State College Spikes

Hicks, bullpen guide Spikes by Black Bears

Jordan Hicks’ last outing wasn’t ideal.

Last Tuesday, the 19-year-old right-hander gave up nine runs (eight earned) while pitching for the Appalachian League’s Johnson City Cardinals.

Still, Hicks was called up to State College on Sunday, and he wanted to put his most recent performance behind him.

“I had one bad game, bad things happened,” Hicks said. “Today was a good comeback from that.”

Hicks was effective on the bump, guiding the Spikes to a 2-1 win over West Virginia on Monday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

State College (29-14) has won five of its last six games, while the Black Bears (20-23) have lost five of their last six.

Hicks was a big part in securing a series win, throwing six solid innings. The 2015 supplemental selection allowed one unearned run while striking out three and giving up four hits.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Hicks was hitting 98 mph with his fastball.

State College manager Johnny Rodriguez was pleased with the righty’s first appearance with the Spikes.

“Before the game I told him, ‘Hey, go out there and be the same guy that was in high school. The stuff that got you here, trust it,’” the coach said. “He’s capable of doing that each time out.

Focal points

Inside the chalk: Offense was at a premium, but one hit — a loud one at that — helped decide Monday’s outcome.

In the bottom of the third inning, Spikes shortstop Andy Young ripped a line drive down the left-field line, just barely staying fair. Young’s double scored the evening’s first run, plating speedster Anthony Ray.

Ray finds a way: Any way he could, Ray got on base.

The State College outfielder was 3 for 3 with three singles — a blooper into center field, a bunt and an infield grounder.

Ray used his speed to his advantage, and it helped him score a pair of runs, as well. Not only did he cross home on Young’s double, but he was also plated on a Vince Jackson groundout in the fifth frame.

“That’s my game, to get on base,” Ray said. “Use my speed and get on for the No. 3 and 4 hitter for them to drive me in.”

Reliable relief: State College relievers Max Almonte and Spencer Trayner followed Hicks’ footsteps, shutting down the Black Bears.

Almonte threw two perfect innings for the hold, and Trayner earned his second save of the year with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

“I love my bullpen,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been saying it, I love my bullpen.”

Prospect sighting: After sitting out Sunday’s series opener, Austin Meadows, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ No. 2 prospect, was in the lineup for West Virginia.

The centerfielder was 1 for 4 with a single up the middle while batting third in the order.

Food for thought

Walk the line: Hicks did well with runners on — West Virginia was 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and the righty stranded six Black Bears. But on a few occasions, the Spikes hurler made it easy on the opponent.

Hicks walked four batters, something he also struggled with in Johnson City. With the Cardinals, Hicks walked 13 in six games.

On deck

Spikes: State College will finish off its three-game series with West Virginia at noon Tuesday. Carson Cross is scheduled to start for the Spikes. In his last outing the 24-year-old right-hander (3-3, 3.47 ERA) allowed two hits and no runs against Williamsport on Thursday.

Black Bears: Former Michigan State southpaw Cam Vieaux is expected to take the hill for West Virginia. Vieaux (0-1, 3.38 ERA) returns to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park after facing Penn State on April 8. He struck out six Nittany Lions and allowed no runs in seven innings.

John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9