A nightmare eighth inning almost ruined the Spikes’ sweep.
With two outs and a two-run lead, a bases-loaded grounder was booted by State College second baseman Danny Martin.
Instead of eating the play, Martin rushed a throw to first base and skipped it past teammate Elier Rodriguez.
Two errors in one play by Martin allowed two runs to score. The game was tied.
“I was like that didn’t just happen,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “But it can happen.”
Thankfully for State College, Riley Drongesen saved his teammate.
Drongesen cranked a double over the right-fielder’s head to the warning track in the bottom of the 11th inning, scoring Rodriguez and giving the Spikes a 5-4 walk-off win over West Virginia on Tuesday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“In all my years, I’ve never seen a game like that,” Johnny Rodriguez said.
The Spikes (30-14) earned their fourth series sweep of the season, and the Black Bears (20-24) extended their losing streak to four games.
And the hero wasn’t even expecting to get into the game. Drongesen, a catcher, said he thought he’d be hanging in the bullpen all day.
But in the bottom of the ninth, right-fielder Ricardo Bautista was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
Drongesen knew he might go in with a short bench.
“You’ve always got to be ready to have your number called,” Drongesen said. “I saw Bautista got tossed ... so I started getting loose. It’s just a matter of staying ready, and Johnny (Rodriguez) has faith in all of his guys so he’ll throw you in the fire at any time.”
Cross-ing them up: Save for a couple of missed pitches, State College starter Carson Cross turned in another efficient performance.
He didn’t factor into the decision, but the 24-year-old right-hander tossed seven innings, allowed six hits and two runs, and struck out six.
The fourth inning wasn’t easy on the New Hampshire native, as he let up a solo home run to Kevin Mahala and an RBI single to Chris Harvey.
However, Cross kept the Spikes in the thick of it.
He has now thrown at least five innings and surrendered three or fewer earned runs in his last seven starts.
“He lost his fastball in the fifth inning so we were about to take him out, but he started using his changeup and curveball effectively, getting them out in front,” Johnny Rodriguez said. “So we said, let’s take him further.”
Whatever it takes: The Spikes’ implementation of small ball started in the first inning. State College leadoff man Tommy Edman doubled and advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Martin. Edman scored on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Andy Young.
In the fourth frame, Martin worked an eight-pitch walk, and Young singled, moving his teammate up to second base. Spikes catcher Jeremy Martinez drove Martin in from second on a single up the middle.
And State College took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, with Martin and Young in on the action for a third time.
Martin reached first and then second base on a ground ball and throwing error by West Virginia third baseman Will Craig. Young sacrifice bunted Martin to third, and McCarvel plated the 21-year-old on a sac fly.
“The reason why I went to (small ball) early was it’s an early game after a night game,” Johnny Rodriguez said. “They’re all so tired, it’s hard to catch up.”
See-ya: After seeing Mahala go yard, Bautista belted a solo homer of his own in the bottom of the seventh.
Bautista’s bomb over the right-center wall — his first of the season — gave the Spikes a 4-2 lead.
“He’s been hurt the last two months so I was afraid to bring him into a hot situation ... But when he’s on and healthy, he’s good.” — Johnny Rodriguez, on reliever and winning pitcher Jhonatan Escudero, who had four strikeouts in two innings.
Spikes: State College begins a three-game series at Auburn at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. The Spikes will send Steven Farinaro out to the hill to face the Doubledays. Farinaro (5-0, 4.80 ERA) has faced Auburn twice this season, more recently allowing three earned runs in a 4 1/3-inning no-decision.
Doubledays: McKenzie Mills is expected to throw in the series opener for Auburn. Mills (3-2, 2.79 ERA) tossed five scoreless, no-hit innings in his last outing, on Thursday against West Virginia.