The State College Spikes had just three baserunners reach scoring position Sunday night.
They got to third against Tri-City starting pitcher Dean Deetz in the fourth inning, but he escaped the only threat he faced with a strikeout.
The Spikes loaded the bases in the eighth, but Tri-City reliever Juan Santos ended the inning with a groundout.
They were State College’s lone opportunities in a 3-0 loss to the ValleyCats at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez credited Deetz for a strong five-inning outing to earn the win. The Tri-City right-hander mixed his fastball, breaking ball and changeup well to limit State College to two hits while striking out four and walking one.
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But Rodriguez wasn’t pleased with his team’s approach against relievers Agapito Barrios and Santos. They didn’t impress Rodriguez like Deetz did, but they combined to hold the Spikes to three hits in four innings to complete the shutout.
“We definitely should have gotten to the two relievers and we didn’t,” Rodriguez said. “Those two relievers were very hittable.”
The Spikes (10-12) finished with five hits and went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position in the loss.
State College’s Casey Grayson went 1 for 4 to extend his on-base streak to 21 games and his hitting streak to 12 games. Rowan Wick set the Spikes’ record with a 26-game on-base streak last season.
State College starting pitcher Landon Beck went 61/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits to take the loss. Beck struck out four and walked one.
Tri-City (12-11) got on the board on Pat Porter’s two-out, two-run double in the second inning.
Drew Ferguson singled and Bobby Wernes was hit by a pitch before Porter came to the plate. He pulled an 0-2 offering from Beck into right field for a double to make it 2-0. Beck then retired 12 straight batters and held Tri-City scoreless in four straight innings.
“He just made one mistake — left it in the middle of the zone for the two runs early,” Rodriguez said. “But you got to score one.”
The Spikes threatened for the first time in the fourth.
Mike Pritchard drew a leadoff walk and stole second with one out. He advanced to third when Grayson grounded out to first. But Pritchard was stranded on third when Leobaldo Pina struck out looking at a breaking ball.
Pina saw three sliders in the at bat.
“If you’re ready to hit a fastball back in the zone, that slider’s coming,” Rodriguez said. “You got time to see it, drive it to right-center or drive it to right field. Give yourself a shot, just don’t stand with the bat in your hand.”
Porter, who finished 3 for 4, pushed the ValleyCats’ lead to 3-0 with an RBI single in the top of the seventh.
Grayson grounded out in his first two at bats before he singled in the bottom of the seventh to keep his on-base and hitting streaks alive.
The Spikes first baseman hit a weak ground ball down the third base line for the hit. Grayson said his teammates have given him a hard time after lucky hits during the streak, and that continued when he returned to the dugout after Pina grounded into a double play.
“I walked in after the double play and (Craig) Aikin told me not to even to look at him, just to keep walking,” Grayson said. “It’s a bit of luck. It was a pitch I was just trying to foul off and keep the at bat going. It bounced twice foul and somehow kicked fair and went over the bag.”
The Spikes had a chance to cut into Tri-City’s lead in the bottom of the eighth.
Craig Aikin reached base on a dropped third strike with two outs. Thomas Spitz followed with a single and Pritchard worked a 3-2 count and drew a walk to load the bases.
That ended Barrios’ relief appearance after allowing three hits and a walk in 22/3 innings.
Santos entered to face Jesse Jenner, who grounded out to end the threat. It was the only time State College put any pressure on Tri-City’s relievers in four innings.
“I just thought they were weak swings on those two guys,” Rodriguez said. “The only guy that threw really good swings at them was Pritchard. … Everybody else I didn’t like their swings on them and those are the guys you got to get.”
Notes: The Spikes and ValleyCats finish their series at noon Monday. Carson Cross (1-1, 6.75 ERA) is set to start for State College, while Austin Nicely (0-1, 7.45) will be on the mound for Tri-City.