STATE COLLEGE - Williamsport's bullpen sat and watched starter Eric Pettis throw seven shutout innings on Wednesday night at Bowman Field. Twenty-four hours later, the group barely had time to find their seats at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park before one of their own was standing on the mound and facing a hitter.
With David Buchanan making his professional debut, the bullpen might have expected a larger role than the two innings they played in Pettis' start, but few could have expected a reliever entering the game in the second inning.
Williamsport used three different pitchers before recording a fifth out and fell at State College, 8-3 on Thursday night.
"We couldn't throw the ball over the plate and you kill yourself that way when you're spraying balls all over the place, you have no shot," said Williamsport manager Chris Truby.
The loss was the first to the Spikes this season in four games dropped Williamsport back to .500 in a crowded Pinckney Division.
Williamsport pitchers issued six walks in the opening two innings - five in a five-run second inning. Buchanan issued just one of those walks in the first inning but the one base on balls combined with a few unlucky bounces led to two State College runs and a brief outing.
Buchanan showed flash when he struck out State College leadoff hitter Gift Ngoepe looking, but the next four batters reached base before he recorded a second out. He walked Walker Gourley and then a high-bouncing Adalberto Santos groundball to third base eluded the glove of Carlos Alonso and rolled into left field. Santos stole second base and when the throw bounced away, Gourley scored the game's first run. The second came on a RBI single from Chase Lyles.
"It was his first outing and a lot of the guys that have come in have had tough first outings," said Truby, who said his starter was on a low pitch count and close to his number when he was removed. "A lot of it is just getting back into the flow of pitching. It's nothing to be concerned about. You let it go and come back and get them next time."
Buchanan, a seventh-round draft pick this year out of Georgia State, avoided his first professional loss when the Cutters tied the game in the top of the second.
Jesus Pirela began a long night for the Cutters' bullpen in the bottom of the inning, but a short one for him. He faced just seven batters and recorded just one out before exiting after allowing four walks and two hits, including a bases-clearing double by Gourley.
"Our youth really showed when we opened the season, but they should be swinging the bat better," said State College manager Gary Robinson. "They've got some at-bats on them and had some touches, so now is the time to start putting some barrels on the ball."
Juan Sosa relieved Pirela and his first four pitches missed the strike zone and another walk pushed a sixth run across.
"You go through an inning like that, after we tied the game, and it kind of takes the wind out of you," said Truby.
Minus his first four pitches, Sosa gave Williamsport what it needed, pitching 3 2/3 innings. He allowed just a fourth-inning single.
"Sosa kept the game where it was and that is the longest he's gone this year,"
said Truby. "He did a nice job.
"We get going through two pitchers in two innings and having to bring our third pitcher in in the second inning and we're like, 'Oh my God, how are we going to do this', but then Sosa and (Jake) Borup picked us up and got us through it and saved us and at least helped the bullpen out."
Sosa gave his offense a chance to chip away at its large deficit but Williamsport managed just two second-inning runs on a sacrifice fly by Jake Smith and a single by Carlos Alonso. The RBI was the second this season for Smith, who is batting under .100.
State College starter Kevin Decker didn't allow a run over his next three innings and earned his first win of the season.