Collin Radack still hadn’t processed everything shortly after State College pulled out its first walk-off win of the season.
But he could recall the highlights of the Spikes’ win over Batavia in the longest game in franchise history, spanning 15 innings and lasting five hours Saturday.
Radack came through with the game-winning single and sprinted into right field, unable to avoid the Gatorade bath that left his batting gloves soaked. He knew outfielder Kenny Peoples-Walls earned the win on the mound after State College scored three runs to erase a two-run deficit in the final inning.
And Radack understood what the victory meant to State College just four days away from the start of the New York-Penn League playoffs.
“I feel like we’ve had a lot of big wins,” Radack said, “a lot of games where we win by five or more runs. But when we really come together and pull games out, close games like that, it really helps to kind of put trust in each other and those are the games that are the biggest, especially in the playoffs.”
State College will open the postseason as the No. 2 seed Wednesday at 6:35 p.m. against No. 3 seed Hudson Valley at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
Daniel Poncedeleon (3-3, 2.44) is set to pitch for State College in the first game of the best-of-three semifinal series, while Enderson Franco (7-3, 3.28) will be on the mound for Hudson Valley.
State College and Hudson Valley will play Game 2 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 will also be at Medlar Field at 7:05 p.m. Friday. Top-seeded Tri-City will take on the wild-card winner Connecticut in the other series.
The Spikes are the hottest team going into the postseason.
After starting August 1-10, State College was six games behind both Hudson Valley and Tri-City. The Spikes won 15 of their final 18 games to finish tied with Tri-City for the league’s best record, but the ValleyCats held the head-to-head tiebreaker to take the top seed.
There was no reminder needed to keep pushing after State College clinched the Pinckney Division title and a playoff berth with nine games to go.
“We just talked from the beginning that it’s a process and it’s about development,” Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. “And there’s a certain way that St. Louis does it, so it’s not a matter of clinching (with 9) games (left). We have a job to do every day.”
The Spikes won seven of their final eight games behind strong pitching.
In the seven wins, including the 15-inning 12-11 victory over Batavia, State College pitchers limited opponents to 2.4 runs per game.
Austin Gomber, who endured a frustrating rookie year, threw 14 scoreless innings over consecutive starts to pick up his first two wins during the stretch run. Poncedeleon, who is set to start Game 1 Wednesday, settled in on the mound in August, too.
The right-hander has allowed four runs in 21 innings and earned two wins in his last four starts.
“Going into playoffs, the momentum he’s got right now is just, it’s great,” Spikes catcher Brian O’Keefe said. “He’s throwing three or four pitches for a strike in any count, which when you’re hitting, that’s really tough to do.”
Radack is expecting tight contests throughout the playoffs.
“We’re probably not going to win many games by six, seven runs,” Radack said. “They’re going to be those games that come down to executing things at the end.”
The 15-inning marathon win in the final home game Saturday provided a mental boost. It was the Spikes’ first walk-off victory.
“We were talking in the office with the staff (Friday) night,” Marmol said, “and I told ‘em that I’d really like a walk-off win before the season was over just to put that in your head that you can do anything regardless of the situation, regardless of where you’re playing, who you’re playing that you can overcome a two-run deficit in the ninth or whatever the case may be.”
Even during their early August swoon, the Spikes never lost sight of the playoffs.
They knew they had firm control of the division. There was never any doubt they’d be playing beyond Labor Day, chasing after the four wins needed to capture the New York-Penn League championship.
After the team’s most dramatic win of the season, with two games left in the regular season, Radack and the Spikes were ready for the postseason.
Said Radack: “I think we have a great chance to win a ring this year.”