Spikes Win Fourth Straight on Walk-Off Wild Pitch
STATE COLLEGE – The State College Spikes won their fourth consecutive game Wednesday after right fielder Justin Toerner scored on a wild pitch from Will Gardner in the bottom of the ninth to top the West Virginia Black Bears.
“We probably had more opportunities to score earlier in the game that we didn’t take advantage of, but we came up with a big hit in the eighth to tie the game up, and then those guys had some really good at-bats there in the ninth and we were fortunate the ball bounced our way,” Spikes manager Joe Kruzel said.
The Spikes did not lead at any point prior to the wild finish and trailed 2-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. With runners on first and second and one out, center fielder Wadye Ynfante tied it up with an RBI triple to score first baseman Brady Whalen, but third baseman Stanley Espinal was thrown out at the plate, which kept the score knotted at two.
While it has been an up and down season in State College has praised his team all year for their resiliency and unyielding willingness to battle back when down.
“It’s a great bunch of guys that play hard. They just battle and stay in the game,” Kruzel said.
More drama ensued to conclude that half inning as a wild pitch from Gardner bounced off the backstop to West Virginia catcher Grant Koch, who then beat Ynfante attempting to steal home, thus ending the inning.
Ynfante had a rough start to his night, striking out his first two plate appearances and popping out to second before his game-tying triple in the eight. However, he was sensational defensively in center field all night long making several acrobatic catches, including one full-extension diving catch in the top of the eighth that likely saved two runs from scoring.
“We talk a lot about not letting what happens early in the ballgame affect what happens later because there are other things that you might be able to do to help the team win, and tonight [Ynfante] was a prime example of that,” Kruzel said. He made two outstanding defensive plays, didn’t let the early part of the game affect him and then came up with the big hit.”
“[Ynfante] is unbelievable,” Toerner said. It’s so fun watching him play, and he’s always all over the field and is not afraid to get dirty.”
The Spikes have struggled to score runs all year long, especially at home at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, but one consistent bright spot for them all year long has been the starting pitching.
That trend continued Wednesday night after an outstanding performance from left-hander Diego Cordero. Cordero completed seven and a third innings of work and allowed just one run in his last start but took the loss. While he was not credited with the win Wednesday night, his offense made just enough clutch plays late to reward him.
Cordero worked very efficiently completing seven and two-thirds innings on just 91 pitches. He allowed seven hits and two earned runs and stuck out three batters.
“[Cordero] has been pitching extremely well,” Kruzel said. “He mixes his speeds well and utilizes his secondary pitches at good times and is able to locate his fastball when needed. He also is able to get quick outs too.”
The win continued the Spikes’ momentum after sweeping the New York-Penn League Pinckney division leaders, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers on the road previously. They still trail the Scrappers by eight games in the division race and are six games out of a wild-card spot. However, there are still 25 games left to be played in the regular season, so a playoff spot is still not out the realm of possibility for the Spikes.
“The confidence level is high right now,” Toerner said. “We’ve always had that ability to bounce back from tough losses, and the same goes for tonight. Tomorrow will be a new day and we’ve just got to keep working and get ready for the next one.”
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