The State College Spikes were a little shorthanded Saturday night, but Elier Rodriguez came up big when they needed it.
With the bases loaded, Rodriguez cleared them with a double to give the Spikes the lead for good in a 5-3 win over the West Virginia Black Bears on Sunday evening at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
It was one of three doubles on the night for State College (28-14), which maintained the best record in the New York-Penn League.
Kevin Krause hit a two-run home run for West Virginia (20-22) in the opener of the three-game series.
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Bob Wheatley (3-0), the first of three relievers for starter Harley Holt, picked up the win. Holt pitched three innings. Eric Carter earned his fifth save of the season in his second straight night on the mound. The four relievers combined for six shutout innings of one-hit ball.
“That is our strength,” manager Johnny Rodriguez said of his bullpen.
With a number of roster moves and issues over the weekend, the team was making do with what it had.
“Whether its one guy or another, we’re going to stand behind them and give 100 percent and work hard,” Elier Rodriguez said. “We trust all of them.”
James Marvel (3-5) took the loss.
Tommy Edman walked and scored on a Jeremy Martinez ground out for the Spikes’ run in the first inning, then the big blow came from a bases-clearing double from Rodriguez in the third. He laced the fastball to right field, and the Black Bears’ Krause made a diving attempt but the ball ticked off his glove.
“Got a fastball up in the zone, got a good barrel on it,” Rodriguez said. “I saw the right fielder going and the ball was kind of hanging in the air. I was kind of getting worried as he kept getting closer and closer. Once he dove and it went by, I was relieved.”
Back-to-back doubles for Ricardo Bautista and Danny Hudzina added another run in the sixth.
The Bears’ Krause crushed a pitch into the picnic tables in left field for a two-run homer in the second, and Stephen Alamais doubled and scored on a Sandy Santos single in the third for their runs.
You say goodbye: Johnny Rodriguez announced after Saturday’s game the team would be losing starting pitchers John Kilichowski and Ronnie Williams. They were promoted to Class A Peoria, with Williams among the top prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization and Kilichowski “a battler” on the mound, according to Rodriguez.
“They’re grinders,” Rodriguez said of his team. “The relievers grind it, at-bat grind it.”
It was a big blow to a team that is chasing its second league title in three years. Rodriguez told the team about the changes Saturday night.
“People moving up and around, that can be tough at times,” outfielder Mick Fennell said. “Losing those guys, it’s part of the business.”
I say hello: Right-handed pitcher Jordan Hicks joined the team from Johnson City, Tenn., the Cardinals’ Rookie-level affiliate. Hicks was a 2015 draft pick of the supplemental third round. He was 2-1 with a 4.20 ERA at Johnson City. He will be the starting pitcher when the three-game series resumes at 7:05 p.m. Monday.
“Hopefully Hicks gives us five (innings),” Johnny Rodriguez said. “Whoever is there, left (in the bullpen), gets in there and just does his job.”
Help!: Dewin Perez was the scheduled starter Sunday, but Rodriguez said the lefty was sick and didn’t know how long he would be out.
You can’t do that: Ryan McCarvel was originally in the lineup Sunday, but he got to the ballpark late and Rodriguez benched the team’s home run leader.
Get back: Fans hoping to catch a rising star were denied Sunday. One of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospects, Austin Meadows, was not in the lineup for the Bears. On a rehab assignment from Triple-A Indianapolis, he was 1 for 6 with a double in two games over the weekend. He is expected to play this week.
That’s what I want: The team wore pink cheetah jerseys for its annual “Paint the Park Pink” night, raising $4,525 for the Breast Cancer Center through the Foundation for the Mount Nittany Medical Center.
Black Bears: Right-hander Daniel Beddes (3-1, 2.39 ERA) will take to the Black Bears’ mound to face Hicks on Monday night at 7:05 p.m.