State College Spikes’ center fielder Thomas Spitz was in position to record the final out and stop Williamsport’s comeback in the ninth.
Four batters earlier, the Crosscutters had pulled within one run on Venn Biter’s grand slam to left field. They had runners on second and third with two outs when Grenny Cumana sent a line drive to center field.
Spitz dove for the ball, but it tipped off his glove and both runs scored to complete Williamsport’s comeback in a 7-6, walk-off win Saturday night at Bowman Field.
“He had it right in his glove and it came out,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said.
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The Crosscutters scored six runs on five hits and two walks in the bottom of the ninth to stun the Spikes (0-2). State College scored four runs in the top of the ninth to take a 6-1 lead into the final half inning.
State College reliever Pedro Echemendia, who entered with one out in the ninth, took the loss for the Spikes. Feliberto Sanchez allowed one run on two hits in one-third of an inning to get the win for Williamsport (2-0).
It was a low-scoring affair for eight innings before the teams combined for 10 runs in the ninth in a game played in light to moderate rain over the final four innings.
Ronnierd Garcia ripped a solo home run to left-center field to give State College a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Williamsport’s Jan Hernandez tied it in the fifth with a solo shot that left the park just to the left of Garcia’s.
The Spikes took a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Casey Grayson scored on an error by Williamsport second baseman William Cuicas.
Garcia went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a home run to lead the Spikes offensively.
“He’s one of the guys that’s got ability to hit,” Rodriguez said. “He’s experienced and we’re going to need him.”
The Spikes broke it open in the ninth.
Garcia lined a one-out double down the left field line to start the inning. After a flyout, Mike Pritchard and Danny Martin drew back-to-back walks to load the bases.
Sanchez replaced Juan Figueroa on the mound with Leobaldo Pina coming to the plate. Pina pulled a ball down the third base line for a two-run double, scoring Garcia and Pritchard.
Garcia clapped and pointed out to Pina as he made his way to the dugout with the Spikes ahead 4-1. Grayson followed with a double down the left field line to score two more runs, giving the Spikes a comfortable 6-1 lead going to the bottom of the ninth.
But Williamsport put together a rally against State College reliever Kender Villegas.
Jose Pujols and Gregori Rivero started the inning with back-to-back singles. After a popout, Jan Hernandez singled to load the bases.
Biter drilled a pitch to left field, sending Pritchard racing toward the wall, but it left the park for a grand slam. State College’s lead was cut to 6-5, and Echemendia replaced Villegas on the mound.
The right-hander walked Andrew Amaro on four pitches. Cuicas battled him to a full count and also drew a walk.
A groundout by Carlos Duran moved pinch-runner Gustavo Martinez to third and Cuicas to second.
Cumana’s single off Spitz’s glove completed the wild finish with the Crosscutters celebrating a walk-off win.
“The pitchers didn’t give up,” Rodriguez said. “They threw strikes. The other team earned it. They hit the ball, they found the holes. We played a great defensive game all game long and that last play, most of the time he’ll make that play.”
Spikes starting pitcher Jorge Rodriguez allowed one run on four hits in five innings. He also struck out three and walked none.
“Jorge was outstanding,” Rodriguez said. “First time ever he pitches under the lights in the United States. He was in the Gulf Coast (League) last year. He gave us five solid innings.”
Notes: The Spikes and Crosscutters finish their season-opening series at 6:05 p.m. Sunday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Right-hander Dailyn Martin will be on the mound for the Spikes, while right-hander Jose Taveras will get the start for the Crosscutters.