1 triumph over Williamsport. Tri-City (47-28) also remained in the tie with a 4-1 victory over Vermont. Hudson Valley (46-28) had a more than three-hour rain delay before starting at Aberdeen on Sunday night.
Both Tri-City and Hudson Valley own the tiebreaker edge against State College. Hudson Valley was 3-0 against the Spikes this season, while Tri-City was 2-1.
Playing a day after a five-hour, 15-inning, 12-11 thriller over Batavia, the Spikes put away the Crosscutters with an outstanding pitching effort thanks to a veteran and two new arms. Trey Nielsen allowed just three hits over the first five innings before giving way to the new guys. Tyler Dunnington and Kevin Alexander, who arrived from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, combined to allow two hits in four shutout innings. The three State College pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts.
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The only blemish came in the first when Williamsport’s Cord Sandberg touched Nielsen for his sixth home run of the season, a shot over the right field fence of Bowman Field. From there, Nielsen pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings, while striking out seven.
The Crosscutters got four shutout innings from starter Edubray Ramos before the Spikes finally broke through in the sixth against reliever Mark Meadors.
Danny Diekroeger led off with a single to right and moved to second on Alex De Leon’s one-out single to center. Brett Wiley’s grounder forced De Leon at second, but Diekroeger scored on an infield single by Luis Cruz to tie the game at 1-1.
The Spikes went ahead an inning later against reliever Manny Martinez.
Edmundo Sosa led off with a single, but doubled up at first when Collin Radack flew out to center. Darren Seferina then bunted for a single, swiped second base and scored on Diekroeger’s double to center.
The Spikes then tacked on three insurance runs in the eighth. De Leon greeted reliever Richard Bielski with a single and Brett Wiley doubled to left. Luis Cruz then delivered the key blow, blasting his second homer of the season over the left field fence.
Dunnington got off to a tough start in the sixth, giving up a single and a double, but stranded runners at second and third with one out. He did not allow another hit in two more innings and struck out three to become a winner in his first outing.
Alexander was untouchable in the ninth, striking out the side.
“That is the first we saw those two and we really needed that after using up our entire bullpen the night before,” said Spikes manager Oliver Marmol. “Dunnington found himself in trouble in the sixth, but he managed to work his way out of it. As for Alexander, he was just lights out in the ninth.”
Led by three hits apiece from Diekroeger, De Leon and Cruz, the Spikes pounded out 14 hits. Wiley added a pair of doubles.
The two teams conclude the regular season with a 1:05 p.m. matinee Monday at Bowman Field.
Left-hander Austin Gomber (1-2), who earned his first professional win with seven shutout innings against Williamsport on Wednesday, gets the ball for the Spikes. The Crosscutters will go with right-hander Feliberto Sanchez (3-8).