The State College Spikes just keep on winning, and while manager Johnny Rodriguez likes the success, he’s not worrying about the standings.
The team with the New York-Penn League’s best record dropped the Batavia Muckdogs 6-1 Tuesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to open a three-game series.
“We have an 8 1/2 game lead (on Williamsport) — I don’t care,” Rodriguez said. “I’m acting like it’s zero, we’re up by a game.”
The Spikes (42-21) collected nine hits — one for each starter — to win their fifth game in the last seven contests. With 13 games left in the regular season, the magic number to clinch the Pinckney Division is six.
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“Being on a team that wins like this,” said Vince Jackson, whose home run highlighted the offensive attack, “I’ve never been a part of something – winning this much, as many games.”
Steven Farinaro (8-1) had another solid performance to earn the win while Jose Diaz (0-6) took the loss, lasting only 1 2/3 innings, though he only gave up two runs and two hits.
The Spikes put two runners across in the first, with Jeremy Martinez walking and Danny Hudzina reaching on an error, with RBI singles from Joey Hawkins and Riley Drongesen bringing in the runs. Two more came home in the third, with an RBI single for Hudzina and a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Hawkins.
Jackson hit his solo homer in the fifth, and Mick Fennell walked and scored on an Andy Young single in the sixth.
The lone Muckdog run crossed in the eighth on Samuel Castro’s inside-the-park home run — his first career homer.
A good defense
On the mound: Farinaro, announced Monday as the league’s Pitcher of the Week, wasn’t overpowering but did well in his six innings of three-hit, shutout ball, walking one and striking out five.
He earned his eighth win of the season to tie the Spikes’ single-season record set by Tyler Cox and Kevin Decker.
“I thought it was good, results-wise it was good,” Farinaro said. “I thought I fell behind in too many counts, my first-pitch strikes were not where I wanted them to be. … Arm felt good (and the) curveball felt pretty good today.”
Jhonatan Escudero and Max Almonte finished off the victory, with Escudero allowing the run.
Turning two: The Spikes turned three more double plays. They have tallied 53 this season, tied for third in the league.
“We have been working hard at it,” Rodriguez said. “In (batting practice) we do a lot of ground balls, a lot of attacking the ball because this game — we don’t have the guy that’s going to come in, give you the 14 strikeouts, nine strikeouts.”
Back to work: Outfielder Anthony Ray has been cleared from concussion protocol to play after sitting out since Aug. 11, when he made a diving catch and slammed hard into the wall.
At the plate: Jackson connected for his fourth homer of the season, clearing the wall in right field, and he’s been making good contact lately.
“Trying to make it as simple as possible,” Jackson said. “Baseball really is a mental sport, trying to really ‘see ball, hit ball,’ understanding that not every at bat is going to be the greatest at bat.”
In the field: Rodriguez was only critical of one defensive play — Castro’s inside-the-park homer. Instead of playing it safe with two outs and keeping Castro to a double, Jackson lunged for the ball and missed.
“A 6-0 game we’re not diving for anything,” Rodriguez said. “I told Vince that just for the future.”
It was a teaching moment for the 14th-round draft pick out of Tennessee.
“That’s never happened to me before,” Jackson said. “I guess it was a learning experience. I picked the ball up, hopefully he was just rounding second. I saw he was rounding third, I was like, ‘Oh no.’”
Spikes: The teams meet again at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Left-handed pitcher Dewin Perez (3-3, 4.00 ERA) will be on the mound.
Muckdogs: Righty Michael Mertz (1-2, 4.30) gets the start.