Holba and Villalobos dominate on the mound, Spikes win fifth straight
The State College Spikes moved to 19-23, winning their fifth straight game behind excellent performances on the mound from Chris Holba (W, 2-1) and Hector Villalobos (S, 1) in a 3-0 victory. Holba tossed a season-high six shutout innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out six. He tied his season-high pitch count with 73 pitches while throwing a season-high 53 for strikes. Villalobos recorded his first-career save tossing the final three innings on 40 pitches. Villalobos allowed one hit while striking out five Muckdog batters and has not allowed an earned run since June 30.
Manager Joe Kruzel was very pleased with his team’s combined performance on the mound.
“Holba kind of set the tone," Kruzel said. "He really went out there and attacked them. He forced them to put the ball in play. We were fortunate that we made the plays. He didn’t have any stress innings or too much traffic. He really did a great job of controlling the counts and moving the ball around and getting them to make some early outs so he could pitch deeper into the game. Then Villalobos did an outstanding job picking up the three-inning save, the old-school save.”
Kruzel also has solid praise for the team as a whole over the five-game win streak.
“They’ve really played hard and even though early on we had some close games go the other way, they’ve really stuck their nose in the game," Kruzel said. "Pitching, defense and offensively, sometimes we just came on the short end, but right now they’re playing with a little more looseness and a little more confidence and you’re starting to see what they’re capable of doing.”
Holba was pleased with his performance, mentioning it was important to pitch to his strengths, attack the batters he faced and put trust into his defense.
The Spikes offense developed a nice start to the bottom half of the third inning. With no outs, second baseman Nick Dunn singled followed by a bunt single by shortstop Delvin Perez. Third baseman Edwin Figuera was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. The Spikes would get their first run when Dunn scored on a 6-4-3 double play from designated hitter Stanley Espinal. After left fielder Lars Nootbaar drew a two-out walk, Batavia starting pitcher Peyton Culbertson stranded two runners with a strikeout of Spikes center fielder Wadye Infante.
Culbertson (L, 1-2) allowed one run on four hits and two walks in three innings of play. After striking out Spikes first baseman Brady Whalen, reliever Martin Anderson issued walks to State College’s right fielder Justin Toerner and catcher Alexis Wilson. Dunn collected his second hit of the night on a single to right field that drove in Toerner to put State College up 2-0. Anderson stranded Wilson and Dunn, retiring Perez on strikes and Figuera on a groundout.
After a 26-pitch fourth inning, Anderson was pulled in relief for fellow southpaw Dylan Cyphert. Espinal drew a leadoff walk and would later score on Toerner’s first sacrifice fly of the season to extend the Spikes lead to 3-0. State College eventually loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Dunn popped out to the catcher Igor Baez to end the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Batavia center fielder Brayan Hernandez singled with two outs after Holba retired the previous 10 Muckdogs. Shortstop Demetrius Sims reached on a bunt single to third, putting Holba in some trouble. The Spikes starter would get out of the jam with his sixth strikeout, retiring designated hitter Jerar Encarnacion on strikes for the second time in the game.
Spikes reliever Hector Villalobos replaced Holba for the top of the seventh inning and recorded two strikeouts in a perfect inning. State College would go down in order for the first time in the game in the seventh which included a few ground ball outs for Cyphert.
Villalobos continued his solid work in the top of the eighth with his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning, featuring a strikeout of second baseman Gerardo Nunez. Batavia reliever Eli Villalobos relieved Cyphert and tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning on seven pitches.
Hector Villalobos worked around a leadoff double by Hernandez in the top of the ninth, retiring the next three batters en route to his first-career save.
Nick Dunn went 2-for-5 picking up a RBI and a run scored. Brady Whalen went 2-for-4 while Alexis Wilson drew two walks.
For Batavia (17-25), Brayan Hernandez picked up a single and a double while Igor Baez doubled and Demetrius Sims and Jerar Encarnacion each got a single.
The Spikes return home tomorrow night, Tuesday, July 31 at 7:05 p.m. for the second of this three-game series against the Muckdogs.
Joel Nelson is senior at Penn State Altoona majoring in Communications. To contact him, email email@example.com.