The sweep was not meant to be.
Continued stellar pitching from Mahoning Valley’s Triston McKenzie, coupled with a pair of home runs, propelled the Scrappers to a 4-0 win over State College on Sunday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The Spikes (12-5) lost just their second game since June 21, while Mahoning Valley (4-13) snapped a four-game losing streak.
McKenzie (2-1) was difficult to outfox. The 18-year-old right-hander struck out six over six innings of work while allowing only four hits.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Centre Daily Times
“He’s their first rounder,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said of the 2015 draftee. “He’s got velocity, a good mix, in and out. ... We couldn’t bunch up the hits. You gotta give him credit.”
One of the top pitchers statistically in the New York-Penn League, McKenzie did particularly well stranding the Spikes when he allowed runners to reach base.
McKenzie left five runners on base, two of which reached third base, and induced a pair of double plays.
Offensively, all Mahoning Valley needed was a couple of swings. A two-run home run by Erlin Cerda in the fourth inning and a solo shot by Todd Isaacs in the eighth highlighted the Scrappers’ day.
Wasted chance: One specific, and rare, opportunity the Spikes had came in the second inning. With one out, Ricardo Bautista singled up the middle and then advanced to third on a hit-and-run single by Elier Rodriguez.
State College’s manager said it was planned — and it worked to perfection.
Only problem was State College couldn’t convert.
Spikes catcher Chris Rivera struck out looking, and Danny Hudzina flied out to end the threat.
“That’s a big run,” Johnny Rodriguez said. “That’s a huge run.”
Filling in: Overshadowed by McKenzie’s effective outing was Carson Cross’ spot start. After Dailyn Martinez was called up to Single-A Peoria on Saturday afternoon, Cross had to move his scheduled start up a bit and throw Sunday.
All things considered, he did well.
Despite surrendering two home runs, Cross went eight innings, needing only 82 pitches and allowing only five hits.
“I’m very happy,” Cross said of his performance. “I felt like I gave the team a chance to win. I was competitive with all my pitches. They got good pieces of two balls, but otherwise pitched well.”
Food for thought
Sitting them down: Sending opposing batters back to the dugout after three strikes isn’t foreign to McKenzie. With his six strikeouts on Sunday, the Brooklyn native has accumulated 25 strikeouts to only three walks this season.
Cerda sighting: The 22-year-old Dominican did more than just homer for the Scrappers. He had his best game of the season, going 4 for 4 with three singles to go along with his moon shot over the Pepsi Picnic Pavilion.
And that’s a vast improvement from his 2016 start. Cerda entered Sunday with a .212 batting average — seven hits in 33 at-bats.
“I won’t sleep because of that. I’ll have a hard time thinking about it. And when I think about it, I get upset.” — Johnny Rodriguez, on a run-scoring throwing error by Spikes catcher Chris Rivera in the sixth inning.
State College: After finishing its six-game homestand with a 4-2 record, the Spikes hit the road for a three-game series at Tri-City. State College is scheduled to feature Steven Farinaro on the hill in the series opener at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Farinaro (1-0) has a 4.24 ERA in three starts this season.
Tri-City: The ValleyCats (8-9) have yet to announce a starter for Monday night.