State College starting pitcher Juan Perez etched his name in the Spikes’ record book when he struck out Batavia’s Stone Garrett for the second out of the seventh inning.
It was his 10th strikeout of the night, moving him into a tie with Will Anderson and Fernando Baez for the single-game franchise record.
The right-hander leaned in and peered over his glove in the seventh inning. He had a chance to break the record Anderson and Baez set last season. He had an 0-2 count against Muckdogs cleanup hitter Brad Haynal and fired a pitch in the dirt. Haynal fouled off the next pitch and took another pitch in the dirt before flying out to center field.
Perez watched Craig Aikin make the grab, gave a fist pump along the third base line and high-fived his catcher Jesse Jenner. The battery mates then walked side-by-side back to the dugout, marking the end of Perez’s brilliant outing Saturday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
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Perez threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Spikes to an 8-0 win over Batavia. In addition to tying to the State College record for strikeouts, the 19-year-old allowed two infield singles and two walks while facing 22 batters. Jacob Evans pitched the final two innings to finish the two-hitter.
“He was 93-95, unhittable fastball,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “What I mean by that when he throws that breaking ball with power spin and he throws that changeup, what are you going to look for? You’re going to have to sit on one pitch. You’re going to sit on that fastball and make contact and he was blowing it right by them.
“Best pitching performance this year here by far.”
Cole Lankford finished 3 for 4 with three doubles and five RBIs to lead State College (14-13) offensively.
Perez recorded his first strikeout when he got Garrett swinging in the first inning. The right-hander struck out the side in the second inning and recorded a strikeout in each of his seven innings.
“He had confidence, he knew what he wanted to throw,” Jenner said. “It was pretty easy calling the game for him, me and him were in a groove, we were on the same page. I personally think he should have had no hits (allowed).”
The Spikes took a 3-0 lead in the first inning after Casey Grayson’s RBI single and Lankford’s two-run double. They added two runs in the fourth on Orlando Olivera’s home run to left-center field and Jenner’s RBI double.
Perez allowed the first hit to Batavia (8-19) in the fourth inning when Garrett hit a ground ball down the third base line and easily beat Lankford’s jump throw for an infield single. Alexander Fernandez followed with an infield single on a slow roller to third that Lankford threw away, but Jenner was backing up the play and gunned down Fernandez trying to take second to erase an error.
Perez cruised through the sixth inning, getting Blake Anderson swinging for his ninth strikeout. He tied the record after getting Garrett swinging for the second out of the seventh inning and finished his night by getting Haynal to fly out.
Rodriguez said Perez is capable of dominating every start if he focuses more between starts.
At times, he doesn’t take his workouts and running seriously.
“That’s the difference,” Rodriguez said. “He can be that dominating guy. He can do that day in, day out, no matter what level.”
Lankford ripped a three-run double to center field in the bottom of the seventh to push the Spikes lead to 8-0.
“The reason he is going to hit is that nothing bothers him,” Rodriguez said. “He plays the game, which a guy with tools would play like that, you could be 19 years old and you’d be in the big leagues. He really plays the game with a certain swagger about himself.”
It capped the scoring in a dominant victory highlighted by Perez’s record-tying night on the mound.
Said Rodriguez: “This was our most impressive win — offense, defense, pitching.”
Notes: Catcher Brian O’Keefe was promoted to Single-A Peoria on Saturday. O’Keefe was hitting .143 in 13 games this season after hitting .239 in 47 games with the Spikes last year. State College received catcher Riley Drongesen from Rookie-level Johnson City. … The Spikes continue their series against Batavia on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. Landon Beck (1-2, 2.01) will be on the mound for State College, while Cody Poteet (0-1, 3.12) is set to start for Batavia.