STATE COLLEGE - For the State College Spikes, it was one that almost got away. But the key word here is almost.
Never holding a lead in the game prior to the eighth inning, the Spikes finally went on top only to see Aberdeen come back to tie it with a run in the top of the ninth.
However, not to let their efforts go for naught, the Spikes came out swinging in the bottom of the tenth to score the game-winner for a 5-4 victory over the Ironbirds before 4,357 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
In the State College tenth, Wes Freeman led off with a double to left, his fourth base hit of the game. After a ground out by Alex Fuselier that moved Freeman to third, Alex Dickerson was issued an intentional base on balls. That is when Samuel Gonzalez stepped up the dish and on the fourth pitch of his at-bat, stroked a line single to centerfield to chase Freeman home with the winning run.
"The guys sort of put themselves in a tough situation late, but in the end, they persevered and that is what is important," said Spikes manager Kimera Bartee. "If you look back at the season how it has gone they have been in those situations where they have been beat up and down. Now that they have some things going right, they have dealt with that type of situation in the first half of the season that they now have the composure to stay with it. Even with some mistakes, tonight they had what it takes to step up and get the job done."
For the game, Freeman wound up with three doubles, a single and three runs scored.
"This year has been a totally different story from my past years," said Freeman. "I have taken a totally different approach than I had the past couple of years. Now I am just trying to play ball and have fun doing it."
Freeman was also quick to point out that the Spikes are a different team than they were a month ago.
"A month ago, we were a totally different team," he said. "We (the team) talked about how we have been in that situation so many times before where we had to come back. It is nothing new to us and now we just keep battling. We are taught to play for nine innings, and if it is more (innings) like it was tonight, we just play hard until the game is over."
While Freeman led the Spike offensive attack, Alex Dickerson wasn't far behind as he went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a sacrifice fly to drive in three runs.
"Tonight I was seeing the ball real well and I was able to take advantage of breaking pitches up in the zone," said Dickerson. "I think I was just really focused more in BP today and I was able to get some extra swings in before the game. During the game I got the pitches I like to hit and was able to put good swings on them."
Although Dickerson has only been with the club for a month, he can easily see change of attitude in the club from the day he first arrived.
"Even since I have been here, you are not seeing us backing down and just taking losses like we used to do," he said. "In this stretch we are in right now, we are playing pretty good fundamental baseball and as a result, we are winning games. Even when we don't win, the difference now is that we still keep battling through tough situations to keep us in the games."
The Ironbirds jumped on top with a pair of runs in the top of the first, but the Spikes came right back to tally one of their own in the bottom of the inning.
Freeman continued his hot hitting as he led off the frame with a double of the boards in rightfield, Freeman later scoring on a sacrifice fly to left by Dickerson.
The Spikes tied the game in the fourth when Dickerson doubled to centerfield, was sacrificed to third by Gonzalez and scored on a RBI groundout by Chris Lashmet.
After relinquishing the lead, the Ironbirds came right back to go on top with a run in the sixth. Sammie Starr led off with a double to right field, was sacrificed to third by Mychal Givens and scored on a RBI single to center by Wynston Sawyer.
Never holding the lead through the first seven innings, the Spikes turned that situation around as they put together a solid eighth inning to score a pair of runs for a 4-3 lead.
Despite seeing their lead evaporate into the one-run deficit, the Ironbirds didn't fly away quietly as they battled back to tally an "ugly" run in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.
That is when the "new" edition of the Spikes took over to turn what appeared to be a lost opportunity into an exciting win.
Having won 10 of their last 13 games, the Spikes now roll out the red carpet to the Connecticut Tigers tonight in a single game slated for a 7:05 first pitch.