UNIVERSITY PARK - For the first eight innings of Wednesday night's game between State College and Jamestown, it appeared that the Spikes had things under control as they held a slim 4-3 lead over the Jammers.
But then came the ugly ninth for the Spikes as Jamestown put the bats on the ball for four straight hits to score two runs en route to a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Spikes before 3,756 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
After retiring all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, five by strikeouts, Spikes reliever Justin Ennis couldn't get anybody out in the ninth as he gave up as he surrendered the four straight hits along with the tying and winning run.
"I thought they got into the pattern I was throwing my pitches and I didn?t make the adjustment," Ennis said of his downfall. "We had a plan going in to try and get their hitters out front and with the strikeout numbers (13) for the team, I think it worked out."
As for Ennis running into trouble in the ninth, Spikes manager Gary Robinson said the responsibility is his.
"I have to take the blame for that," Robinson said. "Decisions have to be made late in the game whether we make a switch and he wasn't in any trouble pitch-wise. He had thrown the ball very well up to that point and we knew they had three left-hand hitters coming up. The decision was made to put him out there and let him get started and it is my opinion that he was just a little tired. He threw the ball fine, but the pitches were just elevated a little bit and they were able to hit them."
The Spikes drew first blood with a run in the second. Chase Lyles was hit by a pitch, went to second on a single to right by Kelson Brown and scored on an RBI single to right off the bat of Gerlis Rodriguez.
In the third, the Spikes doubled their lead when, with one out, Gift Ngoepe walked, went to second on a passed ball charged to Jammer catcher Aaron Dudley and scored on an RBI single to center by Santos.
Trailing 2-0, the Jammers got on the board for the first time in the fourth inning when Todd Muecklisch belted a solo home run to left field.
Although Spike starting pitcher Zack Von Rosenberg didn't figure in the decision, the right hander pitched a strong five innings, allowing just one run on four hits, walking a pair and striking out six. Led by the eleven strikeouts from Ennis and Von Rosenberg, the Spikes finished with 13 strikeouts, a season high for State College.
As for the after-effect of giving up the leadoff home run to start the fourth affecting his focus, Von Rosenberg said that didn't bother him as much as it might have.
"After the next hitter (following the home run), I just shook it off and struck the next hitter out," Von Rosenberg said. "The next batter was (Marcell) Ozuna and I ended up walking him on an eight-pitch at-bat. I walked another batter later and I think I pitched around their hitters a little too much tonight instead of going right at them."
Robinson felt Rosenberg's effort was his best outing of the season.
"I saw him rhythm pitch a little bit and what I mean by that is he is pitching 87, 88, but he always had a little extra to go 90, 91 if he needed it. He had a lot better feel for his changeup and when to use it. He used his stuff very well and for me, it was by far his best outing, the Spikes manager said.
Casey Sadler replaced Von Rosenberg on the mound in the sixth, and the lefty was greeted by a two-run home run off the bat of Ozuna. For Ozuna, the roundtripper was his sixteenth of the season, his sixth of the campaign against the Spikes.
Not happy with the Jammers holding a 3-2 lead, the Spikes bounced off the wall to plate a pair in the sixth to go on top 4-3. With one out, Lyles doubled to left, Pat Irvine walked, and both Lyles and Irvine scored on a two-run double to left by Brown.
After the Jammers regained the lead in the ninth, Jamestown called on its 24-year-old closer, Jordan Conley, and Conley retired all three Spike hitters he faced to earn his 11th save in 13 attempts.
The same two teams will go at it again tonight in the second game of the three-game set. The game is slated for a 7:05 first pitch. The Spikes will send Colton Cain (0-1) to the bump, while the Jammers will counter with Adam Veres (3-1).