STATE COLLEGE - Following Saturday night's 7-0 Williamsport win over State College, Cutter manager Mickey Morandini was quick to point out that it all begins with starting pitching.
For the second night in a row, the Cutters received a strong outing from their starting pitcher, this time from Austin Wright, and the result was another win as they held off the Spikes for a 3-2 win before 4,131 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"He (Wright) pitched very well," said Morandini. "He got some balls up (in the strike zone) early in the first couple of innings, but after the third inning on, he settled in and got into a groove."
Inducing a dozen ground outs, Wright worked six strong innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits, walking one and striking out four.
"After watching (Colin) Kleven pitch yesterday, I just tried to pound the zone with fastballs and let my defense do the work behind me," said Wright. "I knew I had a great defense behind me and they came through tonight. This is one of the best defenses I have ever had behind me and I have a lot of confidence in them so I just concentrate on throwing strikes and letting them make the plays behind me."
Following the 7-0 loss Saturday night, Spikes manager Kimera Bartee was not a happy camper. However, although his team again came up on the short end of the final score, what he saw from his club in Sunday's game was much more to his liking.
"They competed tonight. They competed tonight," said Bartee. "They didn't execute, but they competed and that is all we ask of them. They had a good attitude and gave a good effort and the only thing that came between putting up a 'W' instead of a 'L' was the execution. With the lack of execution and the good effort, I can sleep a littler bit better knowing that they competed."
Stetson Allie started for the Spikes, the bonus baby working the first two innings in what might have been his strongest outing of his five starts. For his short tenure on the mound, Allie didn't allow a single hit, but he walked a pair of Cutter batters and hit a third.
"He came out, he battled and kept the ball down in the zone," said Bartee. "He was missing inside and outside, but that is OK because he was trying to hit spots. He had the one inning where his pitch count (55 for two innings) got extended so we have to knock one of his innings out. He was upset when we took him out, but it was a good lesson for him. That (being upset) is good because that shows me that he cares and wants to be out there. Now we can teach him from the standpoint that, hey, if you want to be out there, be more efficient with your pitches. As far as I am concerned, it was a good night for him."
The Spikes dented the scoring column first in the second when Sammy Gonzalez reached on a fielder's choice and later scored when Cutter pitcher Austin Wright uncorked a wild pitch.
The 1-0 State College lead held up until the top of the fourth when the Cutters tied the game with a run, and it could have been more.
Patrick Murray opened the inning with a ground single to right and Harold Martinez followed with a base on balls, Murray moving to second. Murray and Martinez both moved up on a wild pitch by Spikes pitcher Kevin Kleis.
With nobody out, Cody Asche flew out to medium left field and Murray was gunned down at the plate trying to score from third. Three pitches later, Bob Stumpo tripled to right field, plating Martinez with the tying run.
"I was just looking for something to drive," said Stumpo. "He got behind in the count (3-1) and I thought I might get something good to hit. He threw me a fastball and I was able to put a good swing on it."
The 1-all stalemate didn't last long as the Cutters came up with a pair of runs in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead.
Kyrell Hudson led off with a base on balls, stole second and went to third on a fly out to center by Aaron Altherr. Maikel Franco followed with a line single off Spike first baseman Alex Dickerson's glove, Hudson scoring from third. With two outs and Franco on the move, Patrick Murray lined a double to the gap in right-center, Franco scoring all the way from first.
Trailing by the pair of runs, the Spikes were able to creep a little closer when they tallied their second run of the game in the sixth in the same manner as they scored the first run, taking advantage of a wild pitch with a runner on third base.
"He (Wright) threw a couple of good curveballs and sometimes they are tough to block," Morandini said. "But overall, he threw the ball well, kept it down and overall, did a real good job."
Trailing 3-2, the Spikes made things interesting in the seventh and ninth innings as they had runners on second and third in both frames. But that is when Matt Campbell and Juary Gomez came out of the bullpen to preserve the win.
"Campbell did a helluva job to get out of the one inning with the bases loaded," said Morandini. "He made some quality pitches and then Gomez made some quality pitches to both hitters (that he struck out) and he pitched smart to the lefty. He wasn't going to give in to the lefty knowing that he had a righty coming up. The key in those two innings is that we made quality pitches when we had to."
With the win, the Cutters have now won four in a row and six of their last seven. They will conclude the series with the Spikes tonight at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park with a single game beginning at 7:05 p.m.
Williamsport will send Adam Morgan (0-1) to the mound, while the Spikes will counter with Jordan Cooper (0-2).