STATE COLLEGE - After a frustrating 2-5 road trip, the State College Spikes returned to the friendly confines of Medlar Field at Lubrano Park and the result was much to the delight of the large crowd on Duck Dynasty Mountain Man Night at the ball park.
Jumping out early and never looking back, the Spikes downed the Auburn Doubledays by the final of 4-1 Friday before 5,256 fans. The crowd was the largest since the final game of the 2011 season.
"The guys did a pretty good job," Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. "It was a tough road trip and it is good to be home because we had sort of been here before. I know the guys are looking forward to the next road trip and we are all looking forward to it."
As for the success at home and the frustrations on the road, Marmol said the team has discussed those situations.
"When we first got here, we had a discussion about a week into the situation as to how we wanted to make sure that we had a winning record at home and we are doing that," he said. "I am not sure what happens on the road other than it is a test of their mental toughness because it is easier to play at home. We have one more game here and then we are looking forward to going back on the road."
With Deion Williams and Kevin Herget in a pitcher's duel in the early stages, the Spikes broke the game open with four runs in the bottom of the third.
A single by Luis Perez, a fielder's choice by Steven Ramos, an RBI triple to right-center by Jimmy Bosco, an RBI single to center by Cesar Valera, a double down the left-field line by Bruce Caldwell, an intentional walk issued to David Washington and a two-run single to left by Carson Kelly did the job.
"That was a nice inning for us with the four runs," Marmol said. "It was good to see some of those guys use the opposite field because on the road, some of the guys were getting pull happy. When they are using the whole field it is a sign they are getting back on track. It was a great inning, the win was great, but most importantly it was good to see the guys getting back on track."
Herget worked the first five innings to pick up the win. The righty allowed five hits and no runs, striking out four and walking one.
"I was working from fastball to changeup for the most part," Herget said. "I think I only threw one curveball the whole game so it was changeup and fastball that was good to me. One time it would be changeup to fastball and then fastball to changeup depending on the batter."
Coming off an outing that was not very good for Herget, the strong effort was just what the doctor ordered for him.
"One of the things I noticed that I have been doing is trying to overthrow," he said. "When I overthrow trying to throw it by batters I elevate the ball and that is what gave me a lot of problems. I am not throwing a hundred, I am throwing ninety so that is something I can't do here. During my bullpens I have been working on calming everything down, just throwing strikes and putting the ball where I want it. That was the mindset I had coming into the today's game and things worked out well for me."
Working the piggyback approach to pitching, Chase Brookshire followed Herget to the bump and the lefty did a good job as well over the final four innings. Brookshire allowed Auburn its only run on four hits, walking nobody and striking out two.
"Both of those guys did a good job," Marmol said. "We made some nice defensive plays behind them. Valera at short made a nice play and an outstanding play by Ramos was big. All together it was a good game for us."
The Spikes banged out nine hits en route to the win, three of the nine coming off the bat of Carson Kelly who shows 18 hits in his last 43 at-bats.
"I saw the ball real well tonight and the secret to success is making adjustments," Kelly said. "Sometimes you are just off a hair, like maybe an eighth of an inch. It was just good to get out there, get back in the groove and get a couple of hits."
Kelly was also quick to point out the importance of turning things around after a dismal road trip.
"Bouncing back is part of the game because you are always going to have those ups and downs," he said. "Being able to bounce back and the time in between is very important. It was real good for us to get this one (win) today."
The same two teams will do it again tonight at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park with a single game set for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.
State College will send Arturo Reyes (0-1) top the bump while the Doubledays will counter with Austin Voth (0-0).