Four pitches, piercing through the swirling wind, ended any potential final-inning chaos.
It must be nice having a kid capable of throwing 90 mph.
State College senior Chris Adams blew away a pair of Cedar Cliff hitters in the top of the seventh inning and helped spark a three-run bottom of the sixth as the Little Lions fended off the Colts 9-7 on Thursday evening.
Adams earned the save, while left-hander Christian Friberg was the winning pitcher and Cedar Cliff’s Denny Snyder was on the losing end.
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Friberg allowed a run in the top of the seventh, and State College coach Troy Allen didn’t want to have to bring in Adams. But the skipper said Adams will be the Little Lions’ closer, and he has no qualms bringing him in.
“He throws around 91, 92 mph. It’s light’s out,” Allen said. “So I wasn’t too nervous about it.”
And rightfully so.
Adams’ velocity made the Colts noticeably uncomfortable. On back-to-back pitches, the senior forced two Cedar Cliff right-handed hitters to flyout to right field.
They were way behind on his fastball.
“It’s a difficult adjustment for a hitter,” Adams said. “I’m sure they’re going to get a piece of the ball eventually.”
Adams’ brief but noteworthy presence in the final inning brought a calmness to State College in a game that teetered both ways.
After a scoreless first frame, State College struck first with four runs in the second inning. Bailey Ishler had a leadoff walk, Tucker Triebold singled, and Kenny Magnes drew a walk, as well, before Liam Clarke’s ground ball to first base was muffed, allowing him to reach base safely and Ishler to score. Then Tyson Cooper walked, scoring Triebold, and Magnes was plated on a fielder’s choice. Before the inning was over, Cooper reached home on a wild pitch.
Inducing a total of five walks in the second frame, the Little Lions were being patient.
It continued to do so in the third.
After taking a few pitches, Magnes slapped a triple down the left-field line. Gavin Schaefer-Hood pounced on the next pitch for an RBI single, and he’d later score on a triple by Cooper in a seven-pitch at-bat.
State College held a 6-0 lead, plenty for starting pitcher Mason Mellott to work with.
But after cruising through three scoreless innings to start, Mellott was on the bench for quite some time during State College’s long third inning at the plate.
“He was sitting around for a while,” Allen said. “It got bumpier than I anticipated.”
The Colts found their form in the batter’s box.
Propelled by cerebral baserunning and a few poor decisions in the field by State College, Cedar Cliff hung three runs in the fourth.
Mellott finished out the frame, but, true to Allen’s early-season limit, his day was done after tallying five strikeouts in four innings of work.
Senior southpaw Tristan Ballenger gave way to a trio of Cedar Cliff runs in the fifth inning before Friberg tidied things up the next inning, leaving State College in a 6-6 ballgame heading into the bottom of the sixth.
State College’s Brandon Raquet led off with an infield single, and stole second base as the next hitter, Greg Copenhaver, struck out swinging. The catcher’s throw down skipped into the outfield, allowing Raquet to high-tail it to third.
Next up, Adams lofted a liner over the third baseman, plating Raquet and giving the Little Lions a 7-6 edge.
With Adams on second following the double, Cedar Cliff intentionally walked Ishler to get to Triebold and set up a force play with one out.
Triebold had a feeling that would happen.
“But I just had to trust myself when I went up to bat and get the job done,” he said.
Triebold did what he needed to do, smacking an RBI single up the middle. He later stole second, forcing a throw which granted Ishler home and State College a 9-6 lead.
“I have the utmost confidence in all my guys,” Allen said. “They know that when their situation comes, they have to produce. I have confidence one through nine and they did their jobs.”
The win marks two in a row for State College (2-0) to jumpstart the 2016 campaign, after dusting Red Land 15-4 on Tuesday.
With the offense clicking and an apparent shutdown closer in tow, the Little Lions are in fine form to begin the season.
Next up for State College?
A road matchup with Central Dauphin on Tuesday.