Down a trio of runs, the State College Spikes looked punchless — until the fifth inning.
The Spikes (43-21) batted around in the bottom of the frame, hanging five runs on the scoreboard and beginning the onslaught in a 15-3 win over Batavia on Thursday night at a packed Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“It was huge,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said of the inning. “They were up 3-0 with momentum. ... I looked in the dugout like, ‘C’mon. Keep it at. Let’s go.’”
And it all started with a walk. Tommy Edman, who ended up drawing four walks on the evening, worked a four-pitch pass down to lead off the inning.
But Batavia starter Sam Perez settled down, inducing a pair of back-to-back flyouts. All the Muckdogs needed to move onto the sixth inning was one more out.
On the next pitch, State College catcher Jeremy Martinez laced a run-scoring triple to the left-center gap. Ryan McCarvel followed with an RBI single.
Perez was done, pulled in favor of Chad Smith.
That didn’t do much. Elier Rodriguez walked, Ricardo Bautista drove home McCarvel on a single, Yariel Gonzalez walked, and Mick Fennell plated Rodriguez and Bautista on a base knock to left.
“It just starts with one person and everyone has no hesitation hopping on the roller coaster,” McCarvel said. “We’ll try to keep it moving downhill.”
State College’s magic number to clinch the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division title is now two, meaning the holder of the league’s best record can clinch the playoff berth as early as Friday night.
For good measure
As if enough damage wasn’t already done by the time the lead was 7-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Spikes second baseman Andy Young belted a grand slam, scoring Gonzalez, Fennell and Edman.
It was Young’s second-ever grand slam, the first coming in high school.
“It’s been a while that’s for sure,” Young said. “Everyone was hitting so I felt a little left out.”
With the fifth-inning RBI, McCarvel continued to do work at the plate.
The 21-year-old catcher/designated hitter finished 2 for 4 with one RBI and one run scored against the Muckdogs. That gives McCarvel nine hits and eight RBIs in his last five games.
“I’m seeing the ball really well,” McCarvel said. “I’ve calmed down my lower half, letting the ball come to me more. I was really aggressive earlier in the season, and they kind of stopped throwing me fastballs. So I made an adjustment.”
Ray yet to return
After slamming into a wall to make a catch on Aug. 11, State College outfielder Anthony Ray was pulled from the game.
Johnny Rodriguez said that night Ray underwent concussion protocol and was expected to return shortly after the All-Star break in four or five days time. Two weeks later and the 21-year-old still hasn’t seen the field.
Rodriguez said Ray has been cleared by the team doctor, but hasn’t received the official green light from higher up.
“He’s ready to go,” the manager said. “(His clearance) was supposed to come today, so there must be something waiting from MLB.”
Spikes: As State College starts a three-game series at Auburn, Bryan Dobzanski is expected to start for the Spikes. Dobzanski (4-5, 4.20 ERA) makes his 12th appearance for State College, and his second against the Doubledays. The 20-year-old right-hander allowed four hits and two runs in a six-inning win against Auburn on Aug. 4.
Doubledays: Opposite Dobzanski will be McKenzie Mills. Mills (3-4, 3.77) earned a win against State College on Aug. 3, tossing five innings and giving up only three hits and one run.