UNIVERSITY PARK - Not even George "The Animal" Steele could stop the Mahoning Valley Scrappers Monday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
After a night where State College played a near-perfect baseball game that resulted in a 4-0 win, they put the shoe on the other foot as they were downed 4-1 by the Scrappers on a night welcoming the hall of fame pro wrestler.
"I don't know. I really don't know," Spikes manager Gary Robinson said when asked why the lack of offensive output. "I think it is something that we are concerned about, but we are going to get it fixed. We are just in kind of a little funk. We are still making some bad choices, but I don't think it is due to a lack of aggressiveness. I don't think it is an approach issue so much that it is due to us pressing a little bit."
As it turned out, the Scrappers, along with a little help from the Spikes, scored all the runs they would need for the win with a pair of runs in the fifth.
Mahoning Valley juiced the sacks on walks to Brian Heere and Trent Baker followed by an infield single by Kevin Fontanez. With Chase Burnette at the plate, Spikes relief pitcher Brooks Pounders uncorked a wild pitch that allowed both Heere and Baker to score before the Spikes could track the ball down.
"We weren't swinging the bat well so we needed that," Scrapper manager Travis Fryman said. "Up to that point, we had a couple of opportunities, but we didn't cash in on them. Trent Baker did a nice job of going hard right away that gave us a chance to send (Heere). Their catcher couldn't find the ball and you don't see that very often, but again, we needed it."
Trailing by a pair, the Spikes wasted a golden opportunity in the sixth when they had runners on first and third with one out. But as fate would have it for State College, Gerlis Rodriguez grounded into an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.
Holding the 2-0 lead, the Scrappers added an insurance run in the seventh. Heere singled to center and later scored on a RBI groundout by Nick Bartolone.
Casey Gaynor worked a strong 5.1 innings for the Scrappers to pick up the win. During his time on the mound, Gaynor allowed just three hits and no runs, walking a pair and striking out four.
Down 3-0, the Spikes didn't go quietly as they made some noise in the seventh inning to get on the board.
Pat Irvine was plunked by a pitch, Cole White walked and with one out, Irvine scored on a fielder's choice, throwing error by Scrapper relief pitcher Kyle C. Smith. Although Smith departed from the game following his throwing error, in the previous inning, he coaxed State College's Rodriguez to bounce into the inning-ending double play.
With Smith's departure, J. D. Reichenbach was summoned from the bullpen, and the lefty retired Kelson Brown and Drew Naggi to put out the fire before working 1-2-3 eighth and ninth innings to earn his third save of the season.
"Smith did an excellent job of coming in and throwing a one-pitch double play ball," Fryman said. "That might have been the difference in the ball game. J. D. struggled a little bit and got behind several hitters, but when he had to, he settled in and made some good pitches to close it out."
The two teams will follow each other out I-80 for a three game-series beginning tonight at Eastwood Field. Zack Dodson (2-3) gets the call for the Spikes, while the Scrappers will counter with Michael Rayl (1-4).