STATE COLLEGE - As far as State College is concerned, there is no place like home.
Returning home from a disastrous road trip that saw them drop five games in a row, the Spikes took advantage of playing at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park as they dropped the Lowell Spinners, 8-2, before 3,525 fans on Bellefonte Community night.
"It just feels good to be back home," Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. "It was a tough road trip and at some point in the season those things are going to happen. But it is nice to be home and get a win."
Sentinel photo by STEVE?MANUEL
State College Spikes second baseman Bruce Caldwell gets the force at second and throws to first for a double play during Wednesday’s game against Lowell at Lubrano Park in State College.
The Spinners broke on top in the third and they used the long ball to take care of business. With one out, Carlos Ajuaje took an 0-1 offering from Nick Petree and deposited it in the right field bleachers for a solo home run.
Down 1-0, the Spikes came right back to answer the Spinner run with a single run in the third before adding three more in the fourth to go up 4-1.
In the third, Steven Ramos walked, and when he strayed off first base, catcher David Sopilka threw behind Ramos. However, Spinner first baseman Kevin Mager was not alert enough to receive the throw and Ramos wound up at third.
Not wasting the opportunity, Ramos scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Jimmy Bosco.
In the fourth, Mason Katz was hit by an offering from Mario Alcantara and scored when Carson ripped a double just inside the left-field line.
Luke Voit followed suit to Carson's offensive effort when he promptly belted an RBI double over the head of Lowell right fielder Williams Jerez. Voit later sprinted home on an RBI single to right by Bosco.
Although he loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, Petree was able to wiggle his way out of possible trouble when he struck out Kevin Mager and retired Aaron King on a fly ball to center.
"That is kind of the situation where you want to see what the kid has so we left him in there," Marmol said. "We had a little bit of a cushion with runs so it was a good test to see what he could do. He did a nice job by pitching out of it (the jam)."
The Spikes added another run in the fifth when Bruce Caldwell beat out an infield single for his third hit of the night and literally jogged around the base paths to score as a result of a wild pitch, a passed ball and a second wild pitch.
"He has been doing a nice job from last year," Marmol said of Caldwell. "He is seeing pitches much better and swinging the bat well. He is playing good defense and we are happy with what we are seeing from him."
Caldwell finished with the four hits, a run scored and one RBI.
"I am just trying to put the ball in play," Caldwell said. "Tonight I just found some holes. I was just able to get on base and their pitcher had some problems and that made it easy for me to score."
As for seeing the other team making mistakes, Caldwell said that was key for the Spikes' success.
"Whenever they make a mistake we just try and pounce on them," Caldwell said. "Tonight we were able to do that. It is also nice to be home because these fans are awesome. The stadium is really nice and we just love playing here. Getting home was important for us and the day off really helped."
Petree was the winning pitcher. The righty worked the first five innings, allowing just one run on five hits. He struck out five and walked three.
Jimmy Reed worked the final four innings to pick up the save, his second. Reed struck out a half dozen and walked none.
"That piggyback (Petree and Reed) is one that is pretty nice to have," Marmol said. "We feel comfortable going into games with them because they have both done nice jobs backing each other up. Right now we'll keep it that way and move forward."
After Lowell picked up its second run of the game in the top of the sixth, State College matched that run and added another.
Steven Ramos singled and scored on an RBI double by Cesar Valera. One out later, Valera scored on an RBI double into the left-field corner by Ronald Castillo.
Caldwell completed his four-hit night with an RBI single in the eighth to chase Bosco home to set the final score.
The guest of honor on Bellefonte Community Night was Bellefonte native Eric Milton. Milton enjoyed an 11-year major league career, seeing the major portion of his action with Minnesota, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Los Angeles.
"It was special, just special," Milton said about being the guest of honor. "Coming back here to just a beautiful stadium and to be able to see professional baseball here is just great. I was able to see some of the faces tonight that I remember from playing when I was eight, nine years old. That made it very special. I am just blessed to be where I have been and it means a lot to me to be able to come back here and give a little bit back to the community. To have a Bellefonte day here in State College means a lot to me."
The same two teams will do it again tonight with a single game slated for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.
Lowell will send Corey Littrell (0-0) to the bump, while the Spikes will counter with Andrew Pierce (0-1).