Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez went over four potential situations with Anthony Ray when he reached third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
At the top of the list: Anticipate the wild pitch.
Ray was ready to take off during the next at-bat and scored on a wild pitch to clinch State College’s 7-6, walk-off win over the Hudson Valley Renegades on Sunday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
It was the second straight night the Spikes capitalized on a wild pitch to score what proved to be the game-winning run.
“The game sometimes just comes to an execution of a play, a bunt, a hit and run, a read, a pitch,” Rodriguez said.
State College (2-1) also rallied for the second straight night, erasing a 6-3 deficit Sunday before Ray scored to end the game.
Yeison Medina pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn the win. Spikes starting pitcher Steven Farinaro allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits in seven innings.
Josh Swirchak finished 3 for 4 with two RBIs, and Danny Martin scored two runs to lead the Spikes offensively.
Former Penn State player Jim Haley recorded his first professional hit in his return to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Haley finished 1 for 4 with an RBI triple in his second game with the Renegades (1-2), the short-season Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, who selected the former Nittany Lion in the 19th round of this year’s MLB Draft.
Haley lifted a shot over the head of Spikes center fielder Anthony Ray in the third inning, driving in Perez to tie the game 3-3.
It was Haley’s sixth professional at-bat.
“Coming in, it was weird wearing a different uniform and being in the other dugout,” Haley said. “But to get my first hit here, you can’t write it up any better.”
Haley then scored the go-ahead run on Nathaniel Lowe’s RBI single.
The Renegades pushed their lead to 6-3 on an RBI double by Miguel Hernandez and a throwing error by State College right fielder Ricardo Bautista in the top of the fourth.
The Spikes cut the deficit to one run in the bottom of the fourth.
Chris Rivera tripled to left-center field with two outs and scored on a fielding error by Haley. Vince Jackson, who reached on the error, stole second base before scoring on Elier Rodriguez’s single to make it 6-5.
State College pulled even in the seventh.
Martin drew a one-out walk and stole second on the first pitch to Swirchak.
“He’s got speed, we create,” the Spikes manager said. “That’s why I put him on top of the order because if he gets on base, he’s going to put pressure on your defense.”
Martin used that speed to score on a blooper to right field by Swirchak. He just beat the throw home to tie the game 6-6 on the double.
“I didn’t think it was going to get down,” Swirchak said. “I was a little mad at myself at first.”
The Renegades had a chance to take the lead in the ninth, putting the go-ahead run on second after a walk and sacrifice bunt.
But Garrett Whitley struck out swinging to end the threat with Haley on deck.
In the bottom of the ninth, Elier Rodriguez led off with a walk.
Ray popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt, forcing pinch-runner Mick Fennell to wait at first and leading to an out at second base. With Ray on first, Martin lined a single to right field and Swirchak walked to load the bases.
With Tommy Edman at the plate and Renegades reliever Elias Torres on the mound, Rodriguez reminded Ray to be ready for a wild pitch.
When the fifth pitch bounced to the backstop, Ray scored.
Said Rodriguez: “He got a great jump, really great jump.”
Notes: The Spikes and Renegades continue their series at 7:05 p.m. Monday. Ronnie Williams is set to get the start for State College. The right-handed pitcher was the St. Louis Cardinals’ second round pick in 2014 out of American Senior High School in Florida.