Before the State College Spikes took the field Wednesday, manager Johnny Rodriguez kept the door to his office closed.
It was his way of sending a succinct message to his players after their 10-inning loss to Vermont the previous night: Focus.
“It’s never comforting when you know he’s mad,” Spikes second baseman Josh Swirchak said. “But at that point you know that (what) you need to do is get back on the right track and really put a lot of effort in and show him that you can focus and put at bats together and really just try to get back in his good graces.”
The Spikes did that Wednesday night despite falling 3-0 to the Lake Monsters at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
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State College (18-19) managed just four hits, but Rodriguez was pleased with his team’s at bats and credited Vermont’s pitching for the shutout. Lake Monsters starting pitcher Jon Massad allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings to earn the win. Derek De Young pitched two scoreless innings of relief and Ryan Gorton picked up the save with one scoreless inning.
State College starting pitcher Dailyn Martinez took the loss, allowing three runs (one earned) and eight hits in six innings. Martinez also struck out four and walked none. Relievers Luke Harrison and Kevin Alexander combined to pitch three scoreless innings.
For Rodriguez, it was an encouraging all-around performance after State College’s 9-7 loss Tuesday night. The Spikes fell behind 7-1, came back to force extra innings but fell short. Rodriguez planned to have a meeting Wednesday, but he decided to leave his door closed instead.
The manager had two meetings recently, including after the Spikes were swept by Aberdeen last week. He had already addressed the same mistakes he saw Tuesday night in those meetings and said his players need to learn to keep their emotions in check and “do things right.”
“Why am I going to repeat myself a third time?” Rodriguez said before the game Wednesday. “And every time, they’ve responded. Come on, I’m not mom and dad. It’s about time that they take ownership for their responsibilities on that field.”
He felt his players received his message after falling to Vermont in the second game of the series.
“They were focused from the first inning to the ninth inning and that’s all I want,” Rodriguez said. “Yesterday, we weren’t focused the first four or five innings and then we picked it up later and then we didn’t finish the deal. But today, I thought we were there for nine innings. I’m satisfied.”
Vermont (16-21) got on the board in the top of the second inning.
Steven Pallares singled to right field with one out and scored on Skye Bolt’s double to left-center field.
The Lake Monsters added to that lead in the third with some help from the Spikes.
Richie Martin started the inning with a double down the left field line. After a popout and a strikeout, Brett Siddall sent a groundball up the middle. Martin took off from second and rounded third as Swirchak fielded the ball. Swirchak airmailed the throw to first base, allowing the run to score and the inning to continue.
“Everything went well,” Swirchak said. “Exchanged it well, backhanded it, got it out — just released it high and sailed on me.”
Nick Collins followed with a single into right field to drive in Siddall and push Vermont’s lead to 3-0.
“It was an effort error,” Rodriguez said of Swirchak’s miscue. “He made a nice play on a backhand, the ball got away from him, what can you do? A single came after that. They capitalized on it. I tip the hat to their pitchers and they capitalized on the error.”
Swirchak went 2 for 4 with a double to pace the State College offense. Craig Aikin and Casey Grayson each had singles to round out the Spikes’ four-hit night.
Though they didn’t produce, Rodriguez liked his players’ at bats.
“They were ready to hit with intent,” Rodriguez said. “And here’s the irony — we don’t score a run.”
The Spikes finish their series against Vermont at 7:05 p.m. Thursday. Juan Perez (4-1, 2.27 ERA) will be on the mound for State College, while Evan Manarino (2-3, 4.03) is set to pitch for Vermont.