The State College Spikes rolled past the Vermont Lake Monsters in their series finale Thursday night.
State College starting pitcher Juan Perez was wild in four innings, but the right-hander allowed just one run. Three relievers then combined to pitch five scoreless innings.
The Spikes offense pounded out 13 hits and broke the game open with a five-run fifth inning.
And State College was solid defensively in its 10-1 victory over the Lake Monsters at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
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“I think we’re going to go on a run,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “I think we are.”
Rodriguez made the same prediction before the game. The Spikes climbed back to the .500 mark with the win, but they’ve struggled to sustain success this season. State College’s longest win streak is three games — a feat the team accomplished with a sweep of Hudson Valley before taking on the Lake Monsters. But the Spikes were swept in their previous series and followed the three-game winning streak with two losses to Vermont.
Pedro Echemendia pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win. Max Almonte and Jacob Evans combined to pitch the final three innings.
Jhohan Acevedo and Casey Grayson each drove in two runs to lead the Spikes. Grayson went 3 for 5, while Acevedo, Leobaldo Pina and Orlando Olivera each had two hits.
Perez allowed six walks and threw 85 pitches in his four-inning outing. The right-hander threw 12 scoreless innings, striking out 17 and walking four in his previous two starts.
Though he wasn’t as dominant, he limited the damage with the same “stuff.”
“He’s got stuff,” Rodriguez said. “It’s hard to center him up. You can do it, but it’s hard to center him up.”
State College scored two runs in each of the first two innings to give Perez plenty of support.
Thomas Spitz and Acevedo started the first inning with back-to-back singles. Vermont shortstop Richie Martin then bobbled a ground ball by Pina and made an errant flip to second, allowing Spitz to score and Acevedo to advance to third. Grayson followed with an RBI single to give the Spikes a 2-0 lead.
Vermont capitalized on three walks and an infield single to get on the board in the top of the second before the Spikes added to their lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Craig Aikin’s RBI double to right-center field and Spitz’s RBI groundout pushed the Spikes ahead 4-1.
Rodriguez turned to Echemendia to start the fifth.
“I need someone to settle the game down because after all that traffic for four innings, (if) Almonte comes in and gives it up, then we’re back in a dogfight,” Rodriguez said. “So I said I need somebody to settle it down.”
Echemendia has now made a team-high 13 appearances and threw two scoreless innings before Almonte took the mound.
Meanwhile, the Spikes offense broke the game open with a five-run fifth.
Acevedo’s two-run triple to left-center field sparked the big inning.
“I just wanted to take a fastball and make a good swing on it,” Acevedo said. “He was a little bit wild, so I was waiting for that pitch and I knew he was coming with it in a 3-1 count, I knew he was coming with that.”
Pina followed with an RBI double, Olivera drove in a run with a single and Jenner scored on a wild pitch to make it 9-1. Grayson’s RBI double in the sixth rounded out the scoring in the dominant win.
Rodriguez expects the momentum to continue when the Spikes host Lowell in a three-game series starting Friday.
“We’re going to win. I don’t expect nothing else,” Rodriguez said. “I expect nine innings of what I saw the last two days. If we do that, we got a great chance. And that’s what I think we will do.”
Notes: Right-handed pitcher Brennan Leitao was sent to Rookie-level Johnson City on Thursday. Leitao went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in eight relief appearances for State College. … The Spikes start a three-game series against Lowell at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Landon Beck (1-3, 2.67 ERA) will be on the mound for State College, while Jose Almonte (2-2, 4.50) will start for Lowell.