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Spikes start strong; falls late to rival Williamsport


UNIVERSITY PARK – They’re baaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!

After a successful 2014 season under their belt, the returning New York/ Penn League Champion State College Spikes got back to action Friday against rival Williamsport in the opening game of the season as well as the first game of the famous Saw/Buck Series.

It was a night of displays of the championship trophy by the New York/Penn President as well as the raising of the championship banner and flag which was located in right field and centerfield, respectively.

Unfortunately for the Spikes, the Crosscutters came ready for action and led for most of the en route to the Crosscutters’ 3-2 victory.

It was the second biggest crowd in State College Spikes history as 5921 fans were there to route their team on.

The Spikes were led on the mound by lefty Ian McKinney. Williamsport retaliated with Alejandro Arteaga.

After a scoreless first inning for the Crosscutters, the Spikes put some early pressure on the Williamsport hurler with a walk to Danny Martin, followed by a double by Leobaldo Pina, putting runners on first and third with one out.

A sacrifice fly by Brian O’Keefe put State College on the board with a 1-0 advantage.

Casey Grayson upped the Spikes a 2-0 lead when he slapped a single into right field, allowing Pina to make his way home.

However, the Crosscutters cut into the brief Spikes lead when Jesus Posso blasted a ground-rule double deep into centerfield. He moved up to third on a balk and scored via a wild pitch, making it 2-1.

Thomas Spitz brought the momentum back to State when he led off with a towering triple into centerfield.

However, Spitz’s luck dried up as he was tug out tagging up and trying for home on a fly out to left field by R.J. Dennard.

With the double play, Williamsport kept the home team from scoring.

After a scoreless third, the Crosscutters rallied back for two, going ahead 3-2 in the fourth.

In the Spikes’ portion of the fourth, Cole Lankford was hoping to get a 2-out rally going, slapping a hit into right field. He moved up to second on a past ball, putting him in scoring position.

However, Arteaga pitched out of the jam, striking out Thomas Spitz.

Pujols got the fifth inning off and running for Williamsport posting a double.

But that would be the only hit the Cutters would get in the fifth as Williamsport went into the bottom of the inning holding a one-run advantage.

Despite hitting the ball hard, the Spikes weren’t able to find any open grass, going down in the fifth without a hit.

In the bottom of the sixth, State College was still struggling at the plate, looking for at least a run to tie the contest at three.

But relief pitcher Will Morris picked up where his predecessor left off, holding the Spikes without another run.

In the bottom of the seventh the Spikes were looking to tie, Jhohan Acevedo led off the offense with a one-out infield single.

Pritchard kept the inning alive as he hustled out what looked to be potential double-play ball.

An error on a pick off gone bad moved Pritchard into third, leaving him just 90 feet away from tying the contest.

Morris ended the Spikes’ hopes as he struck out Danny Martin to end the inning.

Landon Beck came in the eighth inning to replace McKinney on the State College mound.

Beck made light work of the Williamsport line up sending down the Cutters 1-2-3.

Down to their final six at bats, the Spikes were hoping to get the runs they need to go ahead and take home the late victory.

In the eighth, Leobaldo Pina led off the bottom part of the inning with a grounder into centerfield.

With O’Keefe at bat, the outfielders played him deep, hoping to keep from going over their heads. He roped a shot deep into leftfield, allowing Pina to make a rare tag up from first base, putting him in scoring position.

All eyes were on Grayson to bring in Pina with one out.

A high call by Grayson sent him down with a strike out for the second out.

The lead off single by Pina was wasted as the State College Spikes went into the ninth still trailing, 3-2.

In their final at bats, State College needed a rally to keep things going but despite the cheers of the crowd, could not find it, falling 3-2.

Things started well Spitz opened with a seeing-eye single into centerfield, he then stole second leaving it to R.J. Dennard to help.

However, Dennard was sent down swinging for the first out.

A shallow blooper by Acevedo was caught by a sprinting right fielder, leaving it to Pritchard to keep the game alive.

State College lost when a wild pitch by Jason Zgardowski went off the plate and allowed Spitz to go to third. Spitz tried to lean toward going home on the play and was gunned down heading back to third, ending the game.


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