STATE COLLEGE - Saturday night was Mifflin-Juniata County Night at the ball park.
In past years, that has meant a record for the size of the crowd in attendance. Saturday, the team set a different record.
After making the trip over the Seven Mountains to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, the fans were treated to some outstanding pitching, an offensive explosion and a little defense as the State College Spikes blanked the Auburn Doubledays 7-0.
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER SHANNON
State College’s Mason Katz, left, tags out Auburn’s Kyle Attl as he tries to steal second base, completing a double play in the eighth inning of the Spikes’ 7-0 victory over the Doubledays Saturday.
It was the 40th win by the Spikes this season, eclipsing the 39-win season that stood as a franchise best since the team moved here in 2006.
The win, coupled with Jamestown's 2-1 win over Williamsport, allowed the Spikes to remain in first place in the Pinckney Division standings by two games with 13 left to play.
The Spikes (40-23) also notched their ninth consecutive victory, matching the nine-game string put up earlier this season for the longest such streak in club history. The Spikes have also won 16 of their last 17 home games.
Breaking up a scoreless game by exploding for seven runs in the eighth inning, the Spikes put the game away for keeps at that point. The seven runs are the most ever scored in the eighth inning of any game in the history of the franchise.
"These guys did an outstanding job of competing the whole way through," Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. "We hit some balls well early in the game that got caught, but they competed all the way through until they were able to string some quality at-bats together in the eighth inning which was good to see. For us, it was better late then never."
The game featured a pitcher's duel between Auburn's Ryan Ullman and Spike lefty Jimmy Reed through the first six innings before the bullpens took over.
Reed only allowed the Doubledays two hits, a single to Bryan Lippincott in the fourth and a double to Isaac Ballou in the sixth. He walked one and struck out five.
"You can't ask for more than he gave us tonight," Marmol said of Reed's effort. "(Nick) Petree did a nice job yesterday in his seven innings of work and with Reed's effort tonight it is good to see the starters going deep into games. The guys in the pen have done a real nice job this year and it is nice to see them continue to doing a very nice job when called upon."
When asked if it was his best effort of the season, Reed was quick with his response.
"I think so," he said. "I had a good outing earlier in the year, but it was in a relief situation. This was definitely my best effort as a starter. I felt good and my fastball, changeup and slider were all working well for me. My changeup tonight was the best it has been in a long time. I didn't really have it in my last two starts and for me to get that back was big for me. I am really excited because although I use my fastball to get ahead (in the count) I usually pitch off my changeup."
Then came the offensive explosion in the bottom of the eighth inning that saw the Spikes send 13 men to the dish.
Big hits in the frame for the Spikes were a two-run double by Mason Katz and RBI singles by Michael Schulze and Ronald Castillo. Two of State College's runs scored on wild pitches. With the game still scoreless, Katz delivered his big hit when the Doubledays decided to bring the center fielder in to give them five infielders and leaving center wide open.
"With that alignment, you aren't going to hit a ball through the infield so you want to put it in the air," Marmol said. "All he wanted to do was hit the ball in the air or go the other way and that is exactly what he did. He was able to drive the ball to right field and open up the game for us."
Katz agreed with Marmol's assessment of what he needed to do.
"Really I just wanted to stay inside of the ball," Katz said. "I just wanted to keep my hands inside of the ball and hit something to right field. I just wanted to hit a fly ball to right field and I was able to do that. Getting clutch hits at the right time has kind of been this team's mojo all year long."
In the ninth, Jacob Booden came on for clean up duty and wound up striking out four Doubleday hitters to finish the game. Victor DeLeon worked the seventh and eighth innings to pick up the win.
Carson Kelly has been on a roll during the last four games and shows nine hits in 12 at-bats during the stretch. Two of Kelly's hits came in the win over the Doubledays. Hitting the way he has through the past four games had Kelly smiling when talking about his efforts with the bat.
"You do get some lucky breaks here and there, but when you do good things by using the process you get good results day in and day out," Kelly said. "That has been the key in a long season. You just have to keep doing the same thing over and over. Hitting the ball hard can be as little as an eighth-of-an-inch and when you get locked in, you have to stay locked in. Once you get locked in you just have to continue to do your work, keep up a good routine and then just go out and have fun during the game."
Spikes 10, Doubledays 5
STATE COLLEGE - The State College Spikes set a new club record with their 10th consecutive victory on Sunday night as they defeated the Auburn Doubledays, 10-5, at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
State College (41-23) has won 17 of its last 18 home games and maintains a two-game lead over Jamestown in the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division. The Spikes' magic number to clinch a postseason berth is down to six with a loss by Lowell.
The 10-game string beats State College's nine-game win streak from July 29 to Aug. 7 of this year for the longest run in franchise history.
It was another superb offensive effort that led the way for the Spikes, who scored double-digit runs for the sixth time this year. The 13-hit outburst began with a five-run first inning that saw 10 batters come to the plate.
Carson Kelly matched a Spikes record with his fifth straight multiple-hit game as he went 2-for-3 with a double and his third home run of the year. Kelly's solo shot came in the third inning, and gave the Spikes a 6-3 lead at that point.
Mason Katz also went 2-for-3 and helped break the game open in the seventh with a bases-loaded, two-run single. Brett Wiley and David Washington each produced two hits and two RBI to aid the Spikes' offensive production. Washington, the league leader and Spikes record holder in single-season RBI, increased his total to 47 on the year.
The Spikes also turned a season-high four double plays on the night, all on the infield, to help Kevin Herget (6-0) become the first Spikes pitcher since Tony Watson in 2007 to start his season with six straight wins. Herget went five innings and allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out four.
Auburn (22-43) starter Joel Barrientos (1-5) took the loss after yielding six runs on seven hits and three walks over three innings of work. Barrientos recorded two strikeouts.