It was a pitcher’s duel and a game that flew along quickly – until the eighth inning.
A bad eighth, with 11 Lowell Spinner batters striding to the plate to produce six runs, doomed the State College Spikes to another loss.
The big frame was the difference in the Spikes’ 9-3 setback Friday night.
Starting pitcher Landon Beck had been on target, striking out nine in six innings of work, and left the game in line for the win, giving up just two runs, three hits and two walks. His fastball topped out at 95 mph.
“Beck was outstanding,” manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “Solid, solid effort.”
Beck was not around for the fireworks later – either in the eighth or the show for the 5,084 Medlar Field at Lubrano Park fans after the game ended.
In all, Spikes pitchers combined to strike out 16.
State College batters managed just four hits, however, with Orlando Olivera knocking in all three runs and Casey Grayson belting a double.
The eighth inning was one to forget for the Spikes.
It included a two-run double for Victor Acosta, an RBI triple for Kyri Washington, a two-run double for Austin Rei and a Luis Alexander Basabe sacrifice fly. The frame also had two plays at third in which it appeared runners were tagged out. The second of which, Cole Lankford slapping the glove on Rei before he could get back to the bag on an infield single, brought out an irate Rodriguez to argue about the play.
Jerry Then (0-2) had relieved Beck and started the eighth, taking the loss. Kender Villegas, however, was the one roughed up in the inning.
“Villegas just didn’t have his secondary pitches today,” Rodriguez said. “His fastball was up in the zone.”
Rodriguez thought the game actually turned an inning earlier, when Tucker Tubbs’ one-out grounder to shortstop Leobaldo Pina was thrown in the dirt and first baseman Grayson could not scoop it up. Brandon Magee, who was 3 for 4, then stroked a two-out double off the center field wall to bring Tubbs all the way home from first to tie the game 3-3.
“The game changes on that one error,” Rodriguez said. “You could feel it.”
Basabe singled to lead off the game and later scored on Chad de la Guerra’s fly ball to right field to open the scoring.
The Spikes finally got their first hit, and first run, in the fourth when Mike Pritchard singled and eventually scored on Olivera’s ground out.
Lowell took the lead the next inning when Magee tripled to the gap in left-center field and easily trotted home on a ground-rule double to center by Basabe.
State College bounced back with two runs in the sixth. Thomas Spitz and Pritchard started the innings with walks and moved up on a fly out. Starter Jose Almonte then departed. He struck out six and walked four while allowing three runs and just one hit in 5 1/3 innings. Olivera singled to left to bring in both runs.
Matt Kent (3-0) pitched the final 3 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and a walk with three strikeouts for the win.
Notes: Lowell right fielder Tate Matheny is the son of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. … Spinners manager Joe Oliver played 12 seasons in the majors, winning a title with the 1990 Cincinnati Reds. … The teams meet again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday, the second of their three-game series, with Spikes right-hander Carson Cross (1-1, 2.81 ERA) facing Lowell righty Dioscar Romero (2-2, 3.26).