The State College Spikes remain the hottest team in the New York-Penn League.
With the help of a five-run eighth inning, the Spikes blew past the Auburn Doubledays 10-3 Sunday evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, winning their fourth straight and 15th in their last 18 games.
“To win a series is great, to sweep a series is even better,” said Vince Jackson, who crushed a three-run triple in the eighth. “That helps our pitching, it helps our offense, defense, it helps the whole team. We’ve got a groove going.”
Dylan Tice was 2 for 4, belting a two-run home run, reaching base three times and scoring each time. Ricardo Bautista added a two-run double for the Spikes (17-6), who maintained the league’s best record.
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“Everyone keeps saying we’re hot, we’re on a roll,” Tice said. “It’s almost to the point where, I kind of think we’re just that good.”
A three-run first inning got the Spikes started. Tommy Edman led off the frame with a single, and with two out back-to-back infield singles from Ryan McCarvel and Tice — McCarvel’s hit scored Edman — preceded Bautista’s double.
McCarvel was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the third before Tice turned on the very next pitch, depositing it over the 375-foot sign in right-center field.
“I just caught a fastball middle-middle,” Tice said of his second homer of the season. “Got the barrel out and the ball was flying out to right.”
The Doubledays got one run back in the top of the second with an Oliver Ortiz RBI double, then added two more in the third with an RBI double for Sheldon Neuse and an RBI single for Nick Banks. That had the game tied briefly before the Tice blast.
Elier Rodriguez had an RBI single, Jose Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk and Vince Jackson cleared the bases with a triple to the wall in right-center in the eighth inning.
“Off the bat I thought it had a chance to get over (the center fielder’s) head,” said Jackson, who had been 0 for 4 before the big hit. “Then I realized I kind of hit it high and it was off the wall. It was kind of in between and I had a feeling it wasn’t going to get out.”
Highs and lows
Everyone plays a part: The Spikes use a different lineup each night, and with only three healthy bench players, manager Johnny Rodriguez can keep everyone fresh.
“Even when I shake things up, they’ve been playing,” Rodriguez said. “They’re still in rhythm, not out of rhythm.”
The players like getting the occasional rest while still making contributions to the success.
“Johnny does a good job keeping guys engaged,” Tice said. “You’re never on the bench more than two days in a row.”
On the Spikes mound: Steven Farinaro (3-0) pitched just well enough over six innings for the win, allowing six hits, three runs and five walks with two strikeouts.
“That’s one of those un-quality, quality starts,” Rodriguez said. “He got six innings but it was 95 pitches … and it’s been a trend. His last three outings have been long. Slow game, slow tempo, but we find a way.”
Weston Davis (2-2) took the loss.
Missing chances: The Doubledays had runners on base in every inning but stranded 12 and were 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Odds and ends
All in the family: A very familiar baseball name was at first base for the first and third games of the weekend series. Ryan Ripken, a 15th-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals in 2014, is in his third season of pro ball. He is the son of former Baltimore Oriole legend Cal Ripken Jr., and the grandson of former Major League player and manager Cal Ripken Sr.
Roster change: Catcher Riley Drongesen was promoted to Class A Peoria before Sunday’s game. He was hitting .176, having played just six games with a double and home run among his five hits.
The Spikes hit the road for a three-game series against the Connecticut Tigers at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn.
Spikes: Ronnie Williams (2-1) will take the mound for State College. The right-hander has a 2.96 ERA with 23 strikeouts and just three walks over 27 1/3 innings.
Tigers: Left-handed pitcher Gregory Soto (0-0) will get the start. He has thrown 15 2/3 innings over four starts with a 3.45 ERA, posting 15 strikeouts and 11 walks. The Tigers are 15-7 and lead the Stedler Division.