Sports

Pina gives State College Spikes walk-off win over Batavia Muckdogs

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Leobaldo Pina fouled off three straight pitches after taking a breaking ball on the inside corner to start his at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The State College Spikes had the bases loaded with one out, and Pina battled to keep his at bat going against Batavia reliever L.J. Brewster. The Spikes shortstop held off on a high fastball, took a breaking ball inside and fouled back another pitch to stay alive.

Then, Pina lifted the eighth pitch he saw over Muckdogs right fielder Travis Brewster, a long single that drove in Josh Swirchak to lift the Spikes to a 6-5, walk-off victory over the Batavia Muckdogs on Monday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“The balls that he fouled back were inside,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “Finally he looked, I kept going, ‘look away, look away.’ He went with it, got the RBI.”

The Spikes (15-14) went to the ninth inning with a three-run lead after Cole Lankford’s two-run single in the eighth.

State College reliever Pedro Echemendia then allowed three runs on four hits in the top of the ninth.

Batavia’s Ryan Cranmer and Giovanny Alfonzo started the rally with back-to-back, one-out singles. Travis Brewster followed with an RBI double to right field, and Alexander Fernandez sliced a double into right-center field to drive in two runs and tie the game 5-5.

Fernandez advanced to third on a passed ball, but Echemendia got a groundout and strikeout to strand the go-ahead run.

“He made good pitches, they put good swings on it,” Rodriguez said. “And he really stepped up with a runner at third base and one out. The game was on the line. He got the job done.”

Echemendia pitched three innings after Luke Harrison pitched two scoreless innings of relief. State College starting pitcher Carson Cross allowed two runs on three hits in four innings.

Rodriguez said Spikes reliever Brennan Leitao was available to pitch one inning if the game went to extra innings. Anything after that, and the manager planned to turn to State College first baseman Casey Grayson.

“We had no bullpen,” Rodriguez said. “We had no bullpen.”

Pina made sure the Spikes didn’t need extra innings.

State College loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth after Swirchak singled, Thomas Spitz drew a walk and Mike Pritchard reached on an infield single. Pina came to the plate with one out and sent a shot to right field to win the game.

Pina is hitting .400 in his last 10 games after going 1 for 4 on Monday.

“He’s not taking those big swings he was taking early,” Rodriguez said. “He’s moved the field to right-center. It will come with time, you’ll drive those balls out of the park to left field if you look away, react in, so he’s starting to slow the game down.”

State College took a 3-1 lead with a three-run bottom of the second inning.

Lankford led off with a single, and Elier Rodriguez reached on an infield single to third with one out. Lankford advanced to third and Rodriguez took second on a throwing error by Batavia’s Cranmer.

Swirchak then tripled to right-center field to give the Spikes a 2-1 lead. He scored on a ground ball by Thomas Spitz, sliding into home safely after Alfonzo’s throw from shortstop went off catcher Roy Morales’ glove and rolled to the backstop.

The Spikes remained ahead until Batavia’s three-run ninth inning.

But they responded in the bottom half of the frame to pick up the win.

“It can lead to something good on the road now,” said Rodriguez, whose team starts a six-game road trip Tuesday.

Notes: Craig Aikin was replaced by Mike Pritchard in the fifth inning. Aikin was shaken up diving for a ball in the third inning. Rodriguez said Aikin had concussion symptoms and he will be reevaluated on Tuesday. Aikin finished 1 for 2 Monday night. … Lankford went 2 for 4 Monday to extend his hitting streak to seven games. … The Spikes start a three-game series Tuesday at Aberdeen. Ian McKinney (3-2, 3.45 ERA) is set to pitch for the Spikes.

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