STATE COLLEGE - After 78 regular-season games and five playoff games, it all came down to one final game for all the marbles in the New York-Penn League.
The Tri-City Valley Cats and State College Spikes locked horns Thursday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, and when the issue was decided, the Alice Nader Cup belonged to the Valley Cats by the final of 4-3.
"These guys battled all season right to the end," Spikes manager Oliver Marmol said. "I have no regrets about the way the season went including the playoffs."
Sentinel photo by CHRISTOPHER?SHANNON
State College shortstop Cesar Valera applies the tag to Tri-City’s Jon Kemmer at second base to complete a double play during the Spikes’ New York-Penn League Championship game against the Valley Cats Thursday evening.
As you might expect in a title game, it featured a pitcher's duel between Tri-City's Kyle Westwood and Spikes lefty Jimmy Reed.
Reed absorbed the tough loss in a strong effort, the lefty charged with two runs on four hits, striking out four and walking none.
"Jimmy did a great job for us," Marmol said. "He took us deep into the game like we needed him to. With a couple of runners on we were hoping for a strikeout, but it didn't work out for us. He just did a fantastic job."
For Westwood, his evening consisted of six innings during which he allowed one run on six hits, striking out four and walking one.
The Spikes drew first blood in the fourth when Carson Kelly reached on a fielder's choice and scored when Mason Katz muscled a bat-handle blooper into center field, chasing Kelly home for the game's first run.
The Valley Cats answered right back at the Spikes in the sixth with four runs, just as they had done the night before in a 5-4 win.
Ronnie Mitchell beat out a bunt single and Chan Moon was safe on a sacrifice, fielder's choice.
James Ramsay moved both Mitchell and Moon up one notch with a sacrifice bunt and Jack Mayfield followed with a swinging bunt single to third, chasing Mitchell across the plate with the tying run.
The Valley Cats took the lead without putting the ball in play when Spikes reliever Alex DeLeon uncorked a wild pitch allowing Moon to score.
Jeff Rauh relieved DeLeon and appeared to have a double play in order, but Cesar Valera air-mailed his throw to first, allowing Mayfield and Tyler White to score the third and fourth runs of the game for the Cats.
"In a defensive game like tonight you have to eliminate those crooked-number innings," Marmol said. "These guys have come back so many times this year and tonight they gave it a good effort but they just came up a little short."
After facing just 20 batters through the first five innings, Westwood ran into a little trouble in the sixth when David Washington and Kelly came up with back-to-back singles.
Schulze worked a full count, but Westwood coaxed a double play ground ball off the bat of Schulze to escape trouble.
Still trailing by the 4-1 count, the Spikes made a little noise in the eighth, but as it turned out, it was only noise.
Steven Ramos walked, and with one out, Luke Voit drilled a line single to center.
However, as he had done in the two previous games, Valley Cat reliever Gonzalo Sanudo retired the next two batters to keep the Tri-City lead at three runs.
Then came some excitement in the ninth as the Spikes scored two runs with nobody out on a two-run home run by Mason Katz. Luis Perez grounded a single to right and Jimmy Bosco put Perez at second with a nifty sacrifice bunt.
When that happened, Marmol and his crew were hoping for yet another comeback win - of which they had many during the season.
"We had that feeling, especially when Perez followed with a single with nobody out. We get the guy over and we have the guy who led the league in hitting at the plate, but he couldn't come up with the hit."
Steven Ramos struck out for the third time in the game and Sanudo retired Cesar Valera on strikes as well to preserve the 4-3 win for the 'Cats.
"It was tough to watch those two guys struggle tonight, but they are the two guys who got us here," Marmol said. "You can't be mad at them because they gave us everything they had. If we had to do it again, Ramos would hit first and Valera would be hitting in the two hole."
While Ramos and Valera struggled at the dish, Washington didn't as the big slugger, who led the team in home runs and the league in RBIs, had three hits.
"He (Washington) did a very nice job," Marmol said. "He squared some balls up, for sure, and he is one of the guys who basically had a good approach at the plate tonight and stuck with it. He led the league in RBIs and did an outstanding job for us in the four hole. For him, it was just a great year individually for him and the organization."
The Spikes stranded eight runners on the base paths and Marmol alluded to that fact.
"It has been like that all series," he said. "It just seemed like every time we got runners on it was tough to get them over and get them in. Their guys did a nice job pitching inside and getting ground ball double plays. They kept us from scoring and that is a credit to them."