With a man on second and one out, Anthony Ray’s first inclination was to bunt.
Ray, a 165-pound outfielder and the No. 9 batter in the State College Spikes order, tried to bunt, too, but missed.
“It was just me messing up,” Ray said with a smile. “Then (third base coach and manager Johnny Rodriguez) told me to swing away.”
On the next pitch, Ray skied a two-run home run over the right-field wall in the bottom of the fifth inning, pushing the Spikes to a 4-3 win over Mahoning Valley on Friday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
State College (11-4) has won nine of its last 10 games, while Mahoning Valley (3-12) lost its third in a row.
“They’re grinders,” Rodriguez said. “This is not a rah-rah team. This is not a powerful team. This is a quiet team. They go about their business, and do things right at the right time. They don’t panic.”
The Spikes certainly didn’t panic Friday — and neither did Ray after his missed bunt.
Home runs aren’t a frequent occurrence for Ray. Entering Friday night, the 21-year-old went yard only once in 458 career minor league at-bats.
Considering his blast gave State College a 4-0 lead — an advantage the team would barely hold onto — Ray was happy his jolt came at an opportune time.
“It was fun at the time,” Ray said. “He came fastball inside, I wasn’t really looking for it, but he gave it to me, so turn and burn.”
Double-up: Back-to-back pitches, back-to-back doubles? Sounds good to the Spikes. After being no-hit through three innings, a pair of run-scoring two-baggers in the fourth inning by Ryan McCarvel and Jeremy Martinez jumpstarted State College.
After Tommy Edman, State College’s first baserunner, walked and stole second in the bottom of the fourth, McCarvel broke through with a double to deep center field, scoring his teammate. On the next pitch, Jeremy Martinez hit a double himself, finding the right-center gap and plating McCarvel to make it 2-0.
Dobzanski deals: Overshadowed by several extra-base hits was Bryan Dobzanski’s effective outing. Dobzanski (2-1) threw six innings in the winning effort while striking out six and allowing only one earned run and six hits.
It’s Dobzanski’s second consecutive win after shutting down West Virginia on June 26.
“Dobzanski doesn’t overpower you, but he makes you make soft contact,” Rodriguez said. “The ball is always moving in the zone, sinks, moves in. ... What happens is, you can’t really barrel him up too much.”
5-4-3: After a throwing error by reliever Max Almonte nixed a potential double play, the Spikes finished off their second chance at turning two in the top of the eighth. With runners on first and second with one out, a Gian Paul Gonzalez grounder to third baseman Dylan Tice rolled into a 5-4-3 double play, getting Almonte out of a jam and preserving State College’s one-run lead.
Food for thought
Tommy takes first: Excluding his 0 for 4 game against Brooklyn on Tuesday, Edman has reached base via a hit or walk in every game he’s played in this season. The 21-year-old Stanford product kept his recent form going with walks in the bottom of the fourth and fifth.
Down on strikes: Mahoning Valley first baseman Emmanuel Tapia entered Friday night having struck out in every game this season. That continued, as Tapia went down swinging on a foul tip in the top of the sixth inning. Tapia, who does have two home runs for the Scrappers, has struck out 19 times total in 10 games.
Roster move: Outfielder Bladimil Franco joined the Spikes on Friday, after previously playing for Class A Peoria.
Mahoning Valley: The Scrappers will send out Micah Miniard, a 6-foot-7 right-hander, to face the Spikes at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Miniard is 0-1 in three starts this season with a 2.57 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. The 20-year-old walked four and lasted only 3 1/3 innings in his last outing.
State College: Spikes left-hander John Kilichowski is scheduled to face the Scrappers in his first career minor league start. Kilichowski, an 11th-round selection in this year’s draft out of Vanderbilt, has made one appearance for State College — a two-inning, scoreless relief stint on Monday against West Virginia.