State College Spikes

State College Spikes: Valera leads rally in win against Mahoning Valley

Winning seems to be breeding confidence in State College.

The Spikes won for the seventh time in nine games, this time coming back late to beat Mahoning Valley 4-3 after losing an early lead Monday night in New York-Penn League baseball.

“I sense the same thing in the clubhouse and the dugout regardless,” Spikes’ manager Oliver Marmol said. “We were down in that game and there was absolutely no panic and that’s a good feeling to have.”

After a 20-minute rain delay, 2,420 patrons at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park watched a few Spikes continue hot streaks, some break out of slumps and others break into the pros. The win was the Spikes’ third in a row.

After being named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, Cesar Valera went 2-for-4 with a double in the first inning.

He scored two batters later when David Washington drove a slider over the fence in center for his third home run in five games, giving him a league-leading 20 RBIs.

Alex De Leon, who went 0-for-22 in his last eight games, went 3-for-4.

Cody Ferrell went 3-for-4 for Mahoning Valley, while Nellie Rodriguez and Juan Romero both went 2-for-4. Scrappers’ reliever Ben Heller (0-2) took the loss.

Even when State College (13-8) surrendered its two-run lead on one pitch, neither the offense nor the defense seemed to press.

“I don’t think it’s so much offense and defense, it’s more of just a (team) mindset,” Marmol said. “They feel comfortable in any situation regardless of being up or down.”

Ben O’Shea (3-1) went seven innings for the win, but gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Battaglia on a hanging change-up in the fourth. O’Shea, a 35th-round pick in 2012, knew it was gone immediately.

“Yeah, I figured,” he said with a smile.

The 6-foot-5 lefty regained his composure, and only allowed two hits in his final three innings.

Mahoning Valley (7-15) saw its starter also settle down.

After the homer to Washington in the first, 19-year-old Caleb Hamrick allowed just one more hit.

“He has good command of his pitches,” said Scrappers manager Ted Kubiak. “Nice little change-up, little breaking ball and he throws strikes, which is half the battle.”

State College eventually broke through with two manufactured runs in the seventh, a day after lighting the scoreboard with 12 runs and 14 hits.

With Heller in relief, State College used back-to-back infield singles by Matthew Young and Steven Ramos to start the rally. Later, a Jimmy Bosco single scored Young and tied the game at three. When Bosco broke for second moments later, the movement allowed Valera to poke the ball through the area vacated at second on the hit-and-run.

Valera did the same for Bruce Caldwell a batter later, and Caldwell’s single scored Bosco for the go-ahead run.

The Spikes’ bullpen took care of the rest.

Right-handed reliever Arturo Reyes saw his first professional action on the mound for the Spikes in the eighth.

After five straight balls and a single to Rodriguez (2-for-4), a sacrifice bunt by James Roberts put the tying run on third. Struggling to find the zone, Reyes responded, using his split-fingered fastball to strike out Paul Hendrix and then get Battaglia to fly out.

“Yeah, he’s going to be good,” Marmol said of Reyes, who throws five different pitches. “I liked what I saw no matter the situation he put himself in. He was able to come out of it and give us a big inning.”

Reyes, a 40th-round pick from Gonzaga, saw his first action since being placed on the disabled list June 24. Kyle Webb got the save in the ninth.

The Spikes and Scrappers will conclude the series at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday when Willy Paulino (1-1) makes his first start for State College and Robert Whitenack (1-2) goes for Mahoning Valley.