The past week was one of ups and downs for the State College Spikes.
Although the Spikes set a new franchise record for best start through the first seven games of a season with a sweep of the Crosscutters, they returned winless after a three-game series against Pirates’ affiliate Black Bears.
Now at 6-4 before heading into Tuesday’s evening’s contest against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, here’s what happened last week:
Spikes 4, Crosscutters 2 (10)
They needed an extra inning, but the Spikes outlasted the Crosscutters Tuesday in Williamsport to move to 4-0 in road contests on the season, its best road start since the club was founded in 2006.
An RBI double off the bat of shortstop Moises Castillo gave State College the one-run lead in the 10th, which Carlos Soto followed up with a double of his own to extend that lead to two.
That was not the first RBI of the night for Castillo, who earned the first RBI of his Spike career with a double in the fifth.
Pitcher Fabian Blanco then struck out three of the next four batters to close out the game.
As a staff, State College pitchers struck out 16 Williamsport batters. Of those 16, half came from starter Jacob Schlesener, who struck out five pitchers in a row.
Winning pitcher: Eli Kraus (1-1)
Losing pitcher: Alejandro Made (0-1)
Spikes 7, Crosscutters 4
After rain postponed Wednesday night’s game, the Spikes started Thursday’s “Bark n the Park Night” doubleheader with a win at Medlar Field.
After getting off to a three-run deficit in the first, the Spikes were able to score seven straight runs. Stanley Espinal kicked off the scoring with a single line drive to center field that scored two in the bottom of the first. Espinal hit an RBI single on another line drive to center field in the fourth plus a sacrifice fly in the third for four RBIs on two hits and a walk.
Espinal also made two diving catches in left field, including one for the final out of the game.
On the mound, it was starter Michael Baird who came out with the win.
After racking up a full count against the first batter of the game, The Southern Illinois product struck him out, then retired the next 10 batters. Baird recorded just a walk over four no-hit, no-run innings and recorded six strikeouts.seven straight runs that erased a 3-0 deficit.
Winning pitcher: Michael Baird (2-0)
Losing pitcher: Rafael Carvajal (0-1)
Spikes 7, Crosscutters 6
A walk-off homer by Dariel Gomez put an exclamation point on Thursday’s doubleheader at Medlar Field as the Spikes closed out the day with a three-game series sweep of the Phillies-affiliated Crosscutters.
Down by two headed into the final inning, Andrew Warner got on base on an error, and Espinal singled to bring up Gomez. In his second hit of the season, Gomez smashed the first pitch in the count into the right-field bleachers to bring in three runs.
The second game also marked the first professional hit for Brylie Ware, the St. Louis Cardinals’s 23rd-round draft pick this year out of Oklahoma. Ware went 2 for 4 at the plate, including a two-run single.
Reliever Hector Villalobos earned the win with two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh.
Winning pitcher: Hector Villalobos (1-0)
Losing pitcher: Blake Bennett (0-1)
Black Bears 6, Spikes 5
The Spikes’ hot start to the season was stifled in West Virginia on Friday night.
Despite a 4-for-4 effort by Pedro Pages with two doubles in his second professional game and the first homer of the season for Sotos, the Spikes were unable to withstand a late surge by the Black Bears, starting in the sixth inning.
It started when West Virginia’s Brett Kinneman walked with the bases loaded for one run, then a fielder’s choice in the same frame brought in another, to bring the Black Bears within two.
A Victor Ngoepe double and a Cory Wood single tied things up for West Virginia in the seventh. The Black Bears took the lead in the eighth with ground-rule double with the bases loaded.
The Spikes started to rally in the ninth when Soto’s two-out RBI single brought State College within one, but pitcher West Virginia Cameron Junker struck out Warner for the save.
Winning pitcher: Brandon Maurer (1-0)
Losing pitcher: Eli Kraus (1-2)
Black Bears 6, Spikes 1
The Spikes were held to their lowest offensive output of the season against West Virginia, recording just two hits at Monongalia County Ballpark on Saturday.
Former Spike Winston Nicasio, who made 16 appearances for State College in 2018 before being selected by the Pirates in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, gave up no hits over three shutout innings to earn the victory in relief. Nicasio allowed just two walks and a hit batter, while striking out three.
The lone run for the Spikes came in the third, when a Castillo single scored Martin Figueroa, who had his a one-out double off the center-field wall.
State College starter Enmanuel Solano took the loss after allowing six Black Bears runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Winning pitcher: Winston Nicasio (1-1)
Losing pitcher: Enmanuel Solano (0-1)
Black Bears 8, Spikes 5
The Spikes would leave West Virginia winless after a big 5-0 first inning by the Black Bears put the final game of the series out of reach early on Sunday.
Gomez led the Spikes offensively, reaching base four times with a single and three walks, scoring twice.
West Virginia’s first-inning onslaught began with a two-run double from Pirates’ 2019 second-round draft pick Matt Gorski, and a two-run homer from Jared Triolo to take the lead. A hit batter with the bases loaded scored the fifth run.
Starter Schlesener took the loss for the Spikes, allowing seven runs on six hits, four walks and three hit basemen. He struck out three.
Winning pitcher: Grant Ford (1-0)
Losing pitcher: Jacob Schlesener (0-1)